Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bumping into Leah

She was standing on a busy street corner near a Metro stop looking tentative, traffic roaring by, her white cane probing in an arc around her-- a slightly plump young white woman with pink cheeks and long, wavy brown hair. I wasn’t sure if she needed help and didn’t want to intrude, but I slowed down as I passed just in case. “Excuse me?” she called out. “Could you tell me what street we are on?”

I suggested we walk together, since it turned out we were heading in the same direction. She kept bumping into me as we walked along, quite companionably, searching for the noodle café where she had arranged to meet her boyfriend. I inquired if she was vision impaired, and she was amazingly jolly as she explained that from birth she couldn’t really see, and that it took eight years to establish that she wasn’t stupid or mentally inadequate-- during which time no one knew what to make of her, or do for her, or with her. It was eventually determined that she had a severely and unusually limited range and field of vision. Her mother’s love was her constant solace.

We found our way to the noodle café, where we said goodbye. I continued on with my day savoring the memory of Leah, her warm and sweet sense of humor, and picturing the field and range of her vibrant personality as she navigates through the world, bumping into people and things.

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