FOREWORD: It is an extreme rarity for me to dip my pen into the realms of prose, preferring to play to my strengths of songwriting. Prose isn’t my forte but, on this occasion, I had a story burning in my heart and decided to write it. You can judge for yourself whether I should just stick to my day job. Thanks for reading.
Colin snuggled down into his soft bed. His mum tucked the blanket around him. The six year old boy loved how his mother always smelled of the lavender she grew in their garden. He lay on his back, his eyes toward the skylight in the ceiling, the skylight that his father built for him before he was born. Before he knew that his son would never see it and never be able to see the stars shining through it.
‘Mama’, Colin whispered, ‘Elline told me that the stars are reeeeaally beautiful. She said that they sparkle. She said they are shiny. I told her that I didn’t know what those words really mean. I asked her to tell me how the stars feel, but she just laughed at me and told me that they are stars and they don’t feel like anything.’
Colin’s mum snuggled close to her son and exclaimed, ‘Elline! That girl is dumb! I can tell you what the stars feel like.’
The little blind boy closed his eyes and listened to the warm, velvet sound of his mother’s voice. She said, ‘Well, you know when you’ve been out in the cold too long, and you come in and start to warm up by the fire?’
‘Yes’, replied Colin. Stars feel like fire?’, he asked.
‘No. Stars feel like the lovely tingle you feel in your feet and hands as they get warm by the fire.’
‘Oh’, said the boy. ‘That sounds nice.’
‘Oh, it is. Very nice. But, you know what? I can also tell you how the stars smell.’
‘Really, Mama? How they smell? How do they smell? Do they smell nice, too?’
‘Oh, yes, Colin. They smell spicy…sort of like ginger.’
‘Ginger? Like ginger beer?’, he asked. ‘I like ginger beer. It makes me giggle; it tickles my nose! And, it makes me tingle, too.’
‘Mmm, I know it does.’
‘If the stars smell like ginger, what do they taste like?’
‘Well, you got ahead of me. I was just going to tell you. They taste like the best ginger beer in the world.’
‘Soooo’, Colin mused, ‘the stars are tingly and spicy? They sound delicious, Mama.’
‘Yeah’, Mama smiled, ‘I thought you might say that. But, now, do you also want to know what the stars sound like?’
‘Awwrrrhhh, yes, please’, Colin yawned, unable to hide his sleepiness.
‘The stars sound like an early autumn breeze on wind chimes – lovely wind chimes, big ones and little ones – both ringing powerfully deep and tinkling bright and gently across the sky.’
‘Wow! Elline was right. Stars are beautiful.’
‘Yes, son, they reeeeaally are. Now, you get to sleep. I love you.’
Several years later, the boy became a man, as generally happens when time marches on with no one to stop it. But, how time feels is a story for another time. Colin lay on his back, his eyes to the ceiling, in another bed this time, with his arms wrapped around a girl named Arianna. He loved the way his girlfriend always smelled like vanilla and fresh coffee. He whispered into her hair, and told her for the first time, ‘You are so beautiful’.
Instead of thanking him for the compliment, Arianna, who was still getting used to having a visually impaired man as a lover, responded with confusion and not a little disbelief.
‘But, Colin’, she said, ‘how can you say that I am beautiful? You’ve never seen me. Not only that, but you’ve never seen anyone else; you have nothing to compare me to. How do you know whether I am beautiful or not? You’ve never seen my eyes, and you don’t even know what green is, so it doesn’t matter that my eyes are green. And, you’ve never seen my hair, and you have no concept of what red is, so you can’t tell whether or not my hair is nice. I know you appreciate my body, that’s pretty easy to surmise, but you can’t see it, so how are you qualified to tell me that I am beautiful? I’m sorry, I really care about you, but I just don’t understand how you can make such a statement about me.’
Arianna didn’t laugh at Colin, but in that moment she sounded just like Elline had all those years ago when she had tried to tell him about stars. His immediate reaction was to be deeply stung by the words that she spoke to him, especially right after they had just made love. The silence began to separate them like a thousand miles when, just a few moments before, they had seemed so close. Then, slowly, he came to the realisation that Arianna didn’t speak from a place of malice but of sheer ignorance. He held back a chuckle as he heard his mum say, ‘That girl is dumb’.
‘Ari’, he said, ‘you want to know how I can know that you are beautiful.’ He turned her in his arms to face him and placed a soft kiss on her lips before he carried on, ‘I am fully qualified, as you put it, to say that you are beautiful, and I will gladly explain it to you.’
Arianna was now embarrassed by what she had said. She felt bad about it, but she still couldn’t imagine how a man blind since birth had any notion of what constituted a beautiful girl. Part of her was glad that he couldn’t see her and judge her on her looks. After all, she thought, hadn’t she had more than one boyfriend who made her feel like she was never quite attractive enough? She had dated one guy who told her that she was good looking, but he also constantly made it clear that he would like her to lose weight. She had actually started dieting, joined a gym and went religiously, but he never seemed satisfied, regardless of the lengths she went to in order to please him. Hadn’t she been upset by her ex-boyfriend’s shallowness? Hadn’t she been miserable in that relationship? On the other hand, there was a good deal of her that was outright frustrated that Colin couldn’t appreciate all the effort she still put in to looking good. Even a few of her friends had commented to her that she was wasting herself on a blind man. However, that gentle kiss that Colin gave her stopped her thoughts. No one had ever kissed her the way Colin could kiss her; he had her full attention now. Okay, she thought, explain this to me.
Holding her, Colin spoke, ‘You feel better than the stars.’
He paused, kissed her again, longer and deeper this time, before leaning in to press his face to her neck. He took a deep breath, filling himself up with the scent of her. ‘You smell better than the stars.’
Arianna quivered as Colin’s breath tickled the side of her neck, causing goosebumps to rise on her skin. At first, she had been listening to his words with some amusement but, as he continued speaking, her amusement changed to something like wonder. Punctuated with kisses, she was held spellbound by what he was saying; she was in thrall to the sound of his voice.
Colin smiled as his hands ran over the curves of her body. ‘Do you need me to remind you where my tongue was just a little bit ago?’
Arianna did laugh then, a sort of shy laugh, and she could feel her cheeks blush. ‘Umm, you can remind me of that anytime you want to’, she breathed.
‘Well’, he said, ‘Baby, you taste so much better than the stars, too.’
She still couldn’t wholly fathom what he was saying, and she couldn’t have told you just why she was now utterly convinced that, when he told her that she was beautiful, it was a deeper compliment, it was more of a compliment, than anyone had ever given her before. In that moment, she totally began to believe it.
‘Do I sound better than the stars, too?’, she asked him.
Colin could not hold back a grin as he recalled how his mother had described the sound of the stars. ‘No’, he confessed, ‘you don’t. But, we can work on that.’