The Memory of Vision
Fading in and out like poor reception on a television, Luke saw the waters of the Straits of Gibraltar glisten then darken several times before he looked away. Sitting on the small wall of white stone that surrounded the parking lot he ran his hands over the rough stone as he looked around for his partner, Mike. With Mike nowhere in sight, Luke could feel the panic rising in him, that sense of dread that started in his stomach and crept into his throat, at times almost choking him. He stood and walked carefully to the front of the red store with the sign that said The Last Shop in Europe and put his face to the glass and peered in. He could barely make out the images inside, but Mike was there, standing in front of shelves loaded with small objects, most likely souvenirs of Gibraltar. Mike bought souvenirs wherever they had traveled together.
Luke rested against the glass and squinted at the sunlit white Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim mosque and the white cliffs of Gibraltar behind it. It blurred into and out of shape as he stared at it, its minaret sometimes completely lost in the bright light of late afternoon. He rubbed his eyes and walked back to the wall and sat down again and faced Morocco, unseen but not so far away as not to be imagined. They planned to go there tomorrow by ferry. Above the waters of the strait Luke could make out a few seagulls dancing in the sky, their loud cries echoing much like bitter complaints.
It was in the Bahamas, on a white sand beach lined with tall palm trees, when the boats on the sparkling water faded from his vision that Luke had first became concerned. That was before the trips to see the missions in Arizona, or the Columbia Gorge, or the doll museum in Kansas City. Those places and all the others Luke remembered not so much for their own merits, but by the ever increasing inability to make out the smaller details and the feeling that his eyes were being closed without the involvement of his eyelids. It wasn’t until they were standing in the National Gallery of Art looking at a white marble statue beneath a white light and it all disappeared from his sight for several moments that he admitted to himself and to Mike that something was terribly wrong with his eyes. The news that he was going blind and it could not be helped came soon after.
In Gibraltar the day before he and Mike had taken a road and then a path up the rock and fed peanuts and apple slices to the Barbary Apes. They then stood at the top of Gibraltar and looked down at the thousands of gulls swooping in and out of their nesting places on the cliff that shot straight up from the water. Luke had not told Mike how little of them, the gulls, he had been able to make out, how much they seemed no more than mists darting in and out of view. But he could feel their presence, that mass of feathered life he’d seen in other places, off the shores of Nova Scotia and Oregon. He didn’t tell Mike about the dizziness either, something new and frightening. When he had grabbed Mike’s arm to steady himself as they looked down from such heights, Mike thought it was an act of fear of the height or affection, and had gently patted Luke’s hand. Mike rarely asked about how Luke was feeling or about the symptoms and Luke rarely volunteered any unsolicited information.
In the months that followed Luke did what he always did, he worked, read, went to the movies and spent time with friends, and he and Mike traveled, to San Francisco, to the civil war sites in Virginia, to Toronto. Knowing it did little good to complain, Luke never mentioned to Mike that the brighter the day the less in the distance he could see or that small objects often disappeared from his sight entirely. He bought post cards along the way, and when they returned home he would sit alone at his desk in the study and look at them through a magnifying glass and there imbed into his memory those images he had not been able to see while at the actual sites. As his sight came and went unpredictably, he managed to fool even Mike who knew him better than anyone else, and traveled as if he were seeing everything. No one noticed that he talked little about what he saw, but said a great deal about what other qualities he recalled about a place.
There on the wall with Morocco not far away, Luke was suddenly overcome with grief. He had known for sometime the anxiety he felt about what lay ahead, but he had shoved his deeper feelings, his utter sadness, to some place deep within him. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine the straits of Gibraltar unseen, or going through the markets in Morocco and not seeing the faces of the merchants. His own tears surprised him as they ran down his cheeks. He wiped them away and opened his eyes and saw nothing, only blackness. He waited for things to come into focus, for the light to invade the darkness, but as he sat there alone and listening to the gulls and the world remaining shrouded in complete night, he knew that the time had arrived. He was now blind and there was nothing he or anyone else could do about it.
“You should have come in to the shop.” It was Mike, sitting down on the wall next to Luke.
Luke heard the rustling of a plastic bag. “What did you buy?”
“A snow globe with the mosque inside,” Mike said laughing. “Do you want to see it?”
“Not right now,” Luke said. “I’m enjoying the view.”
Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, has had over 500 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews and anthologies since June, 2016. He has had seven collections of his short stories published. His paranormal/horror novel Redbird was released in November, 2019. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice. His Twitter is @carrsteven960. His website is https://www.stevecarr960.com/
He is on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/steven.carr.35977