Joe sat on the tired bench and watched the pigeons scuttle and peck, forging their way through the crowds of tourists. His sunglasses, dark black, covered two eyes that had not "seen" for almost twenty years. Since the accident. But it did not lessen his ability to see the pigeons work their magic. At times, he thought he could see more clearly now than he had ever been able to before.
The accident was one of those things. One of those things you beat yourself up about until you're on the ropes, until it doesn't make sense anymore...until you have to forgive yourself. Fireworks. A dumb prank. But it had cost him.
Ally had been so beautiful. It made him do stupid things. Jump over fire pits that spat embers into the night sky. Write songs that never landed right. Songs he was always convinced were brilliant. He liked to practice and practice, imagining her reverent face...the love radiating from her smile. The reality, a kind of awkward silence. A thank you...the kind you give when you get a sweater you don't like. Well, it always made him up the ante. And then it took his eyes. And he grew up and she married and moved away, but, by god, he could still see her face, too. As clear as if it was in front of him. For years, it made him angry to think of her. These days, it just made him sigh.
There was no one to impress, now. He spent his days sitting in the sun, drinking in the noises of the tourists and the cries of the gulls. The seals. He often chuckled at how similar they sounded. He could see himself, too. The old blind man chuckling to himself. He wondered if he looked the way he did in his mind. He wondered if he was kinder or more harsh in his assessment of what the years had done. He wondered what that said about him. And he realized it did not matter.
Losing his eyes had taught him that...the most important lesson of all. There was not a lot that did matter. There was sleep, a good meal, friendship and love. It taught him that the things he focused on were not the important things. Perhaps blindness had made him a better person. Closing his eyes had opened other parts of him.
He did see her face this day. And he felt those old urges. To prove he could run the fastest, drink the most, be the...best, most daring...something. Perhaps that was what propelled him forward.
Witnesses told the police the basics. The old blind man...the one who always sat on that bench...out of nowhere - over the railing and seconds later screaming and flailing in the icy waters of the bay. They did not realize that the screams were screams of joy, dredged from deep within him, tainted with years of...well, life. They did not try to speculate about the smile, and he did not feel the need to explain. They took him home. And the next day, he was back at his spot, listening to the pigeons and children scuttle about. Nothing had changed. He felt younger. Fresh. He wanted to ask if he looked younger. But it didn't matter.