From Behind the Eye
They both made Maria uncomfortable; the daughter with her vindictive, unhappy remarks, and the father–Maria’s client–with his hateful, disturbing replies.
“Tripping over the furniture again?” Yolanda’s voice was high-pitched and too loud. “You’d think you were blind. Oh wait….”
Stupid, immature, like she’s ten-years-old. She does this every time she visits, Maria thought as she hurried to Mr. Young’s side.
“The best part is, I don’t have to see your fat ass. Now go away so I don’t have to hear your voice.”
I can’t feel sorry for him, either. Maria gently lifted her forearm under Mr. Young’s elbow and guided him to his favorite recliner.
“What do you sit in front of the tv for? You don’t have no eyes.” Yolanda awkwardly pulled on her coat. “You know what body part you can cut off next.” She retrieved her hobo-bag purse and slung it from one shoulder.
So angry and filled with pain, Maria said in her head. She hurried into the kitchen on the pretext of getting Mr. Young a snack. “He can’t even see her and he calls her names,” she whispered as she ran the kitchen faucet and rinsed out the clean mug, as per her employer’s instructions. “And what kind of man pulls out his own eyes?” She shuddered. “If I didn’t need the money….” The glass tea kettle was whistling and Maria found the lemon-ginseng-honey green tea that Mr. Young preferred straight, dropped a teabag in the mug. She grasped the kettle by the black plastic handle and turned off the burner. He doesn’t have any eyes at all. Scars and gray empty sockets under the dark glasses….
She heard the front door of the apartment slam just as she reentered the living room with her tray of tea and lemon-cream cookies. “I’m here, I’m here,” she said as he smacked the chair arms with his palms and shouted “Maria!” She set the food and drink down on a table beside his chair, carefully reached for one of his hands to direct his fingers to the mug-handle.
“You should use hand-cream. Your skin is sand-paper,” he blurted.
Maria grimaced, teeth showing; the anger sparked in her eyes.
“Don’t give me that look,” he said. “I can’t see you but he can!”
Now what. “Who can, Mr. Young?” Maria bunched the pillow behind his head, lifted the remote control from its wooden holder, clicked on the large HD television that hung on the wall opposite.
“You know who,” he sang. He brought a forefinger to his thin, purple lips. “Not supposed to breathe a word!”
She backed away from him, folded her arms tightly across her flowery scrubs top. “Is there anything else you need now? I have to load the washer.” The television speakers blared dream dates and male enhancement. She waited then added, “I’ll check on you in a few minutes.”
“He’s right next to you, don’t you feel ‘im?” His face wrinkled up as if he’d just heard the funniest joke. “Uh huh, I know she is.”
“What?” Maria felt the heat rise up her neck, her chest tightened. The hairs on her arms began to rise, a shiver skittered up her spine. Before she could stop herself, she rotated her head one way then the other. Of course no one’s there. Don’t let him get to you.
“He says you looked! Made you look!” His laughter was a hacking, gasping wheeze.
“He says?” She took another couple of steps backwards; she wanted to run.
“The shadow man. I can see him, better than ever. I knew he was there before, I sensed him, like you do now; he hissed in my ears like a lit match in water.”
This is why I get paid, this is my job, she told herself. “Okay, how many fingers am I holding up?” She didn’t move, her hands still tightly tucked under her armpits.
“Umm, none. Not a one,” he answered immediately. “He says you didn’t hold up any at all.”
“I have work to do, Mr. Young,” Maria said, keeping her voice steady. With great effort she made herself turn around, as if he didn’t concern her. She moved stiffly towards the kitchen, her heart thumping.
“Before I was blind, now I see,” he shouted after her. ” If your eyes offend thee, pluck them out. I knew he was there–the anti-man, dark and orange–he told me I couldn’t see him until I had no eyes! Don’t you want to see him too? He likes you!”
Once in the kitchen, Maria spun like a top, peering at air, waving her arms like a blind man looking for something solid. “What am I doing,” she finally said and stopped. “Okay, okay, settle down. Grow up,” she commanded herself.
Something soft tickled her under the chin.