I’ll never know what compelled me to write a teenage ROMANCE short story (for 11th Grade English class) based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but according to my 2005 online journal entry (see Public Humiliation – Part I), I thought my writing was “amazing”. Now I’m laughing too hard to be embarrassed.
by Annie Beth
15 September 2004
I was lost in my new school. I cautiously travelled down the hallways, overwhelmed by the unfamiliar setting, clutching my mother’s hand like a frightened kindergartener. This year, at Perkins School for the Blind, I was helpless and insecure.
After an eternity of confusing noises, we finally reached the solace of the dean’s office. I stood at the doorway, trying to get my bearings. Since the accident, I hadn’t yet discovered how to sense where things were, but I could at least feel the warmth of September sunlight coming in through an open window at the far wall. My red-tipped cane touched the edge of a desk in front of me, and I reached out my hands to feel the surface. My right hand was swept up in a handshake, and a booming voice broke the quiet:
“Well, hey there! I’m Dean Witherspoon, head of student affairs! Welcome to Perkins!”
For the next hour, the two adults chattered on about my new life. My mother asked all the questions, the same ones she had asked millions of times of all the doctors, specialists, and Perkins officials. Patiently Mr. Witherspoon gave her all the same hopeful, reassuring answers. Finally, the two directed their voices at me.
“Well, Julie? Any questions? How are you feeling?”
How was I feeling? Did they really want to know? There were so many emotions surrounding me that I couldn’t possibly give them all. I simply shook my head – no questions, thank you – and gave them the thumbs up, a gesture that I could remember but only they could see.
Suddenly, another person was ushered into the room.
“Hey Witherspoon! How’s it going?” Morgan immediately turned her attention towards me, excitedly asking, “Are you Julie? I’m Morgan, your new peer advisor. I’ll be helping you out here at Perkins.” She reached to shake my hand as well, and I felt her sweet-pea-lotioned hands with a heart-shaped ring for the first time.
“Why don’t you show Julie around the the campus?” said Mr. Witherspoon. “Her stuff has already been brought to the dorms.”
Before I knew it, I had kissed my mother goodbye and gone out the door with Morgan. We went outside and strolled along the campus, crossing the smooth, even paths, her hand lightly touching my arm. I liked Morgan; she was friendly and personable, but not overwhelming.
By the end of the day, I was feeling much more comfortable with Perkins. Although there was still so much information I couldn’t grasp, Morgan had been there most of the day to show me around. I met my roommate, Giselle, who was shy but pleasant, and she spent the greater part of an hour helping me get acquainted with the position of the furniture in our tiny 1st floor room.
16 September 2004
“Good morning, sleepy-head!” Morgan called. “Let’s go! We’ve got classes!”
Our first class was American History. As soon as I walked in the door, I heard a deep and hearty laugh. My eyebrows shot up my forehead, so curious was I about who could sound that ridiculously amused.
“That’s Dave,” Morgan whispered, sensing what I noticed. “He’s a great guy… one of the most popular kids in school. You’ll get to know him, everyone does.”
“… and all of a sudden, the blind man swings the seeing-eye dog over his head! The shop owner asks, ‘What in the world are you doing?’ And – get this! – the man replies, ‘Just looking around.’!!!” Dave broke out into laughter again, and this time, everyone in the room joined him, including myself. Blind jokes, nice.
“We have a new student today!” Miss Presby told the class as they seated themselves into desks around the small classroom. Everyone was quiet. “Meet Julie Chester!”
“Hi Julie,” the students said, as if reciting. But it was obvious they were all interested, for new people are always a novelty, no matter what school you‘re in. I counted about eight other voices, perhaps seated in a circle. Dave’s broke out again.
“Jules! A gem! Our very own rare diamond!” The class laughed, and I was shocked, a grin spreading over my face that they probably couldn’t see. Should I be flattered? Was I being mocked? Morgan patted me on the shoulder, and something told me I wasn’t. I was officially a part of the group.
“Where are you off to next?” Dave surprised me after class by being right next to me, talking directly into my ear. He smelled quintessentially boy, with the scent of soap and fresh-cut grass.
“Braille… I think?”
“Great! Do you know any Braille yet?”
“Nope. I tried a bit this summer, but I didn’t really know where to begin.”
“Don’t worry about it, Diamond. You’ll pick it up soon enough, it‘s pretty important here. And if you ever have trouble, just ask me. I’ll tutor you!”
Morgan butted in. “Alright, Dave, that‘s it. We’ve gotta book it to the West Building.” Her tone of voice was joking, but before I could even say goodbye she wooshed us off to our next class.
19 September 2004
I’d always had an easy time with languages, but Braille completely escaped me. I tried and tried to decipher the strange code of dots that pressed into my fingers, but it was hopeless. I left every Braille session exhausted and frustrated.
“Well,” said Morgan after a particularly rough day, ”Maybe it’s time you let Dave tutor you.” She elbowed me playfully, and I could picture her winking in my mind. Morgan was good at sensing emotion, and I knew she could tell that my eyes, although sightless, lit up whenever I heard him coming. “Let’s go meet him at the library.” As if planned by fate, Dave was already there. Morgan sat me down in a chair next to him, then quickly excused herself.
“Okay, Diamond, let’s start with my favorite book of all time.” He pulled out a large but thin hardcover. “You might know it.” He cleared his throat dramatically. “It begins, ‘I am Sam.’ “
I laughed, and jumped in with the next line, “Sam I am! Green Eggs and Ham!”
“Ah, yes, you are a bright one.” he remarked sagely. “I just know we are going to make progress here. But let’s try reading it in Braille.” He lightly put his hand over mine and, surprised at his touch, I jumped. “Whoa, there!” he responded. “Nothing to get nervous about. It’s just Dr. Seuss. Green Eggs and Ham. Nothing you can’t handle.” I immediately started to believe him.
31 September 2004
Having a crush on a blind person was very different from anything I had ever experienced. If I had ever liked a guy at my old school, when I could see, I never had any problem snagging him, because guys always considered me to be attractive. But Dave couldn’t see what I looked like. He only knew me from our conversations, conversations that were getting increasingly more frequent. I was falling for him hard with every afternoon. Yet I still longed to have some idea of his appearance. Finally, I caved in, and brought it up.
“Hey Dave?” I pried one day as we relaxed on the campus, taking in the smell of the falling autumn leaves. “What do you look like?”
For the first time, I heard him catch his breath and fall silent for a moment. Was he nervous? “Why do you ask?” There was a strange tone in his voice that I couldn’t place.
“Oh… just curious.”
“Oh!” He relaxed a bit, and the old Dave came back. “What do you think I look like?” he teased.
“Mmm… maybe a cross between Josh Hartnett and Chad Michael Murray.” I couldn’t believe I’d just said something so bold. Dave laughed warmly, and I glowed.
“Really? That bad? ‘Cause I was gonna say Brad Pitt.” He chuckled to himself and touched my face tenderly, caressing my cheek. I felt a surge of emotion and reached for his in return, but he stepped back, laughed again, and pushed me into a pile of leaves. It didn’t matter anyway. A few days later, he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I wasted no time in saying yes. Now, when we held hands, it was different.
4 October 2004
Today was Family Day.
I was amazed at how well adjusted I’d become to Perkins. Granted, I was still confused all the time, running into things I’d forgotten were there, learning new things about the blind culture every day, struggling with Braille. But I felt so comfortable in the community. Still, I did miss my family, and couldn’t wait to see them again. I especially wanted to introduce them to all my friends.
As we passed my American History classroom, I heard Dave’s deep voice inside, and saw the perfect opportunity. I left my parents waiting in the hall and went in.
“Dave! I want you to meet my parents!” I exclaimed, grabbing him by the arm and dragging him out of the room. I didn’t notice the desperation in his voice as he fiercefully protested. I expected that my family would immediately take a liking to his vivacious personality.
“Mom, Dad, this is my boyfriend!” I pronounced as I entered the hall.
My mother gasped.
My little sister let out a scream.
What was happening???
Dave, tried to end the awkwardness by saying, “Mr. and Mrs. Chester, it’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Dave.” His voice was turned toward the ground.
My parents didn’t respond. I was more confused than I had ever been.
Finally, my mother replied, “Nice to meet you… Dave.” Her voice was cold… and fearful. I couldn’t grasp why. This was going horribly wrong.
My father turned all of us around forcefully and barked, “Let’s go.” I turned around to find Dave, but I didn’t know where he was. I wanted to mouthe, I’m sorry, to him, but there was no reassuring glance or action I could do that he would see. Dad pushed us down the hall, leaving Dave in the dust.
When we reached the main corridor, my mother sat me and my siblings on a bench, and they stormed into the Dean’s office. Through the door, I could easily make out my father’s yelling.
“You never told us that this school was a freak show! My daughter is blind, but she is still a normal girl! How could you let her associate with… monsters! I cannot allow this to continue!”
My confusion quickly morphed into horror, rage, disbelief. What was he saying??? I managed to stand up and leave the scene, stumbling along routes that I had travelled a hundred times before, tears welling in my eyes. Today was supposed to be perfect, and it had turned into a disaster.
My parents didn’t say goodbye. I don’t think they could find anything to say to me.
5 October 2004
I found Dave in the library at our usual tutoring table. We didn’t say anything for a moment, until I gathered up the courage to speak.
“Dave, why do you shock my parents? Please… tell me the truth.”
He was silent for a moment, “Julie.” I winced at his use of my real name instead of his endearing nickname for me, and feared the words that would come out of his mouth. “I was in a fire when I was three. I barely made it out alive. This is why I am blind. My body, from the shoulders up, is severely disfigured from the burns. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you… I just wanted you to like me, not judge me because of my deformity. Please forgive me. Please don’t hate me.”
Images flooded through my head. I pictured Dave an ogre, a monster, the top of him covered in scars and marks. No wonder my sister had screamed. He was… ugly. Hideous, maybe. But then, I smelled his perfect smell. I remembered all of our conversations and the joy I always felt when I was with him. Maybe Dave was disfigured, but I didn’t have to see him. I knew the inevitable, unbending truth.
“I don’t care. I love you, Dave.”
He laughed like never before, gasping with relief, letting out all of the tension. I’d bet anything that he was smiling. “Diamond, I love you too.” His fingers touched the back of my hand, and it was the sweetest touch. He had beautiful hands.
I guided his hand, boldly, to my face. I stepped closer. His breathing was shallow and quick. My heart was pounding; I thought it was going to fall out of my chest. I wished I knew the color of his eyes. Our lips were inches apart, so close to meeting. I reached up and touched his cheek.
His skin was rough and mottled, like unformed clay, or raw meat. I shrank back, repulsed, and I couldn’t help myself. I hated it. I flung his hand off me and took a few steps back. His breathing stopped, then he called out, “Diamond? Julie? Talk to me.”
I couldn’t face him. I grabbed my cane leaning against the table and fled. I heard his frantic voice searching for me as I burst out of the building and into the November rain.
12 December 2004
It is so easy to lose someone when you are blind. You never notice them, unless their laughter carries across a hallway or a courtyard. You never have to look them in the face. You can simply pretend they aren’t there. There was no happy ending with Dave and me. We never spoke, never acknowledged each other.
I never saw him again.
This short story, Seeing Dave, has much in common with the horror novel, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Although the two styles are very different, they share a common theme. Both tales deal with the Romantic principle that all people are born good, but are corrupted by outside forces, like Frankenstein’s monster or Julie Chester, the protagonist of this story. Frankenstein’s monster is also similar to Dave, Julie’s love interest, not only because they are both deformed, but because whomever they loved most shunned them for their hideousness, neglecting their inner character. Seeing Dave is based on the blind man in Frankenstein, who welcomes the monster into his home and befriends him, until his family comes in and throws the creature out, appalled. Both Seeing Dave and Frankenstein are cautionary allegories that teach that we should not discount a person based on looks alone.