Her hair? Softer than silk. Her lips? Even softer still. She is patient when most would be frustrated and she treats everyone with the same, beautiful honesty. I love the way her name flows from my lips and out for the world to behold. The echoes linger in my ears each time I say it- as if it were too holy to say so callously. She is my wife, and I have been married to her for twenty-three years.
We met at a park. It was an uneven place with sloping hills everywhere. Not so easy to traverse. There I was, sitting at a bench, listening to the wind blowing through the trees, shivering my teeth off because I had forgotten to listen to the weather report. I did not notice her at first, which was admittedly a surprise because my ears had gotten pretty good. Anyway, suddenly there’s this warm thing pressed up against right arm and I jerked away in shock. I must have moved away too fast because next thing I knew I was nearly on the grass. It wasn’t until I heard a voice spitting rapid-fire apologies that I realized that thing was actually a person. I let out a sigh of relief, fixed my glasses and tapped the bench to let her know it was okay to sit back down- I had noticed that she had immediately stood back up after seeing my less-than-flattering reaction.
“I- I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to surprise you,” she said cautiously.
“Er, it's alright,” I said, shifting to my left as I heard the park bench creak under the new weight. “I didn’t mean to react like- well, like that.” She giggled. Hm, what a nice sound.
“You put on quite a display,” she teased. Well, she’s quite friendly.
“I didn’t look too stupid did I?” I asked.
“Like a complete dancing buffoon,” this mystery woman declared.
“Oh? Dancing? Y’know people usually cough up some cash after watching a street performer,” I retorted with a smile on my face.
“Only if they thought what they saw was impressive,” she pointed out.
“Ouch. I can’t believe a complete stranger first scares me so much I fell on my ass, and then insults me. I’m being attacked!” I said laughing.
Then there was a pause. I frowned. Her voice disappeared behind the haze of wind and passersby. Did she leave? I wondered to myself. Oh man, maybe I insulted her. Then, she returned.
“Cassandra,” she said, her voice softer than before. “There, we’re not strangers anymore.” It was just a simple introduction. She had given me her name. So why did my heart flutter?
“Devan,” I managed to say. “Nice to meet you, Cassandra.” The bench creaked a bit underneath me.
“So, Devan, I won’t give you money for your little display but I can buy you lunch,” she teased again, but this time her voice was a lot closer. To my sensitive ears, it sounded like she was speaking directly into them. And it was like music.
I accepted her offer. We walked together out of that park, still teasing and laughing. But while she was talking about how I’d love this café she discovered, I realized something so embarrassing I tried my best to hide it by keeping my head up. I was no longer shivering. In fact, I was quite warm.
We hit it off almost immediately. It was like some divine force snapped their fingers then suddenly my world had changed, and having Cassandra around was a strange experience. Sad as it may sound, my experience with being intimate with other people had been... lacking. High school was a struggle. Moving from one place to the next because of my mom’s job was tough enough, but trying to figure out the layout of each new school always ended up with me getting lost. College was a little better. At least I could stick to one campus for the entire duration now that I was away from home. Even then I preferred to stay in my dorm to study and read books in my spare time. There just wasn’t anything I could really do at parties except finding a nice corner and listen to the music.
So you would not be wrong if you said I was a self-made introvert. I was, after all, not the easiest person to approach. That’s why when this girl sat down next to me, nearly giving me a heart attack in the process, and invited me to lunch I just did not know what to do. Despite my inexperience in interacting meaningfully with another human being, Cassandra made it so easy for me to break out of my habits.
Within the first year of our relationship, I began to lower the walls I had erected in my teenage years. At work I opened up to my coworkers and for the first time, there were people I could comfortably talk to. Then I became friends with the friends of my friends. In all honesty the speed in which my inner circle of friends grew took me aback. For as long as I remember I thought friendships were like slopes one had to climb, but instead it was more like a pre-made web of people. All you had to do was find the right link, and for me that link was Cassandra.
We got married five years later. I still remember her oath: “If you need a shoulder to lean on, I'll be there for you. If you ever get lost, I’ll be there to guide you home.” Short and sweet. Straight to the point. “Ah. And one more thing,” she continued. Cassandra grabbed my hand and slipped something into it.
I immediately began to laugh aloud, tears of joy running down my face. “Looks like you finally paid me,” I mumbled through a trembling voice. I could tell from the whispers from the crowd that they had no idea why my wife-to-be had just slipped me money at the altar. The people I had gotten to know thanks to the woman in front of me, the people that I had opened up to, were left ignorant to the significance of her action, and that only made us laugh even harder.
On that day, the two of us promised to stay by each other’s side. We kept our promise. Time went on and with it so did our age. Doctor’s appointments became more frequent. No surprise there. However, one day my doctor told me about advancements in optical technologies and about a new procedure had just been cleared for human trials. I was, naturally, confused.
“You’ve been my doctor for what, 6 years now? You know I’m blind, doc. I don’t need to improve my vision. I’ve never had it,” I said.
“No, Devan, we don’t need to improve your vision. But we can give it to you,” he said gleefully. He had probably been staying up to date with the new procedure, eagerly waiting for the chance to recommend me for the first trials. I was dumbfounded.
I still am. The surgery took place two days ago. Now I’m sitting on the hospital bed with something over my eyes. I guess this is what cloth looks like? Someone walks into the room and my heart begins to race. Cassandra’s footsteps. Oh god, oh god, oh my God! I’m going to see for the first time. I’m going to see her for the first time. My mouth is drying up and sweat is building up on my palms. I begin to shake nervously.
Cassandra puts her hand on my shoulder. “You look like a little kid about to get a flu shot,” she teased. That makes me relax a little and I end up closing my eyes for a moment only to immediately open them up once again. I don’t want to go back to that darkness.
Another set of footsteps. The doctor’s. I tense up again. This time I’m shaking uncontrollably. Then this thing presses up against my right arm. I don’t jerk away. The bed sinks at the new weight. Cassandra takes my hand. Cold metal slides across the back of my head and clips away at the bandages. I turn to my right just as the bandages fall.
Despite the tears, I see her. The first color I ever see is her.
“Ah,” I mumble. “Beautiful.”