Authors: Nicole C. Kear
Now I See You
Nicole C. Kear
St. Martin's Press (2014)
At nineteen years old, Nicole C. Kear's biggest concern is choosing a major--until she walks into a doctor’s office in midtown Manhattan and gets a life-changing diagnosis. She is going blind, courtesy of an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, and has only a decade or so before Lights Out. Instead of making preparations as the doctor suggests, Kear decides to carpe diem and make the most of the vision she has left. She joins circus school, tears through boyfriends, travels the world, and through all these hi-jinks, she keeps her vision loss a secret.
When Kear becomes a mother, just a few years shy of her vision’s expiration date, she amends her carpe diem strategy, giving up recklessness in order to relish every moment with her kids. Her secret, though, is harder to surrender - and as her vision deteriorates, harder to keep hidden. As her world grows blurred, one thing becomes clear: no matter how hard she fights, she won’t win the battle against blindness. But if she comes clean with her secret, and comes to terms with the loss, she can still win her happy ending.
Told with humor and irreverence, Now I See You is an uplifting story about refusing to cower at life’s curveballs, about the power of love to triumph over fear. But, at its core, it’s a story about acceptance: facing the truths that just won't go away, and facing yourself, broken parts and all.
NOW I SEE YOU
NOW I SEE YOU.
Copyright © 2014 by Nicole C. Kear. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Designed by Anna Gorovoy
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
ISBN 978-1-250-02656-9 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-250-02657-6 (e-book)
St. Martin’s Press books may be purchased for educational, business, or promotional use. For information on bulk purchases, please contact Macmillan Corporate and Premium Sales Department at 1-800-221-7945, extension 5442, or write [email protected]
First Edition: June 2014
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For my Heart,
and my Sun
and for David, whose love lights every darkness
In order to protect the innocent, and the guilty, the names and identifying characteristics of people described in this book have been changed. In order to prevent this book from being a thousand pages and mind-numbingly boring, certain events have been reordered, combined, and condensed.
While I occasionally consulted journals, letters, and people who were there, for the most part, I wrote this book relying on my recollection, a thick, polluted sludge in which memories bob. They’re not pristine, these memories; time can corrode them, stain them, tint them in various hues. If others dredged up their memories of the same events, they might look different. If that is the case and you feel so inclined, I invite you to write a memoir. Just change my name and, if you don’t mind, make me a redhead.
It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
NOW I SEE YOU
My disguise was missing something.
“Almost ready,” I told Esperanza, the small, dark-haired woman standing next to me. “Just one more minute.”
I’d already jammed on the black knit toboggan reading
in block letters and pulled it low over my forehead. I’d zipped up the shit-colored ankle-length coat borrowed from my grandmother and raised the hood. Now only my shoes were visible, and my face.
The sunglasses: that’s what I’d forgotten.
I fished a pair out of my coat pocket—Prada knockoffs that I’d bought on the street near Astor Place—and slid them over my ears. They were big and black and glamorous, very Jackie O. But I felt more like Stevie Wonder.
“I can’t see a damn thing with these on,” I complained.
“So take them off,” Esperanza suggested, unperturbed by my getup or my bad language or my acting like a big old baby. “You don’t need them.”
That was not exactly true. She was right that I didn’t need them to shield my eyes from the sun, since it was an overcast afternoon in March. I didn’t need them, either, to shield the world from the sight of my eyes, which were normal-looking, pretty even; a forest blend of umber and olive, speckled with yellow. I did need the sunglasses, however, desperately.
“I’m trying to go incognito,” I explained, “in case I run into someone I know.”
“I don’t think there’s much risk of that.” She laughed. “We haven’t passed a single person since Third Avenue.”
Esperanza had met me at my apartment on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn, expecting, I guess, that we’d conduct our business right there on my block. Instead, I’d led her for fifteen minutes downhill, away from the well-maintained Park Slope brownstones where my friends lived, away from the bright playgrounds my kids frequented, into the no-man’s-land by the Gowanus Canal.
Now, we stood on broken sidewalk, flanked by abandoned warehouses, inhaling the stink of refuse. Whole minutes passed without a car whizzing by. It was the kind of spot a mobster would choose to shoot you at close range.
“This is where you want to do it?” she’d asked, her eyebrows raised.
“Yeah, this is perfect,” I’d replied.
Then she’d asked if I was ready, which I wasn’t, not by a long shot. But I’d suited up with hat, hood, and glasses, and at her direction, I’d taken the package she’d given me earlier out of my bag, rooting through boxes of animal crackers, broken crayons, and wet wipes. It was a tight white bundle roughly the size and shape of a microphone, though it weighed less, its five tubular pieces made from ultralight aluminum and held together with a black rubber band. I clutched it tightly in my right palm, as if it might come to life at any moment and attack me.
I was still not ready. I was, however, out of stalling techniques.
I’d been putting this moment off, not just since Esperanza picked me up a half hour before, but since I was nineteen years old. My arsenal of weapons for beating back the inevitable had been extensive: there’d been the distractions—sex and drama and later, the business of having babies; there’d been the denial that it was happening; and after that had become impossible, there was the hiding it from everyone else.
But now, after twelve years, I couldn’t postpone it any longer and here was Esperanza, sent over by the New York State Commission for the Blind to teach me how to use a mobility cane.
I didn’t see why formal training was necessary anyway; as far as I could tell, the whole process was pretty self-explanatory. Take a long stick and swing it around in front of you. If it hits something, don’t go there. If it drops into a gaping abyss, don’t go there either.
“I don’t need this, you know,” I informed Esperanza as I fiddled with the cane’s rubber band. “I do fine without it.”
“I know,” she assured me. “But you may find it useful at nighttime or in crowded places, when your vision is at its worst. And—”
She paused, her voice dropping into a softer register: “Many people find it helpful to be trained on the cane while they still have a bit of usable vision left.”
No matter how gentle Esperanza was administering my bitter pill, it still tasted like shit. I wanted to spit the nasty medicine out, just toss the cane into the canal and make a run for it. But running is precisely what I’d been doing for more than a decade and it wasn’t working anymore. My diagnosis just kept catching up with me.
For the kids,
I reminded myself. Vanity, pride, and fear were formidable opponents but my sense of maternal duty was stronger.
I pulled off the rubber band and the cane unfurled itself, the equal pieces snapping into place like a magic trick. I raised the sunglasses off my eyes to take a closer look. Apart from the handle, which was black, and a length of red at the tip, the cane was pristinely white, not a speck of dirt or grime anywhere. Of course, I hadn’t been able to discern speck-sized details in years, so what did I know?
I lowered my glasses down again. The cane, and the world behind it, went dark.
“Maybe it’s a good thing that I can’t see much with these on,” I observed to Esperanza. “It makes this more authentic, right? Makes me seem more blind.”
Esperanza said nothing, but she was standing close enough that I could see her press her lips together in a polite smile, which said it all.
blind. You’re only pretending not to be.
TIPS FOR THE (SECRETLY) BLIND
Tip #1: On receiving bad news
Do not be duped into believing that youth, or optimism, or adorable lacey underthings will protect you from bad news. These things will only ensure that the news comes as a big, fucking surprise.
1. THE MESSENGER
This is some Park Avenue bullshit,
I fumed, slamming shut my copy of
100 Years of Solitude
. I’d been sitting in the well-appointed waiting room for almost an hour before the doctor called my name, and then it was only to squeeze some dilating drops into my eyes and send me back into the waiting room while they took effect. That had been a half hour ago, at least I guessed as much. Now that my pupils were fully dilated, I couldn’t make out the numbers on my watch, or the print of my book, either. Which left me nothing to do but stew.
The whole thing was a massive waste of time. There was nothing wrong with my vision apart from near-sightedness; my regular ophthalmologist, Dr. Lee, had said so before she referred me here, “just to be extra sure.” It had seemed like a fine idea at the time, but that was before I’d pissed away the better part of a summer afternoon in a waiting room.
Of course, I had nowhere else to be, really. Having just returned to New York for summer break after my sophomore year in college, I had nothing lined up until my acting apprenticeship started at the Williamston Theatre Festival in a few weeks. I’d spent the last few days bumming around the city, sleeping late in my childhood bed, seeing old friends, and taking care of annoying bits of business like this doctor’s visit. That, and crying uncontrollably.
Not a day had passed since I left Yale that I hadn’t broken down in tears, weeping with the kind of brio only a teenager can manage. The crying was very time-consuming, and once you factored in the hours I spent rereading old journal entries and tearing up photographs, really, there weren’t enough hours in the day. Of course, breaking up is hard to do, especially for the first time.
I’m gonna call him,
I decided as I stared at the blurry blue book jacket on my lap. But by the time I located a pay phone, near the bathroom, my belated sense of dignity showed up and stayed my hand. Plus, I didn’t have a quarter.
It’s pointless anyway,
I reasoned, a familiar lump forming in my throat. I’d called him yesterday and the day before that and always, the answer was the same. The romance had run its course. Frog Legs and I were through.
Frog Legs earned his name after my grandmother saw Sam in his boxers one morning when he was staying at my parents’ over spring break.