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Amanda's Eyes - Chapter 16 - Art
Submitted by woody on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 17:17
Sixteen - Art
Late Sunday morning Ken called Amanda to ask if he could come at two thirty to pick her up for an afternoon date. Some internet research and a few phone calls had revealed that the small art museum in town had a program designed for blind patrons. A docent of the museum would give a special tour of the sculpture and crafts area and it included being able to touch many of the exhibits. He’d found that one of volunteers trained for that program would be on duty from one to five and he had a reservation for a private, three o’clock, tour. Knowing of Amanda’s interest in art, he thought this would be a great outing for them.
They arrived at the museum and met Sarah, their guide, at the information desk. She asked a few questions about Amanda’s affliction, including how long she’d been unable to see and severity of her blindness. She had a pair of white cotton gloves for Amanda and offered a pair to Ken, too, in case he wanted to participate in the touch part of the tour. She explained that while she was sure their hands were clean, the museum didn’t want to risk an accumulation of body oils on the exhibits. These gloves were the same type the staff wore when handling any artwork.
For Amanda, the tour was a real revelation. It included a modern furniture exhibit including some unexpected materials like a cardboard chair, a crafts area, and the a final stop in the modern sculpture gallery… an interesting mix of modern art -- mostly abstract -- in a variety of materials. Sarah would guide her to a work, tell her a little about it, sometimes with a caution about how and where to first touch it, and then let Amanda explore it on her own. While Amanda already had a good background in art, she’d never realized how much the shape, texture, size, and material could affect an item’s feel as well as its looks. There was even a science lesson when Sarah showed them that one piece made of wood felt warmer than another made of metal because of the way the materials conducted heat. Sarah never described or interpreted the objects, giving Amanda the freedom to form her own impressions. She pointed out that the old saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” applied as much to Amanda’s experiences in the museum as anyone else’s, and that her interpretations of the exhibits were every bit as valid as those of any art critic. She did her best to answer any question the pair had.
As Amanda guided her fingers over two uniquely shaped thrown pots, Sarah asked them if they noticed anything particularly special about these pieces. Ken said that they didn’t look much different than the other works to him and Amanda mentioned that while they had a unique style of surface textures that must have been worked in after they were taken off the wheel, she couldn’t feel anything else. Both were surprised to find out that the pieces had been made by an artist who was blind.
One item especially caught Amanda’s interest. It was a medium-sized, floor-standing sculpture in lacquered plaster with a variety of surface orientations and cavities. The surface was very smooth, and her gloved hands glided over it with almost no effort. As she explored, she built an image in her head and began to wonder why she couldn’t do something like it.
Ken took the opportunity to explore the artwork with his hands too, and hearing her comments, he tried to keep his eyes closed to somehow understand Amanda’s experience. It was difficult to do as he realized just how much he relied on sight to understand the world around him. Even when he tried to “see” things Amanda’s way, he was handicapped because he’d already formed a visual impression while approaching the object. He was glad that he could see with his eyes as well as with his hands.
The visit was a wonderful success. Amanda got more and more excited and animated after each piece they visited, and as their tour finished at five, Sarah let Amanda know that the museum conducted occasional art classes for people with visual impairments. Before they left, Ken helped her fill out a card to be notified of similar future events and classes.
When they arrived at the truck, she surprised him, almost jumping into his arms. “That was fantastic! I never thought going to a museum would ever be worth it again but I loved it. I wonder if I can take a class and actually do some kind of sculpture again.” She burrowed her face into his neck and after a few moments of holding and swaying slightly, he noticed her sobbing quietly.
He patted her back, “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t believe I’ve wasted all this time. There’s so much I could have been doing if I would have just tried, but I felt sorry for myself and got so mad at the world and everyone in it for doing this to me... God, I am so pathetic! Why do you waste your time with me?”
“I don’t think you’re pathetic. It’s just taken a while for you to understand that your life didn’t end in that accident. Several times during this tour, I tried closing my eyes to get some sense of what it’s like to be you, and I couldn’t… I’d already formed a visual impression of what my hands were roaming over, and that changed the way I felt things. It also got me thinking… I can’t imagine how I’d deal with losing my sight. If, God forbid, I woke up in the hospital tomorrow, unable to see, and no hope of regaining my vision, I don’t know how I’d react, but I do know that I can’t judge you for your reactions. You understand?
Amanda hugged him tightly. “You mean you could end up acting like I have?”
“Easily, or maybe worse… I truly have no idea if I’d be able to cope as well as you have.
“Besides, I spend time with you because we have a lot of fun together. Time with you is never wasted.” After a moment he added, the smile evident in his voice, “And I never would have gotten to touch the artwork if I hadn’t been here with you.”
She lifted her face, her moist eyes shining. He dabbed at her cheeks to wipe away a few tears before bringing his lips to hers for a soft, slow kiss.
At dinner that night, she positively glowed as she related the whole tour experience for her parents. At one point, Ken noticed an obviously emotional Kate touching her own cheeks with her napkin. After the meal, while Kate and Dave kept themselves busy in the kitchen with the dishes, Amanda led him to the fireplace, and running her hand along the top of the mantle, she found a small, black, surprisingly life-like clay cat.
As she put it in his hands she explained, “I made this when I was twelve. It’s always been one of my favorites, and when we went through the museum today I thought about it a lot. You can feel the smooth texture on the body and the rough area around the face where I tried to do the whiskers. I think the clay makes this one feel warm, or maybe it’s just because it’s above the fireplace. I used to dream of being a sculptor and making things like the stuff at the museum. I lost hope when I lost my sight, but I realized today that maybe I can still do this.”
Monday afternoon, Ken again saw Kelly in the hallway at school. This time she was walking alone. Seeing her didn’t really hurt anymore so he took the risk of politely saying, “Hello.” She looked back at him, the expression on her face a combination of sadness and relief that he really wasn’t sure how to interpret. She stopped him and after saying, “Hi,” asked him if they could talk sometime.
“Fine, let’s talk at lunch time.”
“I can’t do that. It would be way too public. Can’t you meet me at my house or something?”
“Maybe sometime, I need to get to class now. Talk to you later.”
He walked to class feeling a little troubled. Why would Kelly want to talk to him, and after the way she’d acted, did he really want anything to do with her? She had a big stud of a football player boyfriend now. Why waste any time on Ken the geek with the barely human girlfriend?
“Mom, I want to try to talk to some of my friends from before… I think it’s time to stop being a hermit at school. Can you call Karen Fields for me? She was a good friend all through junior high and the first years of high school. If there is anyone willing to still talk to me, it has to be her.”
“Okay, honey. Give me a minute to look up the phone number.”
“Hi Karen, this is Amanda, Amanda Jennings, do you remember me?”
A cool, somewhat apprehensive voice came through the phone. “Of course I remember you but it’s been a while since we’ve talked. Is there something you need?”
“Karen, I’m sorry I’ve been so stupid since that accident.” Amanda felt a tear starting to roll down her cheek and worked at keeping her voice normal. “You were a good friend, and I was so rude to you. You didn’t deserve the way I treated you after I got back to school. No one deserves the way I treated you and everyone else. I’m sorry, and I’d like to at least talk again.
The coolness of the voice didn’t change, “What do you want to talk about?”
This wasn’t going the way Amanda had hoped it would. As another tear made its way down her cheek, she gave up. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have called.” And she hung up the phone, sitting with a dejected look on her face.
Her mom, seeing the look and the tears, gave her daughter a hug.
“Honey, things will work out for you. Give it a little time, and please keep trying. In the end, you’ll do fine.”
A half hour later, the phone rang again, and Kate called out that it was for Amanda. It was Ken on the phone this time, so Kate was sure this call -- unlike the last one -- would go fine.
“Amanda, I just thought about something. The day after tomorrow is Halloween. Are you doing anything?”
“Come on Ken, you know me by now, I don’t have any plans.”
“Can you come to my house? I greet the trick-or-treaters, and you might be able to help.”
“I suppose I could, but I don’t know how much help I’ll be since I can’t see them.”
“I think you’ll do great. I always work up a scary surprise for the kids, and I think you can be a big part of that surprise.
“What kind of surprise?”
“Hey, it’s a surprise. If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore, would it?”
She tried to get him to give her some hints about it, but he wasn’t spilling anything. Realizing that, she eventually gave up.
They talked for a while longer about school, the October weather, and other normal teenage topics before calling it a night.
“I’ll pick you up after school. We can do our reading at my house before we get ready to have some fun with the kids.”
Amanda hung up the phone with a smile on her face and shining eyes.