Not a Mask

4 Feb

by Nancy Scott

The whole thing started by accident.

 

My across-the-hall neighbor gave me the big beige hat.  “I’m trying to quit smoking,” his gruff voice explained.  “So I knit.  I’m better at it than my wife, now.  I see you walking outside and your ears need a hat.”

 

It was late October.  I needed to lower my blood pressure and to lose weight.  Walking inside the house was boring.  So, most decent days, I paced between front downspout and back flowerbed, trailing the fence and moving fast.  The path was generally clear; I didn’t need my white cane.

 

I wasn’t sure about a knitted hat with a huge pompom on top, but I wanted to honor his gesture.  The first day I wore it my nose and lips were freezing.  I wanted half a mile and my talking pedometer wasn’t there.  I pulled the hat down over my face.  It went below my chin.  Wonderful!  Scarf and hat with no tying.  I braved late fall and early winter with face covered.

 

I never thought how odd this would look to sighted people.  My first verbal encounter was with the neighbor who shoveled our snow.  He said, “Nan, that better be you under there.  Anybody else would have to see where they’re going.”  I laughed and raised the hat.  “Of course it’s me.”

 

My next encounter happened while waiting for a ride to a Radio Reading Service Board meeting.  The Board president pulled up.  I walked to his car, cane in hand.  As I got in, I adjusted the  hat.  “How can you see where…?”  Ernie stopped, realizing what he was about to ask. “Oh, right.”  I smiled, but Ernie was disturbed.  He knew I was a blind person but he apparently hadn’t grasped the whole concept.  He valued sight a lot, and my temporary blindfold bothered him.  (He still tells the hat story, though he sees the humor now.)

 

Fascinated,  I began purposefully wearing the hat down when I could.  Of course anything covering my ears was out of the question if I moved in unfamiliar territory by myself.  So when Bev and I went for a walk on College Hill she guided my masked, white-caned self into shops and a  restaurant.  Bev described all the incredulous looks we got.  Some people laughed; some didn’t, at first.  We still giggle about that day now.

 

I gave up the beige hat because the pompom took forever to dry after washing.  My next hat was a gift from my more fashion-conscious brother.  I forget its color, but it was furry and it had a scarf attached.  I kept warm and occasionally tested people’s instinctive reactions to blindness.  I heard everything from “You just want to see what we’ll do” to “But your eyes are covered.”

 

By the time Anne gave me the stretchy red hat, I’d moved into a high-rise.  “It will protect your ears better, and it goes with your gloves,” she said.  “And you can’t wear it down over your eyes.” “Wanna bet?”  I immediately tugged.  I got it past my nose.  “You are so bad,” Anne commented.  Surely that was a compliment.

 

Nancy Scott’s over-600 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. An essayist and poet, she has published three chapbooks.

Recent work appears in  Breath and Shadow,  Contemporary Haibun Online, and Thema.  She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest.

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One Response to “Not a Mask”

  1. Marya Pinkett June 24, 2013 at 6:48 AM #

    Just checking on comments from other blog readers.

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