When Love Opened My Eyes

14 Aug

by Francesca Marinaro

A warm blanket of sunshine enveloped me; horse-drawn tourist carriages clip-clopped along the cobblestone streets. My boyfriend brushed away a strand of hair that the breeze had whipped across my face as we sat on a bench in the center of St. Augustine, Florida’s historic district, where we were spending spring break. As penniless graduate students, our options consisted of someplace within driving distance offering affordable hotel accommodation with free breakfast. I’d have spent the week on a slippery rock in the middle of the sea; the magic of a romantic getaway had, for me, always existed in novels and Hollywood rom-coms. If not for the warmth of Shaun’s arm across my shoulders, I might not have believed the dream had become a reality.

I lifted my head when the ring of church bells wafted toward us.

“Do you hear that? It must be coming from the cathedral.”

“Yeah, I think it is,” said Shaun, consulting his map. “Do you want to check it out?” I considered; my non-religious boyfriend had recently survived my best friend’s Catholic wedding, and I thought he’d served his penance.

“Only if you want to,” I said finally. We sat in companionable silence for several more minutes until Shaun reached for my hand.

“We should go. It’s your faith. It’s important to you. I get that.”

The church was empty save for the two of us.

“I should tell you what it looks like in here. There’s this old leather Bible—it looks really old—on the altar, with what looks like gold etched around the pages, and a crucifix of course. I think it’s made of wood, and it’s really intricately carved.”

I remember little of his actual description, but I can still feel the warmth of his touch as he held my hand, conjuring a picture of our surroundings as he whispered into the silence. I remember the prism of light filtering through the stained-glass window and dancing across our linked hands, and I marveled at how the simplest act could invoke such love. I loved Shaun in that moment not because he knew all of the words to the Donald Duck theme song or willingly sat through a viewing of “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” I loved him for the way he held my hand and lent his voice to describing the world around me as easily as he talked to me about work or our respective dissertations, because my visual impairment was a part of, not a hindrance to our relationship.

The passage of two years and an eventual breakup have yet to dull this memory. It shimmers in my heart, an effervescent soap-bubble of hope. The challenges of dating with a disability are all-too familiar to many of us, but Shaun opened my eyes on that spring morning to a glaring truth that had often eluded me—in my moments of self-doubt—that I was, and am, worthy of being loved.

Francesca Marinaro was diagnosed with Lebers in her infancy and lost her usable vision as a teenager. She currently lives in Florida with her Yellow Lab guide dog, Zeus, and works as a freelance writer and teacher. Her writing has appeared in numerous online publications including Lifehack.org and the Living Blind Blog. You can visit her website at http://www.fmarinaro.com.

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2 Responses to “When Love Opened My Eyes”

  1. Andrea August 15, 2015 at 8:20 AM #

    Thank you for your lovely story. Your descriptive writing put me there with you!

  2. Pam Berman August 15, 2015 at 11:28 AM #

    Bravo! Francesca, you nailed it on the head. Vision loss really does a number on our feelings of self-worth & I can completely appreciate your story. Yours could be mine! Thank you for sharing!

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