Submitted by megan on Sun, 01/11/2009 - 11:01
On some avenue in Chicago, probably N Milwaulkee, CT looked down at me and said, "You've got a thing, did you know? You don't like to be on my right side. Even if you end up on my right side, you switch over to my left as soon as you can. No matter what."
I did not know.
Or rather, I did not know I was still doing it, 10 months later.
On one of our early walks, Eric dropped behind me and popped up on my other side, my right side. I did a quick twist towards him, raised my eyebrows.
He explained that he was monocular, having lost sight in his right eye a few years ago. Having someone on his right side, while not a huge issue, was just not that comfortable, forcing him to turn his head almost completely to make eye contact.
I took that quite seriously. Partially, it just seemed polite, what I'd do for anyone. Partially though, I wanted to stand out for him as someone thoughtful and nice. Not completely altruistic, you could say, but the result was the same. Seemed an easy thing to do to make someone you liked a helluva lot more comfortable.
Even so, at first I'd forget. After a block or two, one or the other of us, usually me, would start, drop back, and pop up on the other side, grinning.
After a while, I almost never forgot. It just felt natural to have a solid presence on my right side.
A little while after that, no matter who I was walking with, if the usual presence were an absence, I'd feel a wee frisson. Not quite anxiety, but on that continuum. A little rock of salt in your boot, not hurting, but making you shake your foot to shift it somewhere less poky.
The closer the person was to Eric's height, the more pronounced the absence, the more jagged the rock, the more quickly I switched.
Eric and I stopped walking together pretty abruptly, but I kept on with the habit. Not that I was was trying to keep on with anything else: it's just that I'd long stopped noticing the pokes. There was just one smooth unnoticeable cascade of feelings and reactions that lead from frisson to flipping sides, which had created its own indelible string of neurons snaking through my subconscious.
I had a rare trip to the Hartman's yesterday, in that I didn't run into anyone I knew, or even recognize, till I was nearly done. I came swooping around the corner to head back to the olive bar, and nearly literally ran into Eric.
We were both almost done. I just had a few things, but stayed behind him in line anyway, forgoing the express lane to chat and catch up.
I'd say it was lovely, but it wasn't even that, really - it was just normal. Or rather, it was the kind of lovely you get from running into someone you don't much hang with but is always a pleasure to see. How's school, your loan came in?, yeah, the diagram on the interac machine is totally stupid, sandwiches are for boys, i know!
We paid for our stuff, left, both quite weighed down and slow on the greasy shifty-snow sidewalks. What are you up to tonight? oh, you know, visiting with the kgrf, midnight!, really. And we got on to the topic of his glasses, which made me think about his eyes, which reminded me.
I was on the wrong side.
My first thought was to switch, but seeing as how the sidewalks were narrow and slightly treacherous, seeing as how we were both laden like pack horses, seeing as how we hadn't much further to go, I just left it. I didn't need to be extra special triple nice anymore. He'd be okay, I was pretty sure, he wasn't going to die.
But my habit? Finally, it had. Just faded away, without me noticing.