There was a time when he bothered to be more careful. Mindful of others. In the infancy of his blindness, when he was just seventeen. The blow to his senses had humbled him. Made him go from star of the track and swim team to a shrinking violet not even confident enough to raise his hand in class as he once had with such abandon. He wanted to become as invisible to others as they had become to him. To utterly fade into the ether. It would, at the very least, obfuscate some of the shame of having gone from being a beacon of a male specimen to a defective. Handicapped.
The blindness crept in during the night. Right before an important swim meet with the school’s most illustrious rival. He opened his eyes abruptly in a fit and start from a nightmare about his girlfriend breaking up with him. And as he kept blinking and rubbing his eyes repeatedly in an attempt to get them to function properly, he gradually became faced with the revelation of what was really happening, of the inexplicable curse that had befallen him. Maybe he had been struck down by the gods in response to his overall arrogance. A level of bravado that had, of late, prompted him to, let’s say, “experiment” with other people apart from his girlfriend. Specifically, other men. From other schools, of course, lest the entire student body of Trinity Christian High School find out. Or worse, his father.
His fascist father. Literally. Lorenzo Battisti was the head of the only official neo-fascist political chapter this side of California. Blame it on Lorenzo’s Italian heritage or the fact that his own father had been a close, personal confidant of Mussolini himself. Whatever the reason, the cards had dealt Lorenzo the unavoidable character flaw of being a fascist. And, in turn, Marco (who, to be sure, went by Mark to avoid any Marco Polo jokes from his teammates) suffered. A suffering, he was convinced, Lorenzo wanted him to have more of for his “sins.” Hence, the sudden and inexplicable blindness that assaulted his retinae.
He didn’t want to believe it could be real. That it was all somehow an extended part of that nightmare involving Charlotte leaving him upon catching him in the act of cheating on her with another boy. But no, even though he prayed that going to sleep again and waking up in the dawn of the morning would allow him to see a ray of light both figurative and tangible, it was as he suspected in the middle of the night. He had lost his vision. A blindness whose occurrence just days after he allowed someone to enter his asshole for the first time couldn’t have been mere coincidence.
At the breakfast table, though he couldn’t see, he could feel Lorenzo’s penetrating gaze studying him. Looking for further clues about his debilities, both overt and subtle. To admit to Lorenzo that he could no longer see would be a fate worse than death as far as Mark was concerned. Would make him a pariah. Someone Lorenzo would view as a progeny that would have been better off aborted for all of his worthlessness. No, Mark could never admit the truth, had to figure out some way around this highly undesirable state of being so as to sidestep Lorenzo’s harsh judgment for another year spent under his roof.
As he bumped into a door on his way out of the house, barely having touched his breakfast so as to avoid too many palpable faux-pas, Lorenzo demanded, “Is everything all right with you?”
“Of course Dad. Never better!” With that, he scurried outside where, mercifully, Charlotte had agreed to pick him up in her red Mustang at his behest (he was usually the one to drive it instead, and he prayed his father wasn’t creepily staring out the window to see that he had opted not to drive today).
Though he could no longer see her, he could hear her smacking her gum–Juicy Fruit, her consistent brand of choice–same as ever. The scent of her Coco Mademoiselle perfume was more potent today as well, and a part of him wanted to bury his face in her chest until all of his problems vanished into it as he snorted her smell like a panacea. But there was no cure for this plight, and he knew the sooner he told her, the better. For if anyone could help him, it was Charlotte. Sweet and doting Charlotte who was hopelessly oblivious to his sexual…predilections. Which is why it made it all the more difficult to end things with her, for she would never understand why without him explicitly stating the reason. Something he felt should have been tacitly blatant.
Although she was blissfully humming along to “Always On Time” by Ja Rule and Ashanti, she could sense his preoccupation, turning the music down to ask, “Is everything okay, Mark?”
All at once, and completely out of his control, he burst into a fit of laughter. A paroxysm that overtook him to the point of making his entire body quake. Charlotte appeared so terrified that she looked as though she might pull the car over. But she didn’t. Instead she drove faster, passing the school until they got to Cannery Row, where she parked, turned to him and said, “What the fuck is wrong with you today?”
Speaking through his laughter, he finally shouted the confession, “I’m blind, Charlotte! I’m fucking blind!”
She stared incredulously at him. In total disbelief. “What the fuck are you trying to pull with me, asshole?”
“Nothing, Char. I guess I’m trying to pull out my already seemingly detached retinas.”
She regarded him in utter awe, still not convinced of whether or not he was telling the truth. Saying nothing, she decided the only way to find out for certain was to start disrobing and see how he reacted. When he exhibited no expression of any kind, she further persisted, unzipping his pants to start sucking him, for she had read in some issue of Cosmo or Seventeen that blind guys cum twice as fast due to their heightened senses, ergo sensitivity. It took what felt like all of ten seconds for the theory of these women’s rags (always written off as a cockamamie but surprisingly filled with sagacity) to be proven correct, and as Charlotte spit the semen out of the side of the car, she declared, “Holy shit.”
He chortled. “It took a blow job for you to believe me? Had I known, I would have gone blind sooner.”
“How did this happen?”
“You think I fucking know?”
“Okay, when did this happen?”
“Last night. I woke up in my sleep and when I opened my eyes, well, the darkness wasn’t the kind of darkness in a pitch black room. It feels like I’ve been sealed shut in a coffin, Charlotte.”
She took a deep breath and popped another Juicy Fruit into her mouth (presumably to stamp out the lingering taste of cum). “Okay. Okay. What do we do?”
“Maybe you can just tie a cement block to me and heave me into the Pacific. I’m as good as dead anyway once people find out.”
“People? Or Lorenzo?”
Once again, his blindness didn’t feel so comical anymore. And he started to rock back and forth unconsciously, chanting, “Fuck, fuck, fuck. What the fuck am I gonna do?”
Charlotte consoled him by stroking his back, offering, “Why don’t I take you to our family ophthalmologist? He’ll know what to do.”
Mark shrugged. “What about school?”
“Who cares? You can miss a day after all you’ve done for that place.”
At Dr. Reyes’, charts of the eye and all its parts, as well as all the things that could go wrong with those parts, evaded Mark as a light was shined into his irises without even his slightest awareness of it.
Dr. Reyes nodded solemnly and conclusively as he turned his flashlight off, glanced briefly at Charlotte and remarked, “What we have here, I believe, is a severe case of chlorine poisoning.”
Mark sunk back into the chair, wishing to be evaporated entirely into it.
“Do you spend regular amounts of time in a pool or have you recently been exposed to–”
“Yes. I’m a swimmer.”
“I see–I mean, er…pardon that expression.”
“It’s fine, Dr. Reyes. I think I’m starting to accept my…condition.”
And for awhile, he did. Played the resigned blind man content to be cautious and concerned with how his blindness affected others, particularly Lorenzo, even though he would barely so much as utter “Hello” to him after learning of his “deformity.” It wasn’t until after a lackluster scholastic performance in college at UCLA that something inside of Mark flip-flopped with more force than any politician’s stance on something.
Rather than walking down the street with the ginger politesse of an old woman with his stick in hand (walking softly and carrying a big stick, as it were), he started to barrel down the boulevards and avenues actively seeking to run into people. To mow them down with the internal anger that had been festering within him when he thought of all he had sacrificed to please Lorenzo, a man so clearly unpleasable. He never would have swam, lived practically as a fish as he practiced day and night to be “the best,” were it not for this fascist. Nor would he have been so hesitant to find true happiness in love with another man, the sex he was actually attracted to.
Even now, he still couldn’t admit to himself his true nature with regard to sexuality, instead favoring interactions with call girls that would fulfill his fetish for them to be blindfolded and gagged as he railed them from behind, often to the point of inflicting rectal bleeding. After a time, he seemed to have been put on some sort of “Don’t Bother” list as the phone would ring and ring at various dens of prostitution with no answer.
One night, he decided to find it himself, the old-fashioned way, on the Boulevard of Hollywood. The selection was of no importance to him, to be sure, as he couldn’t see what he was fucking, only feel it. In this regard, a hole truly was just a hole. Something to fill as a means to ephemerally be filled.
So it was that he chose a girl by the name she gave him: Charlotte. For sentimentality’s sake. He had fallen out of touch with her as he became increasingly distant from everyone he knew or was friends with in high school. A protection device that effectively said: You can’t reject me if I reject you first. For having a frailty of this variety consistently spelled O-S-T-R-A-C-I-S-M. Thus, he chose to ostracize himself before they could.
But he thought fondly of Charlotte as he rotely blindfolded this one and gagged her. He hoped she was happy, had found a good heterosexual with a healthy set of eyes that could really appreciate her beauty in a way that she deserved. In a way that Mark could never be capable of.
As he spaced out, he came to, realizing that in pressing the blindfold so firmly to Charlotte’s eyes, he had effectively squeezed them into oblivion. If she was screaming, he couldn’t hear her. Senses can be selective that way…