Girl in Glass

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic
Zane and Shelly meet on a park bench, immediately becoming friends... even though others might have something to say about it.

Submitted: February 08, 2019

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Submitted: February 08, 2019

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The young man sitting on a park bench took it for granted everything was all right with the world because it was not something he could see for himself.  There were definite clues his other senses gleaned from those surroundings put to memory long ago.  Timid warmth grown ever more brazen on his back and in the air of earliest springtime, as some indication of unerring sunshine.  Water sounds as additional proof heard just a few feet away, which moistened dry, craggy lips, caused by winter upon a riverbank's face.  Promising even wetter, far deeper kisses in an April only one week off.

That recreational facility called Riverview Park had many suitors who were also residents of Little Pearl, New York, and none seemed to mind because no one need stand by, but join nature's orgy privately performed in a forested basin at the Hudson River's edge, merely walking distance from town.  Any able-bodied person welcome, and one of the few activities a blind man could perform without others taking much notice; whether friend, neighbor, family member, or fellow paramour who saw him whole, if not attractive enough for a good go in the woods.

Of course, Zane Campbell might have only been thinking of better days in his youth, when he simply chose not to see such indifference in a lover's eyes, still scoff at the notion of never measuring up to parents' standards, let alone society's, and feel like the view inside was as vast as any tributary without.  Over at Riverview, there was at least some sense of light and living in the present to spite what darkness came long before sight loss.  Physical passion no longer did the trick after discovering healthier intimacy with a natural world full of imperfections akin to his.

Indeed, that particular morning in March far from a perfect one, still requiring coats with a heavy lining, and hats for protection against wind chills to make the day's forecast of possibly reaching fifty degrees feel impossible to achieve.  An even choice between those stifling confines of Zane's modest studio apartment, which really from the proprietor's generous nature with a thermostat, instead of what he believed to be caused by flames out of his rather personal form of Hell.  Sitting on a park bench was the closest thing to purgatory for him, and fairly surprised to find someone else sharing it.

"Sorry if I scared you," The proclamation came in a high, feminine tone that immediately put Zane at ease.  In his experience, young girls had never been a threat.

"More like taken off guard," He said.  "I don't normally overlook another person's presence, even being blind as a bat."

The next statements struck Zane hard, although they proved how diminutive a companion he had.  "Oh, don't feel bad, everyone overlooks me.  Back in high school, teachers hardly noticed when I cut classes to come here, and even if a secretary called home, no one there to pick up.  Dad didn't stay around long enough to see me enter Kindergarten, and even after deciding my senior year was all the education we could afford, Mom still had our rent to pay every month."

"I see," The man replied, even if he clearly did not.

"Well, being blind you must still know there are times a body has to go by pure animal instinct, and deep down I think my parents did love me in their own way."  Sweet intonations nonetheless, cast a perfect mold of some kind of frozen dessert topping to size up the youth who came to mind.  Perhaps sugar-glazed lips and cherry cheeks were centerpieces in creamy skin, with the rest yet to behold if their closely approximated body temperatures did not melt it first.  "Dad must have feared staying might just make things worse, and Mom worked herself into an early grave to keep a roof over my head."

What Zane definitely perceived was being too heavy-handed in his approach could also break that milk chocolate shell, whether white or dark coated, and expose pure custard innards as well.  "I didn't know you young people had such head-smarts these days, either from books or out on the streets.  If they were able to see you now, your parents would probably be very proud."

A certain amiability appeared to manifest itself between the two strangers, which left words falling short of any internal mark set for each to get a better picture, notwithstanding one's useless eyes, but primarily due to the other's candor.  "I know it's not like you can look in the mirror, but trust me when I say you are no senior citizen; maybe a little older than big brother status, yet much too cute for me to call Uncle.  The hair is probably long and in that ponytail for low maintenance, but it is in the prettiest blond shade I've ever seen.  Furthermore, even if they don't work, you have one up on Paul Newman with those baby blues."

"Okay, okay, then let's say I'm Zane, your long-lost cousin," Uttered by the man who did not know he could still laugh like a silly schoolchild just shy of forty years-old.  "Once removed, of course."

"My name is Shelly, and why haven't you been answering my letters?"  Girly mirth in return all the proof needed to estimate an age-range of early to mid-twenties, but fingers shoved into Zane's hand that felt small and fragile enough to be holding hands with a minor, instead of any introductory shake by another adult.

"Hey, if we came from a close family, how would either of us ever feel so overlooked?"

Shelly's laughter fluttered away with another gusty wind, and Zane sensed a warm body draw nearer to him on the park bench.  "Oh, then you have that problem, too?"

Lunchtime came and went, the excuses used to return to their respective rooming houses, which dotted edges of an otherwise prosperous township, was feeling somewhat ravenous for Zane, and Shelly expected elsewhere.  In truth, the older man's stomach queasy from too much sweet stuff the former shared with him at breakfast; albeit consumed spiritually rather than bodily.  He was sated, yet over-indulged at the same time, by gluttony not experienced since his days cruising the tri-state area's numerous gay bars, highway rest-stops, and parking lots.

Until that morning, the hamlet of Little Pearl sole environment free of all the post-traumatic guilt associated with an existence chosen on the wrong side of the tracks, by boys who grew up passing right through dirt water digs such as it had been about twenty-five years before.  At that time, quaint, waterside living less than an hour's commute outside The Big Apple quite a draw for weary Manhattanites, and presently third most expensive place to live in the county.  Once on his own, the thing attracting Zane most was one of those gay bars, still in business after all that time.

The man whose lifestyle turned so mercilessly against him had not given up everything, "gay".  No sex meant zero chance to pass on the HIV virus, but he could still at least socialize at his local watering hole.  Many of its patrons did not even know an abscess in the brain, referred to a Toxoplasmosis, commonly transmitted in the AIDS community by anything from kitty litter to raw meat, which was what claimed Zane's eyesight.  He had otherwise been asymptomatic for nearly two decades beforehand, having safer sex with other men who never even asked about a partner's status, until blindness made him hiding behind anonymity look downright hypocritical and ungrateful to his own mind's eye.

Side-effects of the drugs, ironically designed to improve his quality of life, also provided whatever physical discomforts the infection spared Zane.  Talk about loss of dignity:  Through the course of drug therapy he had to relieve himself in pants more than a few times because acute diarrhea made it impossible getting to a toilet in time.  Once ever the, "Disco Queen" on dance floors, just getting up three flights of stairs to his attic apartment was more of a workout than all those body aches and extreme fatigue currently allowed.

Granted, the empathy Zane experienced about Shelly's admission of feeling overlooked was occasionally a very forced thing by others who just tried not to stare at the strange sight of an otherwise healthy looking man hardly even middle-aged, shuffle along regular daily routes towards supermarket, Laundromat, the bank, favorite coffee shop, and Riverview Park.  Clearly, no simple blindness to thwart his way due to visible pain from some unseen source dubbed Peripheral Neuropathy, yet another constant companion thrust upon certain AIDS patients, whose sole influence involved burning sensations and numbness in lower extremities.

Moreover, quite a while since Zane felt like he had any say regarding the human company in his life.  Most attention received by well-intentioned, however pitying do-gooders paid by the state, or those who volunteered their services, but never about purposeful sharing of one's heart and soul.  Usually frightened of saying the wrong thing, people went mute around the blind.  Possibly thinking they were deaf and dumb as well, which was what made Shelly's forthcoming nature that blast of fresh air he went in search for down at Little Pearl's riverfront property.

Suffering from too much of a good thing, it took remains of an afternoon for Zane to stave off the chill in his bones, not to mention leg nerves frozen stiff by sitting too long on that park bench, slowly, but inexorably back to the room-temperature pins-and-needles torture he imagined victims of frostbite shared with someone neurologically impaired.  Whatever possibilities, if not simple hope of Spring sought beside choppy waves, still blowing Arctic wind over the northeast, actually came knocking at Zane's front door just as he once again got comfortable in Winter's stronghold.

"I had a feeling this was the place."  Shelly may have thought they were past simple hellos as any kind of greeting.  "It gets described as a landmark in directions down to Riverview all the time.  'Just go south on Broad Street to the giant Victorian manor that looks like a gingerbread house'."

"The one I could still picture in my head after going blind," Was Zane's way of saying welcome.

"This isn't a place where guys named Z. Campbell gets easily overlooked, especially written right on his mailbox; just how many people know somebody who has that first initial?"  The question posed came right out of a virtual zephyr of activity in two hundred square feet Zane resided, reminiscent of the buffering air current outside, as his guest went from closet to hang coat, the quick kiss given in foyer, and then main living area.

Zane was quick to close front door again at that very notion.  "Yeah, well, people like us don't live in boxes stacked on top of each other for the glamour of it.  Privacy doesn't come any cheaper than the price of rent, food, and electricity, so these accommodations are all the poor folks can afford; I've just been luckier than most."

"In other words, you come from money."  Shelly took note of some genuine antique furniture mixed with bargain basement varieties, just about every amenity, as well as a Renaissance Man's collection of popular fiction, music, and movies. Not so much expensive taste, but a creative vision not entirely lost with eyesight.

"What I want to know is how such honesty gets you overlooked, young lady?"  Zane tried keeping his voice steady and countenance stoic to hide painful nerve spasms usually guaranteed by a sudden move, or standing immobile too long.  Certainly, in what he envisioned to be features of perpetual poise on Shelly's face no matter what the ailment, as he made it to nearest chair.  "More to the point, you are even letting yourself get overlooked."

A melodious and equally upbeat voice enlivened silence seemingly more stricken than Zane.  "You just assume I am a young lady, but there are all kinds of females in this world, and many get overlooked."

"I see," Zane kept saying what was not true, but related in the context of a Homosexual male so many saw as less of a man for it.  He would not judge Shelly's lifestyle, be it Lesbian, hooker, or slut from a less flattering array that came to mind.  As was the attraction of countless people on the fringe of society, Little Pearl, New York, supplied many safe havens, with his small loft no exception.  Two such individuals would respect one another's privacy, and accept mutual oddities over a modest dinner.  Later on, the only intercourse shared in bed was verbal, well into the night until they fell asleep holding hands.

+

Waking to find life's typical grayness the next morning made such a sad soul believe that sunny optimism for Spring's arrival on the prior day had simply been a dream, and the man lain adjacently in bed was Liam.  The only clouds about to clear were within, once turning over to see long, flaxen locks draped over pillows instead of a sandy military cut.  Light that did make into the room from one cathedral-styled window under which they rested, magnified sun shining just under the surface of clear, smooth skin tone more evocative to his, but not enough for anyone to consider quite as feminine.

Time on the LCD of a nearby alarm clock was the closest facial aspect to Zane's five o'clock shadow.  Makeup worn to soften his enchanting features was on the sheets used to hide a raging erection, when all Sheldon Brazner wanted was the other man's member inside him, like any more womanly creature.  Obviously, something impossible for a presumably straight fellow to give the flaming queen he only thought was female.  A gentleman, to boot, whose deference and chivalry alone protected the mistake from exposure, or at least if his omission did not count.

Ironical as it seemed, Shelly's lack of truth, coupled with Zane Campbell's inability to see was working in their favor for a change.  Other people's frailties were the true detrimental factors, which led them to doubt their own attractiveness, anyway.  One of them kept by a bisexual at odds with his gay side, only able to confront it in the company of effeminate male lovers who resembled the straight side that had a wife and children.  While the other left so lonesome, no longer seeing what was not there hardly made much difference.

An emotive desire to escape back into sleep far outweighed the physical, but Shelly eased out of bed before Zane awoke with similar conflicts of body and soul.  Whether to hide them, such as pain from whatever infirmity so likened to the encroaching cloud bank outside.  Especially which, might lead to a search for shelter within the arms of each other.  Something a selfless man such as he would never forgive himself for; taking such advantage of what fleeting coverage came from sex with the defenseless, innocent thing he thought Shelly was, nor did his inner vamp prefer discovery.

Grabbing a look in bathroom's mirror en route to the exit as he dressed, Shelly wondered if there were any similarities to the young girl Zane imagined.  Hard for anyone else, without also taking note of russet curls primped back into shape, coffee colored teardrops as eyes haven cried so much salty protein, or skin that was flawless and fair enough to be a glint in glass.  They saw a man too pretty, lacking necessary gruffness to handle heavy loads upon slight shoulders, disregarded because his voice had no resonance, and walked with something of lilt.

Would life have been easier if no one saw the variations of what only a blind man observed internally?  The softer side to any human being scoffed at or held dear pending on what consistency their environs were, and company they shared.  Shelly sensed Zane someone gone solo by pure personal choice, rather than bear further abuse by whomever offered privilege and chattel in place of total acceptance; whereas he put up with the likes of Liam in return for free room and board.  Not a bad person, really, but the off-duty, plain-clothed cop who had other things in mind besides arresting that vagrant he picked up hitchhiking back into town fourteen months ago.

"Where the hell have you been, Shel?"  Liam's authoritative voice held its official capacity in the call returning his numerous voicemail messages back at a flat half the size Zane had, rented on a weekly basis as their trysting place.  "I didn't give you a cellphone to leave behind, or turn off to go gallivanting again."

"I wasn't the one off gallivanting yesterday, when we were suppose to meet in the park?"

A lower tone designed for secrecy at work or the home-front did not muffle scorn and loathing.  "Don't give me any of that horse-shit; you know I hate it when you come off as the other woman. It's the job first, Ellen and the kids, then you, just like we agreed to on the night I got you off the streets."

"I was scared and desperate after Mom died, but you know nothing much has changed for me since then.  If your wife or the police force get wind of us, I am right back out there.  It seems to me, getting used to this shit-hole is the bigger mistake than another night out on the town," Shelly said, with his words lingering hours after the line went dead, as those thoroughfares of Little Pearl did, indeed call to him exclusive of any wireless phone signal.  His head felt like a party line between bathroom stalls of a neighborhood mall, woods surrounding Riverview Park, and the rooming house on Broad Street, which looked like it was made of gingerbread.

True to form of the male condition, that urgency whispered was hoarse and brusque through a joy-hole, guttural grunts from equivalent joy in the bushes, or fluttering breath against nape of Shelly's neck by his sleeping companion last night.  Someone shivered in climax, with the young man's eyes opening wide due to the momentary confusion over which plea ultimately answered.  Dewy leaves were used instead of toilet paper, and the bed of dry pine needles had no window but through sparse undergrowth, where he watched a stranger reach for his pants.

"Okay, pal, here is your cash," Was one and only sweet-nothing offered by another nature lover met sitting on a park bench for their brief exchange.

+

Audra Lodi had misgivings about sharing an apartment with a man who just happened to be an old family friend, and went through some community college classes with her big brother.  The Hudson Overlook Estate was one neighborhood within another, and had no high fences to keep prying eyes away, or a plot of land to maintain safe distance.  Some nights she could hear the couple next door on its second level make love.  Ground floor residents no more than college age themselves, treated the place like a frat house, leaving doors open for everyone to join their keg parties on the weekends.

Trying to appear amiable, the young woman would nurse her one beer while Jeremy and the others got shit-faced to trash community property of a long, wraparound porch out in front, not to mention other residents who apparently required a larger degree of privacy.  The third story accommodated an elderly Vietnam veteran, suffering from agoraphobia since returning from war, along with that Hispanic fry-cook of a local greasy spoon, who had trouble communicating in English as his second language.  According to others, though, the old sharpshooter named Abe, sat at his window with a view of the driveway to catch neighbors in rifle cross-hairs, and Manuel supplemented his income at the diner by selling Tijuana goo-goo dust.

Who only knew what the dirt was on those two, supposedly platonic roommates?  Knowing Jeremy, perhaps some juicy fabrication invented by him because their truth too chaste for communal gossip, much like Audra equally sure of the blind disability recipient who lived in a tower's abode, inspiration of their rooming house's formal designation that overlooked The Hudson River three blocks away.  His snub of the many invitations into the primary click what instigated slurs about no social reject like the others, but someone who sought solidarity in shadows.

"That guy really gets under my skin."  Jeremy was on another tangent.  "Do you see how he pretends we're not even here on his way in and out?"

"Well, it's not like he chooses not to see, but why pay attention to the snickering behind his back, or your half-hearted greetings as he passes by; the guy isn't deaf, you know?" Audra did not realize she had finally said her true feelings aloud until Jeremy stopped laughing at the sight of Zane Campbell's struggle with a heavy grocery bag and walking stick on their front stoop, following one of his pre-dinner shopping jaunts.  Her turn to ignore sarcasm as she at least went to hold front door open for the man who would not accept any other assistance from, much less socialize with those who lived so close.

Jeremy tried to fill the awkward silence with condemnation rather than amusement after his roommate's return to plastic picnic table where they copped smokes and downed their brew.  "Come on, Audra.  When we moved in here last Summer, I bent over backwards to be nice.  The first time I offered him a beer, he practically laughed in my face, and then pretended not to even be home when you brought up some barbeque from our Housewarming party."

"Maybe it was just too soon," Audra put forth.  "This isn't a party animal we're talking about, but someone who seems more used to being on the outs with everybody."

He sure likes you," Jeremy Lutz immediately regretted words he had kept to himself as well, grateful not to pursue the issue by other tenants' emergence from inside their residence.

"That Zane Campbell really is so pitiful," One of them was finishing Jeremy's initial thought about their housemate.  "We caught a gander of him dragging his groceries in the stairwell.  If he is what hitting forty looks like, someone shoot me now!"

"Gladly," Audra said, in a quick retreat to offer help she would force on Zane, if need be.

"What is it with her?"

Since Jeremy not yet ready to admit such sophomoric gets-together were indeed, growing old with the common white trash whose company he and Audra accepted in leu of someone like Zane, the young man continued to take what he could get.  The Lodi Family had been the only other people taking him under their wing except for foster families as a boy more used to group homes and juvenile hall, full of the white trash they boarded with at present.  Audra's brother had entrusted him with her care, and forged a promise to walk through fire rather than see either of them fall in with the likes of them.

Hardly in the role of an alternate older sibling, Jeremy did not have the heart to tell Audra their relationship remained so virtuous due to the fact he was actually quite smitten with that blind man she had grown so fond of as well.  It, too, affection of questionable nature and intent because Zane Campbell cut him off at the nub of every attempt made to explore something only heralded by gang rapes or abusive guardians as ward of the state.  No less of a scrupulous older man who just pretended not to see much clearer despite lacking ocular vision.  "I think she has something of a crush."

"But he is old enough to be her father," Were words the youth in early twenties did not need to hear about his younger charge who had just made it out of her teens.  They were both still kids playing, "Grown-up", and inadvertently vied for attention of a dashing fop, compared to those the same age.  Orphaned so early in life, Jeremy the one possibly attracted to some father-figure, while Audra thought she needed such men to feel more like a woman.

"Besides, it looks like the old boy is getting his pencil sharpened in someone else's equipment," Equally tortuous rambling by fellow residents interrupted inner dialogue, already agony to Jeremy's ears.  "He had an overnight guest whose shapely posterior we caught on the way out this morning; a curly brunette who could have been about Audra's age.  Can't say I blame him, considering what a fine piece of ass."

"Well, speak of the devil."  Someone pointed out the mop-head that started up their walkway.  A gradual metamorphosis from a "fine piece of ass", resembling Audra, to the actual curly brunette who could have been another brother her parents hid in a closet.  Although, by the time Shelly Brazner reached steps up to porch, it became evident to all that he was no closet case.  Sexual provocation emitted by full, kissable lips, the doe eyes, his button nose;lithe build on a frame barely topping 5'4.  Snug fitting jeans to enhance crotch as well as aforementioned ass, which immediately gave Jeremy a hard-on, and sent verbal dissension among the trio of heterosexuals who had mistakenly lusted after him.

"What in the Hell is that?"

"Holy shit, it's a guy!"

Jesus H. Christ...."

Shelly understood he had pushed his luck too far, returning to The Hudson Overlook Estate once already.  Something told him to stay away, but he thought it was more to do with qualities hidden from Zane, than the same old public scrutiny.  Was such blatant femininity characteristic of genuinely flawed manhood, like in most people's eyes?  Maybe androgynous human benevolence others just pictured in their mind, or distinguish through the looking glass.  More to the point, when stunned to the point of shock and confusion, that small, hick bevy allowed him to get past them on porch, and came face-to-face with true womanhood in a corridor outside its topmost studio apartment.

"Oh, I'm sorry.  I didn't know Zane had company."  Shelly would have rather faced the mob downstairs than any girlfriend or casual lover.  Furthermore, what could have been his alter-ego, the real thing, of course, with ample breasts, a natural blush to cheeks, and the kind of sashay admired instead of ridiculed.

"Don't be silly."  Audra's smile also unaffected by cosmetics, or any moral judgment, but the epitome of a lady.  "I am just a neighbor helping out, but something tells me he could use a good friend more.  Zane is in some pain right now, but you might be the perfect cure for it."

Shelly did not know if he was more astounded by Audra's sweetness or the admission as he went into the front door, and Zane's life upon any girl's exit on equal, if not safer ground.  She shared his truth with no repercussions, save for what waited back down on the street.  Some part of the man went there hoping not having to ever face that kind of danger head-on by himself again, but certainly not bring it along.

The look of relief on Zane's face made him appear out of harm's way for a change, with no usual slump to six-foot frame, nor stiffness in willowy gait aimed towards the door, and the sound of his voice.  "Shelly, is that you?"

"Yeah, Zane, and I need you to do me a favor..."

Fifteen minutes later, the squad car pulled up to curb, and Jeremy Lutz, along with three other occupants of the rooming house, returned to respective apartments to put away various weaponry they were going to use on Shelly.  A Boy in Blue rang Zane's bell to escort the youth out of hostile territory, but placed him in back seat as if he was the common criminal.  Officer Liam Garvey would take the bum in on a charge of vagrancy, since there was no formal home address or legal ID, except for the blind man who put his hand up to glass casement of rear window so he could touch comeliness within.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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