Tiles, I mused, why would anyone put down tiles in a place like this? Click, clack, click, clack, click… then it stops and I realise my eyes are shut. There was nothing to see, or hear, or feel. Only the mind listening to another space in the same universe. Not visible to others or the curious audience facing me now. Of course it is dark, hardly a surprise when I refuse to use my natural body functions, although there is something else we have been given: reflect… a bell rings.
The next performance starts in five minutes. Pushed into action, all my senses switch on – one by one – my eyes first, my hearing – a flood of clicks, buzz and low frequency chatter hits my ears. Then a man in a slick suit nearly runs me over, and the sense for reality – touch – comes back.
Now I should move, find my seat on the other side of the tiled hall. My legs take it step by step, and again the ground I walk on changes, from a grey-blue to something softer. Instead of bending over to touch it, I concentrate on keeping track of the signs I have passed. Where are they taking me, up the stairs, a left turn, and again.
Someone with a face I never looked at before opens a door and guides me into the near dark. For those without a decent sense for the night they wouldn’t notice the familiar velvet seats with numbers in gold – usually embroidered in the middle of the headrest but as we are not in the Royal Opera House you can find the numbers on a metal holder under the seat.
Years of training walking in heels allow me to descend the stairs, and I find my seat near the front. No one there yet. Generally a good sign two minutes before a performance begins. Two minutes just for myself, to recover from the long way bringing my mind back, just to lose it once more a moment later.
When the light begins to dim my hands find something out of place. Unexpected. It wasn’t the velvet of the seat I could feel but fur – just the right length. The fur slowly moves in absolute certainty. It must have been here before; it knows the smells people leave behind with food, drink and their body odour.
With the rise of the curtain, the golden retriever to my right stands up, and almost imperceptible I hear steps descending the steep stairs at a slow but steady pace. The man in a dinner jacket had sunglasses on and smiled to himself. A calmness radiates from his entire body, through the faint light, something captured beyond my eyes. I hold onto the image until he reaches his seat.
Although my gaze falls back onto the stage I know it is too late. My mind has escaped again, to the place where everything fades.
I cannot hear the dog or him breathe. Without the usual life signs, I give myself an excuse to move my eyes only by a few degrees to check he is there, to discover anything that could betray good reason why a blind man visits a place like this, so dependent on one’s eyes.
Gladly lost, I am pulled into reality when he moves his hand to gently touch mine. I do not look anymore as I know he smiles.
They say, only the people who leave you with more questions than answers, in wonderment, belong in your space.
And once again, I wonder why.