It isn’t a matter of trust but a matter of knowledge, and I’m a bit of a know-it-all.

It isn’t a matter of trust but a matter of knowledge, and I’m a bit of a know-it-all.

Ashton Bruce, Staff Writer


It’s hard for me to think in color.

I’m used to the dreams now. I’m sixteen years old, and I can still remember the nightmares I had when I was a little kid, where the monsters were black with even blacker eyes and I was engulfed in the sheets that were soaked with sweat and urine, an inescapable abyss of damp heat and a thick odor. Even dreams where I imagine touching the skin of that boy at school, his flesh is charred and dusted as though he’d been rolling in a fireplace. I’m better with imagining textures, and I’m good at imagining the feeling of sounds. My father’s voice is gruff, wheels against gravel and the crunch of the first bite into an apple. My mother’s is the cut of a knife against carrots when she makes dinner, sharp but precise. His voice, the boy at school, his voice tickles, like lying on freshly mowed, wet grass that sticks to your legs. My own voice is soft, my hands brushing against the hair on my arms.

The boy at school wasn’t here at the beginning of the year. He appeared suddenly, a rip in a sweater that causes a stray thread and a gaping hole, except that I’ve never been happier to have holes in my clothes. My best friend would walk with me to my house where she would place the keys in my hands with a, “Here,” and then pat my back. My fingers would guide the key to the opening of the gate, where I would push it open before saying goodbye.

It was only when I found out that his house was only a block down from mine that I began to walk with him. It was nice to have a new companion, no matter how much I enjoyed the presence of my best friend. His pace was different, his steps wider, and I could tell that he was taller than me because of the way I had to reach up to hold onto his bicep, because of the way I had to walk faster to keep up with his long strides, and because I could feel his breath over my hair when he turned his head to talk to me. He was bad, at first. When walking with a blind person, one has to be observant a notice the dip in the sidewalk or the slope of the curb or the inconvenient placement of a fire hydrant. And furthermore, one has to tell the blind person about it. By the time I got home, I had two bruises on my shins and a scuff in his shoes, and I’d never been happier.

Even when he’d gotten the hang of warning me when there was a dip in the sidewalk or some other obstruction, I’d still wrap my fingers around his biceps, feeling the rhythmic contraction of his muscles extending and then shrinking as he walked. His elbow brushed against my wrist with every step, corresponding to the beat of my heart underneath my skin.

When I lay in bed at night, embraced only by my sheets, I think of him, pretending the folds of my blankets are his arms and the way that my hair brushes the back of my neck is his lips. I don’t know the color of his lips, and I don’t know the way they feel. I don’t know whether the skin is dried and cracked or moist and soft, and I ache to know what his hands, which I have only caught fleeting touches of, feel like inside of my own. I want to know the trace of his shoulder blades and the dip of his spine and the plush curves of his waist. I want to know him in intimacy and blindness.

In class, his finger taps against my shoulder, and I turn my head to the side so that he knows I am listening. His voice rains on me.

“We have to pair up for the project,” he says. His voice is pointed, with purpose. “Would you like to pair up with me?”

I blink a few times and nod. I’m not sure if he smiles or not.

He’s in my bed only a few hours later, wherein I oftentimes dream of him and think of him being there beside me. I sit with the pillow underneath me, the textbook caressed by my knees. My fingers trace the risen dots that hold the arranged letters of the alphabet as I read through the text. I stare forward, veiled by darkness, and I realize he hasn’t said something in a while.

“What are you doing?”  I ask. I can feel my eyelashes scrape against my cheeks. Papers ruffle.

“Reading,” he replies slowly, a grin in his voice.

I smile too, even though I’m not quite sure why, and I nod my head. “Okay.”

My fingers smooth over the Braille-written page of my book, and it is a few seconds later before he confesses, “I was watching you read.”

I nod. “Why did you think you needed to lie about that?”

He laughs. “Because it’s easy to.”

I nod, smirking a little bit more because his laugh is contagious. “I see. Is it interesting to watch me read?”

A long pause overlaps between his words and mine. “Yeah,” he answers finally. I don’t know what caused the delay in his words, whether he had to think about the answer or whether he just felt that the silence was necessary, but I find that I don’t mind it.

And when the time comes that school work develops into the dullest thing in the planet, worse than the gray-beige walls of high school and the unfortunate ticking of a painfully slow clock, he says to me, “Let’s stop working and go for a swim.”

I have no objection, other than the fact that neither of us have access to a pool. He seemed like he had forgotten that, based on the length and the tone of his silence, and he finally nudges his knuckles playfully against my cheek. “Come on. Follow me. I’ve an idea.”

I stand up from my bed, my fingers clenched tightly against his wrist, and he must feel the reluctance radiating from the pressure my fingertips put into his skin because he sighs heavily. He turns away from me, and then he twists his body to face me. I can feel his presence inches from mine, his breath on my forehead, air barely escaping from the thin space in his smile.

“Don’t you trust me?” he asks.

It isn’t a matter of trust but a matter of knowledge, and I’m a bit of a know-it-all. However, despite my reluctance, he takes the small smile on my face and uses it as permission. He chuckles.

“Good. Come on then.”

I follow him in bare feet, because he wouldn’t make time for me to slip on a pair of plastic flip-flops. But they probably wouldn’t make it home in one piece anyway. The concrete underneath my feet sizzles, and he’s gotten good enough at guiding me that he warns me, “Look out for that rock,” even though I can’t see it. When I get stabbed by a sharp chunk of rock in the arch of my foot, I am still able to appreciate his effort.

The spring sun feels hot on my skin, and I can tell the way that he seeks refuge in the shade of tree by the degree-difference of heat, as well as the cool freshness underneath my aching feet. The ground underneath me suddenly turns from hot asphalt and concrete made of fire to the slick earth of sloshed mud and wet grass.

I ask, “Where are we going?”

His laughter is a collection of heat waves, shimmering through the air. “It’s a surprise.”

I roll my eyes because he and I both know that almost everything for me is surprise.

Again, he just laughs, his fingers are raveled around mine, and the mud squelches underneath my bare feet. I notice that we pick up speed, and, although my legs are hesitant and reluctant, I keep up with him, half because of curiosity and half because he’s dragging me along. It is about twenty paces, four scratches from tree branches on my arm, and several secretive laughs later that he turns, placing a hand over my biceps as he stands in front of me. He stops me. “Here,” he says, revolving around me as though he is the earth and I am the sun, and I feel his hands staying on my biceps. He slowly guides me forward until I feel my toes sinking into the grainy abyss of moist sand, water devouring my ankles.

A smile stretches across my face.

“Be careful,” he says. His hand traces over my forearm until his fingers curl against my wrist. “There’s some rocks and branches in front of you.” I can now feel his hesitance, because although he is used to being himself and therefore being clumsy, he doesn’t want to be clumsy with me. In a strange moment of uncharacteristic courage, I step forward regardless of what lay underneath my foot. Soft pebbles, rounded by the running of water tracing over their form, tickle my skin, paired with the smooth feel of the water contradicting the rush at which it ran.

Clumsy splashes emanate behind me, and I can feel flicks of explosive water from his tumbling strides in the lake. One gigantic spatter of water tells me he collapsed into the water, and I laugh, staring forward now as I walk forward. Every step drags me down deeper and I lean down, rolling up my loose jeans so that they are up to my knees, the fabric slightly weighted now from the sprays of water. No matter how careful I am, his clumsiness outweighs my own cautiousness, and inelegantly, he tackles me, his arms wrapping around my waist before raising me up. The dip of my spine fits against the bridge of his shoulder. Tumultuous laughter echoes through the trees surrounding the pad of water where we play, and, when I feel water splash underneath my body, I can tell the water is close to his waist. The way his arms move and tighten around me tells me that he’s wading through the water, and I squeal as the cool water presses against the folds of my wet clothes. His arm, which once supported my legs, goes limp, allowing my body to ascend into the water. The water is up to my collarbones when I stand.

“Do you want to go out further?” he asks, and I can hear the dare in his voice.

I smile, and even though I don’t think he expects me to, I answer, “Yeah.”

He agrees quietly, and I can hear his flimsy arms splashing against the water as he swims forward. I swim until I can no longer feel the sand grazing my toes when I kick my feet, and I paddle, my arm extending forward to keep things, both imaginary and real, from hitting my face.

For a while, it’s only silence between us, broken only by the crashing sounds of his body against the water and the repercussions of the splash smacking against the shore. Sunshine encourages the birds to sing, the wind to brush against the branches of the trees, and after a while of swimming, my arms beginning to feel sore, I feel his presence beside me. It’s easy to detect when he’s close by since he’s not very agile and certainly not very graceful.

He’s panting from running up and down the shore, leaping into the water, and I extend my hand forward, grasping his wrist. I can feel him move his hand up and wipe his hair off of his forehead.

“Are you good at climbing trees?” I ask him.

I can tell by the silence that he’s confused. “What?” he says.

“You jumped into the water, and it took you a long time to hit the water. And it was a pretty big splash,” I explain, laughing.

“Oh,” he replies, chuckling. “Yeah, I am. I spent a lot of time as a kid climbing trees. And playing in creeks. Did you?”

I shake my head. “No. My parents were worried I’d hurt myself.”

“You didn’t come with your siblings?”

“No. I don’t have any,” I say, shrugging. I’m still holding his wrist, and I can feel the drum of his heartbeat against my fingertips.


Silence marinates between us. We are comfortable.

His hand lifts, and I still hold his wrist as his fingers move to tuck my hair behind my ear. He rests his hand on my shoulder, and I think I can feel his gaze across my torso.

“You’re beautiful,” he says. I think that I’m wrong; I think he was looking at my face.

My nose crinkles, and my hand falls down his forearm, resting on the bend of his arm. “What’s that matter?”

He hesitates and then laughs. “Most people just say, ‘Thank you,’” he advises me.

I laugh and shrug. “I don’t know. Thanks, I guess,” I say, feeling awkward.


I don’t answer, because I don’t know what he wants me to explain. My knuckles rub against the fabric of his shirt that sticks and clings to his arm.

“Why do you guess?” he finally reiterates.

I shrug. “It’s just that, you know, being blind and everything—I don’t have beauty,” I murmur. I don’t know if I’m looking at his face or his chest, and I don’t know whether or part of him is beautiful or not and I guess that’s the beauty of blindness. I look towards my fingers. “I don’t have any mental pictures for something beautiful. When you see something beautiful, I feel it. I hear beauty, I…” I trail off and then pick up right where I started after a moment. “I rely on my other senses to tell me if something’s beautiful.”

The water replaces the sounds of our voices for a long time.

“What do you think of me then?”

I have to pause. “You have a beautiful voice.”

“Yeah?” he asks, a bit of laughter in his voice. “What’s it like?”

I smile wider, closing my eyes and remembering all the words he’s ever said to me. “It’s smart,” I say.

He’s flattered by that, I know, and he leans forward. I never really knew how much taller than me he was until I realized that he could touch the pond floor while I still had to wade above the water to keep my head up. He rests his chin on his head, and my lips dunk under the water for a moment before he lifts up, chuckling. I laugh, spitting out a bit of water as I shake my head. “So what’s a compliment for you?” he asks. “A good one, I mean.”

I kick my feet to keep my head above the water, holding onto his wrist, and I smile, crinkling my nose a little bit before I shrug. “I don’t know,” I laugh. “I’m good at remembering things, sounds, from when I was little—like the clap that my mom’s hand made when she spanked me for the first time. And I’m great at accents.”

He laughs. “Can you do Russian?”

“Yeah, but I’m not going to.”

Laughter dripped off his lips like the way that water dripped off my own. His finger, coarse and slightly shaky, grazes my temple as it tucks a strand of hair behind my ear.

“Why are you shaking?” I ask.

He sucks in a cool breath. “Half because I’m cold and half because I have a thyroid thing.”

I laugh, and I can feel that his presence is close to my own. Every time I kick, my toes graze his leg, the fabric of his pants swishing in the water. We’re still holding each other to keep me from sinking. One of his hands trembles against my neck, the other on my shoulder, and his breath shudders against my own.

“I can see our breath,” he comments idly.

I smile. “I can’t.”

He chuckles, his laughter rough and scraping against his throat like he was forcing it out. I think he forced himself to laugh in order to avoid silence.

His lips brush against mine for only a brief moment, and I raise my hand, tracing over the curve of his cheeks. His eyes are closed. His eyelashes shudder, and I trace my finger over the jagged bump over his nose, all the way down to his lips. They are plush and cracked, and even if I don’t know what color they are, I do know what they feel like. They’re chapped, thin, and completely desirable. My finger lies on his chin.

“Do I feel beautiful?” he asks, smiling. I can tell by the way that his skin pulls up that he’s smiling, and I mimic it as I nod.

“I think so,” I murmur.

There is a pause of nothing. No splashes of the water against us, nor the swaying of trees in the wind, nor the buzzing of dragonflies across the surface of the water.

And then he presses his lips against mine.

And there’s this beautiful moment where I’m able to identify the feeling of things inside of me rather than the feeling of what his lips feel against mine. Like, the pulsating beating of my heart spark and thrum inside of my chest, bleeding out pleasure through my veins, and I can feel that before I can feel the coarseness of his lips against mine. I don’t know if you’re supposed to breathe when you kiss, but I’m not sure I could have even if you are supposed to.

And when he pulls back, there’s only silence between us, but there’s still the liveliness of the earth around us. My heart is pounding against my ribs so strongly that I’m scared it’s going to break the bones that cage it. He laughs breathily, his voice rasping against the top of his throat and he says simply, “Wow.”

In that smart voice of his, he says something so simplistic, and I laugh at him before nodding. “I agree.”

His fingers run up my palm, and he curls his own fingers around the spaces in mine.

The water splashes against us, warm against my skin but cold against my feet, and as I swim, he stands. It’s beautiful how we exist together, and I didn’t even need to think about it in color.