Eyes
A Short Story From:  Strangers And Graves
Peter Feibleman

     Anyway her husband did not owe anybody a cent and he owned his own business, her husband, the business did not own him, and her husband clearly was not a feckless blind man with nothing to his name but a stiff back and two starving blunt-eyed children and a stupid cowardly frail half-dead crybaby for a wife. Dios mio, the way that woman had screamed both times she was in labor. She was famous in the whole neighborhood for screaming: she only screamed for fear. She could not give light without giving fear. She could not go to work because of her fear and her frailty. And to be married to such a man. A fearless lightless poor wonder of a man. A woman like that to be the woman of . . . a man who . . .
     Turn it. Turn it back. Turn it . . .
     The Senora de Quico slipped her wrist under her armpit and made the twisting movement that was like a tic.
     A man who could sit there smugly over coffee and stale bread and let his children starve; a man who owed money all over the town. Who owed her, her and her husband, owed the de Quicos alone three and one-half months' worth of half-rotten scraps. And sat there. That kind of man.
     She said, "I am waiting. I am still on my feet here. In case you thought I had gone."
     The blind man shook his head. He did not smile. He rarely smiled.
     He said, "No, Senora. I knew that you had not gone."
     "How long," the Senora de Quico said, "are you going to have me wait here? Is it possible to know?"
     "There is no purpose in your waiting here today, Senora," the blind man said. "If I had the money I would give it to you; I would not make you wait. I am going to try to earn some of it tomorrow. That is all I can do, Senora, and I will do that."
     The Senora de Quico sighed and raised her eyes to the ceiling. She never had got over the uneasy feeling that the blind man could see her. "Bueno," she said, "and what do I do meanwhile? I go to the cine? I count my rosary?"
     "Whatever gives you pleasure, Senora, you should do," the blind man said. "There is nothing else you can do." He meant only to say that she should not stand there thinking that he had the money; she should do something else and come back when he did have it. That was all he meant, he did not intend to be insulting.
     But he was insulting, the Senora de Quico thought. He was the worst kind of insulting. The kind that is not on purpose. The man was in an indisputably inferior position--the position of owing money--only he did not accept it as inferior. The man treated her as an equal and that meant to her that he must secretly be feeling superior; it had to be one or the other. She did not know how to treat people as equals. She was too arrogant. She thought again: the arrogance.
     She looked at his wife, who had stopped crying now, and said, "La Senora . . ." repeating the words and addressing her in the third person, "The Lady is too delicate for work these days? Or is it that the Lady has too many appointments to look for work? Tell me .... "
     The blind man said before his wife could answer, "My woman has not found work.
     She looks every day."
     "Have you seen her look every day?"
     "I see nothing," the blind man said. "I do not need to see. It is unjust of you to speak as if we were unwilling to pay. You know that we are willing."
     "So many words," the Senora de Quico said, hearing her own voice and not liking it. "So many many words. If you could only eat the words. If you could put the words in the bank and buy your Senora wife jewels with them. If you could pay me with the words then we would all be happy. You, me, the wife and the words; we could be happy together. We could go on a little trip perhaps if the words were only worth something." "They are worth something," the blind man said.
     "Tell me about it," the Senora said. She tensed her wrist; but nothing happened now. She could not help feeling a sort of admiration today for this man. The magnet would not turn in her hand. Her sense of melodrama overcame her and her mind and her heart felt as though they would open up to him, invisibly to everyone else but visibly to him, she was sure. She was slipping self-predictably into a vortex of opposites. Something opened in her. There was a kind of chasm, a whole craving for him in his arrogant world of darkness; and her body in this new world of opposites that were not opposites that was not her body called out to him voicelessly against her will which was not her will and made her cringe.
     She tried again to sound sarcastic. "Tell me about it, blind man. That is why I came here, for a lesson. I need some instructions from a blind man in the value of words," she said, but the tone of sarcasm was not real. What she said come out more as if she meant it. See could not stop herself. She saw it. The core of her meaning, the quick of it, the meaning of her core was going to take over her body and turn it inside out--with her eyes turned in toward nothingness and all the rest of her thrown open, shining and exposed.

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