Impaired. That’s the word most frequently used to describe Suzette. Handicapped rubbed people the wrong way and blind was too blunt. So she was visually impaired. In more ways than one, she thought. The little she could see of the thing in the mirror she’d prefer not to.
But she was blind. Legally blind. She couldn’t drive a car if she wanted to. She could see just well enough to get by like most people on a sunny day, and she knew just enough Braille to function in the city at night.
The upside to blindness is the increased sensitivity of the other senses. Suzette’s sense of smell was exquisite. She could tell the time of day by what she smelled cooking in the apartments of her building. She could tell a person’s age by their aromas, both their natural ones and the ones they chose to hide behind. She could tell a smoker, a drinker, or a fool a block away. Or so she believed.
The world was, and always had been, a dim place for Suzette. When she was thirteen she fell in love – head over heels – with Johnny Laputa and was convinced that if she loved him enough he would love her back. Eventually. But he didn’t fall in love with Suzette when she was thirteen. Or fourteen. Fifteen, either. When she was sixteen she decided that either Johnny Laputa was gay or she was unlovable, or both. By the time she was twenty-three she’d confirmed to her satisfaction it was both.
When she turned thirty-five Suzette stopped trying. People were starving somewhere and others were living through every manner of violence. What right had she to complain? She could be content with the love she had for classical music, cooking, and cats. Or so she believed.
Ryan had above average eyesight. His hand-eye coordination impressed every gym teacher and Little League coach he’d ever had. But he wasn’t interested in sports. Ryan was, and always had been, an artist. He saw more than balls and bodies and scoreboards. He saw all kinds of things that nobody else saw. He saw the reflection on the sun on each grain of sand in the sidewalk; he saw the deaths of distant stars and the dreams that danced behind the hidden smiles of the faces on the street. He could see a dreamer, a lover, or liar a block away. Or so he believed.
What Ryan saw most clearly were dreamers. They shone and glowed brighter than all the dim bulbs surrounding them combined. Suzette, unbeknownst even to herself, was a dreamer. Not only that, she was the brightest dreamer Ryan had ever seen.
When Ryan was seven he witnessed the explosion of a supernova, live and uncensored, in the privacy of his living room. His Aunt Ellen, the brightest dreamer he’d seen to that point – a woman who towered over his small, impressionable life – melted away into a puddle of tears and mucus. After that, Ryan turned his attention away from dreamers. Or so he believed.
Suzette bumped into Ryan as she turned the corner from Fifth Avenue onto 39th Street. That was the hardest thing for Suzette: going from the dazzling sunlight of a wide avenue into the shadowy canyon of a side street. Ryan saw her coming before she even turned the corner but did nothing to avoid the collision. Suzette was following her nose the whole time. He smelled good.