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To My Sighted Friend Who Has the Courage to Feel What I Feel

You have lived your way inside my world.

You began this journey with kindness, good intentions and the wish to be a friend. You polished your compassion, patience and empathy until they shined brightly enough to be your guides through my darkness. They led you to my voice and to my reaching hands.

You don’t dread blackness; the two of us settled here, comfortably, long ago.

Eric and Caitlin decorating laptops with tactile stickers.
Eric and Caitlin decorating laptops with tactile stickers.

Your thoughtful words and gentle touches bring an enigmatic, inimitable light to places inside me that are otherwise dim.

A singular safety enfolds me when we’re together. Being with you feels like completeness, like rightness, like you have your arms around me even when you don’t.

The sensation of your eyes on me is commonplace now, no longer frightening. I rarely turn my face away from you, even when I cry. Occasionally, I believe you when you tell me I’m beautiful.

Sharing your days — walking alongside you as you do small, inconsequential things that don’t matter to you — means everything to me. There is inexplicable relief in the knowledge that you’re only an arm’s length away.

Your hands are always open to mine; I have memorized them. Sometimes, when I sit with you, curled into your side or with our shoulders overlapping, I toy with your fingers, trace the dips of your palms, clasp your hands, tangle my arm in yours. When you follow suit, it becomes a subconscious dance, beautiful and perfect in its absent-mindedness.

There may not be music, but there are raw emotions in every unsung lyric. It’s my way of looking into your eyes and having you look back.

Life, with its unknowns and confusion and changes, has a way of catching up to me. The rushing and uncertainty pulls me first one way, then the other. Tension tugs at my shoulders, and anxiety tightens my chest. Staying afloat can be draining, exhausting. But when I’m close to you, life pauses. It’s as though, while struggling to swim against the tide, a chance wave tosses me into the path of your calmer current. I am swept towards you, propelled by a magnetic force I need not question or control. Leaning on my trust in you, I can break the surface and draw a long, cleansing breath.

Eric and Caitlin splitting a crepe.
Caitlin and Eric splitting a crepe.

Whether through our skins or souls, stories or songs or spirits, you and I are always connecting. You long ago intuited — and then memorized — what I do and do not need, where I might stumble, why I sometimes startle. You know that the smallest of touches can smooth roughness and fill emptiness.

When you hug me, hold me, stand with me hand-in-hand, the reassuring flicker of your heartbeat slows and steadies mine, bringing control to chaos. Your smiles surface in your voice, and you send smirks through nudges and knocking elbows and the jostling of our intertwined arms.

Fleeting glances come in the shape of a squeeze on my shoulder as you pass. Lingering eye contact is the touch of your hand on mine. When you speak, I can hear you seeing me.

You understand, better than most, that hearing goes beyond listening.

You have never perceived yourself as the leader; we walk side by side. On impulse, you invent ways to bring intangible things to my curious fingertips. Under the power of your hands, obstacles slide away from my path while necessities sail forward to greet me. You see, or perhaps sense, what others miss: the almost imperceptible flickers in my face and body and presentation that signify sadness, or strain or something not quite right.

Our joint journey has earned your insight into the raw, intimate parts of my life. You have glimpsed all of me — even the painful secrets I myself fear and can’t fully understand — and yet, you are still here.

Eric and Caitlin hugging.
Eric and Caitlin hugging.

On the hard days, I may need too much, ask too much, feel too much. I might edge too close to you, hold onto you too tightly, stay with you too long. At times, it must be overwhelming, even aggravating. You must wish, every now and then, that you could move without attachment, enjoy without explaining, watch and wonder without whispering answers to my endless strings of questions. If this is in any way true, you have never said so.

You have witnessed my strength enough to have faith in it; you let me hold and help you without a second thought. The reciprocity of our friendship is, at times, a greater gift than all the others combined.

You are irreplaceable; you know this in a way that has no room for pride in yourself or pity for me. If you were ever to leave my world, a bright, vibrant color would be forever bleached from my rainbow. If I had to, I could move on without you… but a part of me would be lost, irretrievably.

I can count those like you on one hand: the friends who have had the courage to feel what I feel and view the world through my lens as it shifts erratically from faint and fogged to vividly overbright.

You are beautiful and rare in all the ways that matter most, and though I promise to try and try and try, I will never be able to love you or thank you as much as you deserve.

You have lived your way inside my world.

Thank you.

Author’s note: This “letter” of sorts is dedicated, with much love, to all of my greatest and dearest sighted allies. Each of you gave life to these words, and I’m sure you’ll find snippets of our experiences here and there as you read. That said, this piece was especially inspired by one of my very best friends, Eric, who, throughout our 10 years of friendship, has always been singularly intuitive and sensitive about not only my blindness, but all of who I am as a person.

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