So there is technically no rule against resurrecting last year’s NaNoWriMo novel and just adding to it, right? I’d ultimately gotten to Chapter 9 and the thing was looking pretty good, but I just couldn’t decide how to proceed. I’m going to let you read the first chapter, but here’s a brief synnopsis of what it’s about so far.
Two blind brothers, both with Norrie Disease (explained in Chapter 1). One opts for college while the other works at the local Ability One Facility for the blind. College boy must contend with a long-distance relationship, and girlfriend gets a lil’ too tight with brother. Written from a first-person perspective, those three main characters each get their own chapters. And here is Tony, college boy.ONE
Tony the Tiger, really? That’s the best she could come up with?” I thought as I stood in the crowded dorm lobby. I wondered what kind of response I would get from the ladies when I got here, but didn’t anticipate the first seeing me as something of a five-year-old. Really though, I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised.
I reached out and pressed the elevator call button again, unnecessarily, because it was something to do with my nervous hands. The fact that I could hear the machine rattling in its shaft as it made its way down didn’t necessarily inspire confidence, but I didn’t have the desire to trek up seven floors of stairs either. So, I waited.
Yup, it was my first day as a college student, and I was already enjoying all of the pluses and minuses of being in this new and exciting environment. There were girls everywhere! I knew I needed to just talk though and not flirt, since my heart was about 120 miles away. I loved her, but did wonder if we would survive the distance and all, but when I proposed we take some time apart she cried so hard that I couldn’t bring myself to end it. Shayna is everything to me, though.
The cage or death trap or whatever you wanna call it finally arrived, and an older couple with their arriving resident squeezed by with emptied carts to go down for another load.
“Hey man,” the guy said as they moved by, “nice to meet ya. We can chat soon as I get this last stuff out of our truck, I’m looking to get to know somebody as quick as I can.”
“Ok,” I replied “I’m cool with that.” What can I say, I’m easygoing. My laid-back personality has always helped me when it comes to meeting others and surviving pretty much anywhere I find myself.
Let me explain some things about myself first, just because my crazy story will make more sense then. I am and have always been totally blind, due to a rare at least it is said to be rare, condition called Norrie Disease. Along with this loss of sight, my hearing is slowly getting worse too. That for me is the harder thing to deal with. What all of this means of course is that things are more interesting for me when it comes to finding my way in life, both in a literal and a figurative sense.
So I spent a few hours with an orientation and mobility (O&M) instructor so that I might learn a little about this gargantuan campus. First challenge? Try to remember how to get to my room. I knew to exit the elevator and get out of the alcove, hang a right and trail the railing that lined the common area on the floor below, then go through the door straight ahead to enter my wing. From there, my room was the second on the left. I opened the door, slid inside, and flopped down on the little twin bed they give us that also makes me feel like a big kid. But hey, I was just happy to have a single, as I’d heard enough horror stories about life with a roommate, and I’ve never particularly enjoyed spending the night with people I don’t know, let alone an entire year.
Sleep took me on that Saturday afternoon, and I didn’t re-awaken until my cell phone nearly launched me from the bed as it vibrated in my pocket.
“Hello” I said groggily as I tried to remember where I was or even the time of day. “Mom? Everything alright?”
“Yes,” she said through tears I could hear in her voice. “I am just so proud of you and what you’re achieving that my heart is full. I remember dreams of going to college myself, and will probably always regret that they never came true. But that’s not why I’m calling. Get your behind down here and help me bring in the groceries me and your daddy got to stock your fridge.”
“Ok,” I said as a laugh escaped my lips “just as soon as I figure out how to get back out of here.”
I met my parents in the entry foyer and took a couple bags from their hands to make my way back up to the room. “So why are you already crawling into bed and not out there at the cookout,” my ever-so-nosy dad asked.
“What? There’s a cookout?” I replied. “I’m probably not out there because nobody told me it was going on.”
“Well kinda hard for them to do that if you’re sleepin’ like a lil’ baby,” my mom retorted.
“Ok ok, point taken,” I replied. “I’ll go check it out soon as we put this stuff up. What y’all get me anyway?”
“Oh just the four food groups,” my dad said “soda, chips, bologna, and pizza.”
“Sounds good to me, I replied chuckling. “But how am I gonna make the pizza?”
“We’ll take you downstairs and show you how the dorm ovens work. Already asked and had them marked up so you can use them” mom told me. “Now if only these thug kids don’t take them off. Also set up the washer and dryers for you, because we ain’t gonna be doing your clothes either. You’re quite capable of doing that stuff yourself.”
“Oh I know,” I replied, inwardly sighing as mom was starting to wind up in her familiar way when it came to matters of my pending independence and how important it was that I be able to function around and in the household, and yadda yadda yadda. Not saying I didn’t agree, just that it was covered territory, and she had already done plenty to prepare me. But hey, I guess it was better than what I heard from most parents about their kids with disabilities, which was an almost aggressive need to overprotect.
Days in this beautiful Southern city, especially in mid August, are just about as hot as it gets. And nights? Well they aren’t much better. The sticky factor gets ramped up by 10 though. This made no difference to all the wild college students strutting around the yard while loud music thumped in our heads.
I took my plate of food, which someone helped me gather, and made my way to an empty spot on the wall just in front of the building. I was kind of hoping one of the ladies would find me there, even though I knew that didn’t need to happen, darn you Shayna. But instead, the dude who spoke to me at the elevator finally caught up to me and sat down, putting a cold drink of some kind against my leg.
“Hey man,” he said, brought you a Sprite. If that don’t work, just let me know.”
“Oh nah, that’s good. I appreciate it,” I replied.
“Cool. What’s your name, man. I’m Nick.”
“Tony, nice to meet you,” I said popping my hand out for a shake… where it hung awkwardly in midair until Nick finally got the idea.
“Oh sorry,” he said chuckling and briefly grasping my hand. “I wasn’t sure what to do.”
“You weren’t sure whether to shake my hand?” I asked, a smile on my face.
“Well… I mean… uh…,” he stammered.
“It’s all good man, I’m joking. I get it, nothin’ to worry about. But, I’m cool. You can call me whatever you want: blind guy, weirdo, whatever. Don’t be afraid of offending me.”
“Ok, that works. Puts me a little more at ease, man. So, what are you planning to study here?” He asked as he crunched into something.
“I have no idea, really. Probably Psych, because isn’t that what most people do if they can’t come up with anything original? I can learn how to mess with my girl’s head even more than I already do.”
“Wait, you have a girlfriend?” He said. I could hear the incredulity creeping into his voice with the question, as if the thought had not and would not have occurred to him.
“Yup, back home. She’s taking a year off after graduating, or so she says, so we’re gonna try the distance thing. That wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I do love her. Just need her here.”
“I understand,” he said. “I think I couldn’t do that personally, especially not as a college freshman swimming in a sea of smart and really attractive women. But to each his own.”
After this disclosure, we just sat for about five minutes chowing down on some good grilled food while the DJ took us “back in time” with some songs as old as my momma. I’ve always enjoyed that stuff more than what they put out nowadays, if I were to admit to it. Guess it’s because that’s all I heard around the house.
“Hey man, it was nice to meet you,” Nick said. “Can I put my number in your cell, so you can call if you need anything?”
“Oh yeah,” I said as I tried to wipe mustard off of my hands so I could fish in my pocket for the iPhone. “I’d appreciate that.”
Finally Monday, the big First Day Of Class, arrive. And predictably, I got lost. The dorm lobby was teeming with other students talking over each other and clacking by in heels, sandals, and every other imaginable footwear. I followed them outside, down the long ramp to ground level, and hung the right I was to take to head to my building
“Sir, can I help you,” a woman said as she whisked alongside me bringing an overpowering perfume mist along. “No, I got it,” I returned, “but thanks.” Pride? What pride. Well ok it was kind of that, but I also wanted the adventure of seeing if I could actually make it without requiring assistance.
And I contend that I would have, if it weren’t for the gaggle of girls standing at the breezeway exit, from which point the sidewalk opens up in all four directions and a grassy shoreline is nowhere to be seen. By the time I managed to break loose of the surging mass of bodies, I wasn’t sure if I’d gone left, right, or managed somehow to stay center.
After fifteen minutes of puttering around in a general circle and assuring myself that this would be my last day at this gargantuan university, I whipped out the phone and hit Nick up.
“Ok man, stay put” he said. “Just so happens I’m getting out of my first class. I can find you there and get you back on track, no biggy.”
Red-faced and already deflated, I walked into the lecture hall about 10 minutes late, but I don’t think anyone even noticed. I grabbed a seat on the back row so as not to careen through all those who were already seated, though I new this was a bad idea with my bad hearing. Mom kept saying I had to get hearing aids, butt really who wants to wear that in college, especially when you’re already blind? Anyway, I pulled out the laptop, located the PowerPoint for this class and settled in.
“..The point of history” the professor’s voice droned, “is to discover WHO YOU ARE!” With this last unexpected intonation, I heard audible gasps from those around me. Someone dropped a writing product, pencil or pen, and I think someone else practically fell out of their chair. “I did that to snap you all out of your stupor,” the instructor said with a chuckle. “Now listen to me, this class is meant to represent all of the people and groups of people that exist in the US. And it just so happens that the US has individuals from all over the world. So while this is technically called US History 1, it is in fact a world history. From colonies and enslavement to a powerful, thriving modern economy, all of the pieces have come together in varying ways for each one of us to create who we are”. I gotta admit, this guy kinda had my attention. This would probably be my favorite class.