Fall 2012, Volume 13

Nonfiction by Belo Cipriani

My Scandalous Little Hand

“Ten steps and a right, ten steps and a right,” I recited my friend Mark’s directions in a low voice while searching for the bathroom in a busy Castro Street club. Nightlife can be tough for guide dogs to navigate, as crowds, dirty floors, and drunks become major obstacles to negotiate for a twenty–inch–tall yellow princess. When Madge has the night off, I resort back to cane skills that often feel like taking a Yoga class after a year–long sabbatical. I reached out for the door while shifting my body toward the right and found myself investigating a padded bump. Realizing I was caressing a woman’s breast, I took a step back and apologized profusely. “No worries!” shouted the woman charismatically over the hip-hop song.

In an upbeat tone, she offered to guide me to the bathroom. Like many people, I despise awkward moments. For me, these embarrassing situations tend to manifest themselves when a stranger with no clue of how to help a blind person attempts to save the day. Various encounters—with groping people or remarks like, “Oh, you poor thing” or “I can’t believe you are out on your own”—make asking for and accepting help an undesirable task. Embarrassed, I refused her offer and slowly made my way to the stall.

I rejoined Mark at the bar where he introduced me to a guy with gigantic hands. Mark whispered into my ear, “He’s hot.” I could tell by his mischievous tone that he was into the big-handed stranger and smiled when they headed out to the dance floor. Not keen on being the third wheel, I stayed at the bar and ordered a drink. Swiveling on the stool, I reflected on Mark’s recent shift in attitude toward my blindness. Recently, he stopped scolding me for frolicking about social events on my own, catching a bus or cab, or questioning if it was smart for a blind person to drink alcohol. He now felt comfortable leaving me on my own and no longer judged my every movement.

I readjusted my body on the chair and felt the room turn as the chair spun. Attempting to find the edge of the bar, I stretched my hand out and grabbed a bulge.

“Hey, hey!” blurted a guy at me.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry!” I shouted back at the man. I explained to the guy that I was blind—his warm breath now on my face.

He gasped, “Oh shit!” Moist lips pressed down on my hand in a kiss as he offered help.

Flashing my teeth politely, I declined his assistance and widen my eyes when I heard the bartender slam a bottle behind me and called out its German name. The room made sense again, and I turned around and found the wooden surface with my palms. I paid for my beer and realized my cane was no longer leaning against the bar. I explored the floor with my shoe because I refused to touch the sticky surface with my fingers. Unable to find my cane, I took a break from the search and sipped my drink. Appearing drunk or confused was not the look for which I was shooting, and I wanted guys to talk to me only if they were genuinely interested instead of simply reaching out to help.

I tightened my grip on the wet bottle and sensed its frostiness travel down my arm. I grew restless as the people pushed past me, the club morphing into a massive game of Twister. Afraid of touching anyone inappropriately, I kept my hands on the soaked bar.

Mark’s excited voice pierced my left ear. The last time he expressed so much interest in a guy was when I could actually see his light brown eyes glimmer under the San Jose sun. The past three years of awkwardness while we both learned to deal with blindness suddenly seemed distant; we were peers again.

He confessed, “Belo, I’m scared of getting hurt.”

I comforted, “Dating is scary but you are smart. Give this guy a shot.” I then realized that we both had trust issues. I told him I did not like to touch strangers and hated asking for help. Oh yeah, and I lost my white stick too.

The cane appeared in my hand, and Mark said, “Here you go; it was on the floor.” We both laughed and he inquired, “What if the stranger is hot? Would you touch them?” I shook my head in the negative, and he teased, “Oh, give the go–gos a shot.” I would not understand until later, but I was beginning to learn how to accept help. I may not have been able to fully trust strangers, but I could start by trusting my friends. I caved and we made our way toward the half–naked dancing men.




BIO:  Presently Creative Writing Project Director at Notre Dame de Namur University, my first book, Blind: A Memoir, received a blurb from Amy Tan and has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, San Jose Mercury News, Huffington Post, Advocate Magazine, After Elton, Univision, and Chicago Windy City Times, among others. It received an Honorable Mention for Best Debut Novel/Book and Best Non-fiction by the Rainbow Awards 2011.

Nightlife, my first work of fiction will be published by ASD Publishing in 2012. Additionally, I was the keynote speaker for the Americans with Disabilities Act 2011 celebration in San Francisco.

My other work has been published in
The Bohemian, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Smith Magazine, Sunhill Review, The Lighthouse, and Insidepride. I was awarded a fellowship in nonfiction in 2011 by the Lambda Literary Foundation where I studied under Ellery Washington and, in 2012, a writing fellowship at Yaddo.