The blindman’s question interrupts the crashing tide’s ceaseless monolog.
“Mack?” asks John.
“Hmm?” answers Mack.
“What is it like to see?”
After a long pause Mack sits up and answers
“Well, John, sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s more than you can handle.”
“How do you mean, Mack?” asks John.
“Well, I’ve been in love and I’ve been to war. I’ve even watched the earth from the moon. I can still see my late wife, and I can still see the horror of battle. It can be a big bad ugly world.
“I’ve seen her face every day after she left me. I see it tonight and I miss her too much. I see that first day she captured me with her shining eyes, and that smile, so wide and friendly. She winked at me and I couldn’t believe it. I’ll never forget how she looked on our first date, with her hair up, and her face made up so sweetly. She didn’t have to wear much makeup, John. She was a natural beauty. Her neck was an aphrodisiac and her legs were so long and smooth, oh! When she slipped her body into my car I lost my breath. Gotta admit I opened my eyes during our first kiss. She was so unbelievable!
“She loved me in the dark on our honeymoon, so the memories there are not really visual. I remember her face in pain in childbirth, and her joyous look afterwards, as she cuddled our son for the first time. I remember seeing her welcoming arms opened wide for me every time I came home. They were for Me, John, ME!
“What’s it like to see, John? Seeing love sometimes means seeing pain, too. I saw her take her last breath. Through tears and heaving gasps of pain she reached up, tilted her head back, and drew in air for the last time. Then she exhaled. It was such a long breath. Then I watched her face relax, and her lips slip into that smile. That smile told me it was over, finally over, and she was in no more pain.”
A small wind races past John and Mack. The smell of sea salt and a spray of sand across his body helps Mack gain control, and then continue.
“In war, John, you have to see the enemy die, and your friends die, all for duty. It rips you up sometimes and you wanna scream and fire your weapon at the selfish old men sitting back, so safe, in their capital offices. You wanna shout ‘Why did you send me out here to see this?’”
Mack violently punches the sand and blows out a breath.
“You know, I never vote for anybody that hasn’t been in the military, John.”
Mack takes another breath. “And you never forget the ugly things you see in war, either. They sneak into your dreams in the middle of the night, and mock you. And it’s just like you are there again, seeing the death, and the pain, and hate, and there is cruel laughter behind every replay. You don’t want to see this, John. You don’t want to have eyes.”
Mack pauses again. He stands to stretch, walks to the edge of the surf, brings up a handful of salt water and wipes his face with the palm of his wet hand.
“What I saw from the moon, John, was more than visual, too. I watched my blue marble home float in front of me and I thought of all the faces, maybe six billion of ‘em, inhabiting that earth, and it made me want to pray. There are so many threats hunting each person on our planet. We are threatened by the possible actions of the next person who crosses our path, threatened by our next decision, and threatened by forces outside our control. I did pray, John. I prayed and asked God to hold it all together long enough for me get home and make some kinda difference. I wanna see a difference, John. I wanna see the difference I can make.
“I guess that’s what it means to me to see, anyway. I know that you wish you could see, for at least a day. I wish you could see, too. It would help you understand, but I guess you see in a different way, huh?”
John lets the crashing surf answer for him. Mack closes his eyes, and listens, and understands John’s answer.
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