A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love YouStories
Vintage Books USACopyright © 2001 Amy Bloom
All right reserved.ISBN: 9780375705571
A BLIND MAN CAN SEE HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU
Jane Spencer collects pictures of slim young men. In the bottom drawer of herdesk, between swatches of silk and old business cards for Spencer Interiors, shehas two photos of James Dean, one of a deeply wistful Jeremy Irons inBrideshead, arm in arm with the boy holding the teddy bear, a sepia print ofRudolph Valentino in 1923, without burnoose or eyeliner, B. D. Wong's glossiesas Song Liling and as his own lithe, androgynous self, and Robert Mapplethorpeslipping sweetly out of his jeans in 1972. She has a pictorial history of KevinBacon, master of the transition from elfin boy to good-looking man withoutadding bulk or facial hair.
The summer Jessie Spencer turned five, she played Capture the Flag every daywith the big boys, the almost-six-year-olds who'd gone to kindergarten a yearlate. Jane never worried, even in passing, about Jesse's IQ or her eye-handcoordination or her social skills. Jesse and Jane were a mutual admirationsociety of two smart, strong, blue-eyed women, one five and one thirty-five,both good skaters and good singers and good storytellers. Jane didn't mentionall this to the other mothers at play group, who would have said it was the samebetween them and their daughters when Jane could see it was not, and she didn'tmention it to her own sweet, anxious mother, who would have taken it,understandably, as a reproach. Jane didn't even mention this closeness to thepediatrician, keeper of every mother's secret fears and wishes, but it sang herto sleep at night. Jane's reputation as the play group's good listener wasundeserved; the mothers talked about their knock-kneed girls and backward boysand Jane smiled and her eyes followed Jesse. She watched her and thought, Thatsmile! Those lashes! How brave! How determined!
Jane sometimes worried that Jessie was too much of a tomboy, like Sarah andMellie, even faster runners and more brutal partisans; it was nothing to them tomake a smaller boy cry by yanking up his underpants, or to grind sand into thescalp of the girl who hogged the tire swing. These two didn't cry, not even whenMellie cut her lip on the edge of the teeter-totter, not even when Sarah got asplinter the size of a matchstick. But Sarah and Mellie, in their overalls anddirty baseball jerseys, never had the boys' heartless prankishness, the littledevils dancing in the blacks of their eyes. Jessie had exactly that, and theother kids knew she wasn't a tomboy, never strained to be one of the boys. Therewas no teasing, no bullying line drawn in the sand. Jane knew that one day soon,in the cove behind John Lyman School, the boys would pull out their penises anddemonstrate to Jessie that she could not pee standing up, and it would beterrible for Jessie. Jane was wrong. Jessie watched the boys and practiced athome, making a funnel with both hands and a baggie. When Andrew and Franklinwent to pee on the far side of the rhododendron, Jessie came too, unzipping andpushing her hips forward until there was, if not a fine spray, a decent dribble.The boys thought nothing of it until first grade, and when they did and theteacher pushed Jessie firmly into the girls' bathroom, she walked home atrecess, horrified by the life ahead, and Jane could not coax her back for aweek.
It was worse when Jane took her to get a simple navy blue jumper for a friend'swedding. Jane held it out, pleased that she'd found something in Jessie'sfavorite color without a ruffle or a speck of lace, and Jessie stared at it asif her mother had gone mad, wailing in rage and embarrassment until Jane droveher to Macy's for a boy's navy blazer with gray pants and dared the salespersonto comment. They compromised on patent leather loafers and a white turtleneck.People at the wedding thought only that Jane was her fashionable self and Jessieadorable. Very Kristy McNichol, the bride's mother said. Driving home, Jane knewthat she had managed not to see it, as you manage not to see that yourneighbor's new baby has your husband's eyes and nose, until one day you run intothem at the supermarket and you cannot help but see. Jessie slept the whole wayhome, smears of buttercream on the white turtleneck, rose petals falling fromher blazer pocket, and Jane cried from Storrs to Durham. She had appreciated andpitied her mother and adored her father, a short, dapper man who cartwheeledthrough the living room at her request and told his own Brooklyn version ofGrimm's Fairy Tales at bedtime. She had liked Jessie's handsome father enough tothink of marrying him until he was revealed to have a wife in Eau Claire and baddebts in five states. It did not seem possible that the great joke God wouldplay on her was to take the love of her life, a wonderfully improved piece ofJane, and say, Oops. Looks like a girl but it's a boy! Sorry Adjust accordingly.It took Jane all of Jessie's childhood to figure out what the adjustment mightbe and to save fifty thousand dollars to pay for it.