1989. Philadelphia, my new home. I’ve been interviewed by Temple University but doubt I’ll get the job. I’m walking north on Broad Street. Mean street. Jive talkers and boom boxes. Thunderbird wine and forties.
I’m three years into RP. Night blindness and blind spots. My stride is tentative. Cars and pedestrians seem to jump out of nowhere. I’d feel safer walking with arms outstretched – one to protect my head from scraping street signs, the other to sweep for parking meters and people. I’m still years away from giving in to a white cane; I know I need help but don’t admit it.
People are starting to wonder what’s wrong with me. I hid it pretty well during the interview, but back on the street it’s tougher. On the way to Temple, I got confused at a subway turnstile. I couldn’t see where to put my token. Commuters jammed up behind me. A transit cop yelled at me from a booth, but I couldn’t follow her gestures. Her shouts got drowned in crowd noise. Finally, someone took my hand and guided it to the coin slot.
The interview ran long. Night is drawing near. Now I need to walk through this tunnel under Broad Street to get to my train. Its full of bodies propped against the walls, legs sticking into the center. I see them silhouetted against the light at the end of the tunnel, but once I’m upon them, they’ll disappear. Don’t be afraid of what you can’t see? What a joke. These are drunks and crack heads. If I bash somebody’s ankle with the toe of my wing tip, he’ll cut my throat for sure.
I am terrified. How did I get here? What mix of bad genes, bad luck and trouble? What price pride and arrogance? What do I do? What on earth do I do?