Stories, Switzerland

The Blind Woman

She boarded the train quietly, with her guide dog manouvering the path before her. She clicked her long white walking stick at her side and it disappeared onto the seat next to her. Her dog found his place beneath the seat that would be hers, stepping on the toes of a woman seated across from her. Legs stretched, magazine open on her lap. We tried not to stare. The woman opposite the blind woman tried to catch our eyes and flash an uncomfortable smile. I averted my eyes and was thankful that I have the sense of sight and am not lost in a great black abyss. This is what I think for a flashing moment whenever I see a blind person.

She sat across the aisle from us and typed feverishly on her phone which responded in a robotic voice back at her. Her eyes were the colour of ice, frozen after a crisp rainfall. They darted around searching for familiarity where there was none. Her dog slept. The train was quiet. Ali studied his Arabic and I read my book. The train stopped for a short delay, and I heard a soft “Enscholigon” –‘excuse me’– to my left. It was coming from her. The blind woman. She said it again. The woman directly across from her was ignoring her. I wanted to do something, but I thought, what can I do? I don’t speak German. So I kept reading. Ali laid down in my lap to rest. It was quiet for another few moments and then the train started to move again.

“Enscholigon.” I looked up. What was going to happen next? Would this woman continue to ignore her?

“F*ck YOU!” She grabbed the magazine and began hitting the woman who had been holding it.

“F*ck YOU! Why are you ignoring me? I am right here. I am not invisible. Don’t treat me like I don’t exist.”

The blind woman said this. To the woman across from her. Too shocked to say anything.

The blind woman was frantic. She was wringing her hands and rocking. The woman across from her said, “What’s wrong with you? You can’t do this. You can’t treat me like this.”

“You didn’t respond to me. I am talking to you and you sit there ignoring me.”

“I didn’t hear you. I’m sorry.”

“Well maybe you are deaf, then if you are I am sorry for that, but I was trying to speak to you and you were ignoring me.”

They went back and forth in English for a few minutes. They resolved the conflict. Peacefully. The train came to a stop and they both stood to get up. Ali and I tried not to stare and took in every word which was said. I thought to myself about this woman. The blind woman. Her reaction. Ali and I agreed using violence was not necessary. We also agreed that the woman across from her had in fact ignored her. We talked about how we would have handled the situation or how we would have prevented it if it had been us.

But in the end, we decided, “Rock the f*uck on.” The blind woman. She has spent her life in a black abyss. She has been made to feel alone and missed, walked by and undiscovered. She, in a world without light, has to watch her own back. And I think she did a pretty damn fine job.