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When a Late-Night Ice Cream Run Went Wrong for Me as a Blind Person

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For $13, I stepped out of the liquor store in my flip-flops with a gallon of milk and a pint of vanilla ice cream. I rarely come to this store because it’s in one of the sketchiest parts of downtown Oakland. People are always asking for money or doing some transaction outside. The inside is dark and full of old stuff. I was annoyed I didn’t ask the clerk how much the milk and ice cream cost before paying. I had already asked for help finding what I wanted, and I didn’t want to ask for more. I also did not realize it would be $13.

I had been feeling depressed that day and was surprised to find somewhere open at 10 p.m. And I would have probably unknowingly spent 30 bucks using those new delivery apps. But $13 for vanilla ice cream and a gallon of milk? Were they both expensive or was one absurdly expensive and the other reasonably priced? Hopefully, this amount of dairy is enough mom-like nurturance to sop up my sadness, I thought, just as the middle strap on my flip-flop busted.

I tried curling my toes to clamp it in place, but the flip-flops were so flimsy, my toes had no clamping powers. I hobbled to a parking meter in the darkness, looking at all the unidentifiable crap on the sidewalk. I imagined my bare foot on all that junk, and the subsequent pain, disease, and death my foot would incur. Some weeks ago, I had dropped a glass jar on the sidewalk just a block away. The jar shattered and even in broad daylight, because of my low vision I could only see the big pieces to pick them up. I had to leave all the little pieces. Now I felt so vulnerable. What if there’s glass I don’t see? I felt so blind, realizing how dirty downtown Oakland is and I had never even thought about it. My mind filled every dark spot with fresh gum, slime and all kinds of poop. The non-dark spots I filled with shards of glass, syringes and razor blades.

I hopped half a block to a bench to game plan. I never imagined I could feel so hopeless over something so small. I was still three blocks from home and didn’t know how I’d get there. I hadn’t brought my cell phone — I was just going to the liquor store, after all. And I’d feel embarrassed anyway to ask for help because I was stranded a whole three blocks from home. “Could you help me get home? I’ve had a flip-flop disaster.” And even on this chilly night, my precious ice cream was melting.

“This shit’s unfair,” I said to myself, close to tears. Someone with vision might be grossed out or scared in my situation, but would probably figure out a way to walk super-carefully with their bare foot and one flip-flop. Yes, they would want to wash their foot when they got home, but they’d be home. I on the other hand felt pathetic, scared and so blind, vulnerable even to the sidewalk, replaying in my head glass jamming its way through my foot, the gashes spewing blood everywhere. It was so emasculating that a mere sandal malfunction could leave me in such peril. I was hanging by the thread of my f***ing flip-flop.

My only option was to hop home, and if I wanted to salvage any of this ice cream, I would have to start hopping soon. So I grabbed the milk and the ice cream and started hopping. Big hops. And then smaller hops. A block in, I was panting and I leaned against a house. This gallon of milk had to go. I abandoned it in the middle of the sidewalk and hopped forth. I was still a block away, and unfortunately would have to pass some people. But it was the only way, so I hopped as fast as I could through the crowd. Once I rounded the corner, I was basically home. F*** it, I thought, convincing myself there can’t be broken glass and syringes in front of my house. That would just be unsanitary! And with my bare foot, I walked the last few steps home.

Inside, I strolled through the (also very gross) hallways of my apartment complex like I was walking on a big, clean baby’s bottom. Finally in my apartment, I grabbed a spoon and collapsed onto my bed, my dirty foot hanging off the side. My now-$13 vanilla ice cream was all gooey now, but I slurped it up. I was home.

Originally published: June 18, 2018
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