Beth groaned and turned over in bed. What time was it? 2:33! What was Steve doing awake at this hour? "What is it, baby?" she asked sleepily.
"Beth, turn on the light."
"Turn on the light!" he said again. Something in his voice frightened her, and she got up quickly and turned the light on. Steve was sitting up in bed clutching the covers and looking scared. He must have had a nightmare. Beth was about to ask him what it was about when Steve spoke again. His words made her blood run cold. "Beth, will you please turn on the light!"
Beth froze. She actually found herself glancing at the light bulb to make sure she had indeed turned it on. She looked back at Steve. He was sitting there with his eyes wide open, looking frightened and mildly annoyed. "Steve," she said dryly. "Baby, the light is on."
He turned his head in the direction of her voice and the color drained slowly from his face. "What?" he whispered.
"I already turned the light on," she said. Beth could feel herself starting to panic and she quickly clamped down on her fears. This wasn't the time to lose it. She went over and sat near him on the bed. He gasped, and Beth very nearly lost it anyway when she realized that he truly hadn't seen her approach. He started to shake, and Beth rested her hands on his shoulders. "It's all right," she said. "Let me look at your eyes." She put her hands on his face and made him look directly at her. After staring into his eyes for several seconds, she sighed. "I don't see anything wrong, baby."
"They... they look normal?" he asked.
"Yes. You can't see anything? No blurry shapes? Nothing?"
Steve's lip trembled. "N-nothing," he said in a quavering voice. "It's totally black."
Beth took a deep breath, once again making an effort to shove down her rising panic. "Okay, honey. It's okay. I'll call the doctor, all right?"
Steve swallowed and nodded. "All right."
"It'll be okay," she said again. She found the doctor's number and dialed with shaking hands. Eventually, she was transferred to Dr. Sharp.
"Dr. Sharp speaking, may I help you?"
"Hello, this is Beth Perry."
"Oh, hello, Mrs. Perry. What's wrong? Is your husband's leg troubling him more than usual?"
"No. He's... he can't see."
"He can't see! He was fine when he went to bed, and now he can't see anything!"
"All right, Mrs. Perry, try to calm down. Have you looked at his eyes? Is there a film of any kind that you can see?"
"No, there's nothing," Beth said.
"Is he feeling any pain - a burning sensation, perhaps?"
"I don't think so. He didn't say they hurt."
"If you want to come in now, you can. But if he isn't any pain, I'd suggest you wait until morning to bring him in. Then we'll have an optometrist on duty if you need one."
Beth sighed. "All right."
"Just try to get some sleep, Mrs. Perry. The both of you."
"Yeah, right. Thanks, Doctor."
"What did he say?" Steve asked when she sat beside him.
"He said to try to get some sleep and come in tomorrow."
"Sleep? How the hell am I supposed to sleep?!"
"I don't know, baby."
"Forget it. I'm going to play." He stood up, took one step and stubbed his toe on the night stand. "Fuck!"
Beth was already at his side. "Come on." She took his arm and led him to the music room. "Drums, guitar, or keyboard?"
"I'd like to crash on the drums for a while, but I guess I'll be nice to the neighbors. Give me the bass."
Beth led Steve to a seat, plugged in his bass and handed it to him. Then she closed the curtains and turned off the light. "There," she said. "Now it's totally dark for both of us."
"Thanks, baby," Steve said. Beth stepped forward, tripped over a cord and fell to the floor. Steve gasped. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," she said, starting to giggle.
Steve joined her. "I don't know, hon. I think you're too much of a klutz for this darkness thing."
"Just shut up and play," she said, still laughing. She felt around the floor until she found Steve's bare foot. She sat beside him and spent the rest of the night listening to him play.
"It's morning," Beth said.
Steve looked to his left, where he knew the windows were, and was sorely disappointed when he couldn't see even a hint of light. "I still can't see it," he said wearily.
Beth sighed. "Let's get ready," she said. "How's your leg."
"Hurts like hell," he said. "I don't think I should have sat like this all night."
"Oh, baby, why didn't you tell me?" Beth asked.
Steve shrugged. "I shouldn't be taking too many of those pills anyway, right?" he said. He could hear Beth give him an exasperated sigh. Then he gasped and clutched his bass, thinking he was going to drop it.
"Sorry," Beth said. "That was me. I'll put it away now."
Steve released the bass and sat still, unnerved by the event. It was yet another reminder of his blindness. He closed his eyes. It didn't feel so wrong not to be able to see anything if he kept his eyes closed. He sat there for several more moments, hearing Beth rustle around the room. "What are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm trying to clear a path," she answered. "It's like a jungle in here with all these cords lying around. I've never noticed before."
"Never had to," he said sadly.
"Honey, don't worry," Beth said. "We're going to get this straightened out when we get to the doctor's office."
"The way they straightened out my leg?" he asked.
Beth sighed. Then Steve heard her footsteps coming toward him. He was still startled when she put her arms around him. She gave him a good squeeze, then kissed him softly. "We will figure this out," she said. He didn't need to see her to know that her face had that set, determined look just like the one she'd had when she convinced him bring her to San Francisco. Whenever she made that face, he knew there was no point in arguing with her. Right now, that wasn't a problem. He wanted nothing more than for her to be right.
Steve waited while Beth finished clearing a path. Then she took his hand and he stood up, forced to go slowly to accommodate his leg. "Is my cane around?" he asked, voice tight from the pain.
"It's still in the bedroom, baby. I forgot to bring it last night. It's okay, I'll help you." She stood on his left side and he put his arm around her shoulder. Slowly, they made their way out of the room. Eventually, he felt hard tile under his feet instead of carpet. They'd turned right from the music room, then left, so they must be in the kitchen. Beth helped him sit down. "I'll fix you something right now, okay?" she said.
Steve nodded. He waited, listening to Beth move around the kitchen, rather than watching her like he usually did. It was still hard for him to get used to not helping with breakfast, even though it had become an issue once his leg started acting up. Now that he couldn't see, it was impossible. He sighed, hating the feeling of uselessness. After a while, Beth brought him his breakfast. "Thanks, baby" he said. He looked down at the plate and sighed when he saw only darkness. "What is it?" he asked.
"It's a spinach and cheese omelet and some fruit. Let me show you." Beth took hold of his hand and guided it to the plate. "Omelet's right here," she said. "Fruit's here." She led his hand to a small bowl to the left of his plate. "Coffee's here, and orange juice is here." She "showed" him the location of the two drinks. Then she rested his hand on the silverware and went away. He heard the scrape of a chair as she sat down at the table.
Steve then set about the awesome task of eating his breakfast. He kept his eyes closed. It was just too frustrating to know that he was looking at something and to see only blackness. Although he tried to go slowly and remember where everything was, he ended up making several mistakes. He lost track of his omelet at one point and had to feel around the plate to find it again. He also dipped his fingers into his coffee more than once. Long before he'd finished, he heard Beth take her dishes to the sink. He sighed. She usually took longer than he did. "Sorry I'm holding you up," he said.
"Don't be silly," she said. "You're doing great. Do you have any idea how many times I would have knocked that orange juice over if I were in your shoes?"
Steve grinned. "Well, if I have to lick coffee off of my fingers one more time, I think I'll just give up on it all together."
"Hey, I have an idea," Beth said giggling. "Next time, let me lick it off!"
"You bad thing!" Steve found his napkin and tossed it in her direction.
"Would you believe me if I told you that you actually hit me with that?"
"Get out of here," Steve said smiling.
"It's true," Beth said. "I'm very proud of you."
"You know what, honey?" Steve grinned mischievously. "You really shouldn't be proud of me. You should be ashamed of yourself! I'm blind, and you couldn't even dodge a pitch from me! That is sad, baby."
"Oh, be quiet. Don't make me come over there!"
Steve laughed again and finished his breakfast. Beth brought him one of his pills and a glass of water. She put the pill in one hand and the glass in the other. Steve took it, then stood up slowly. "Did you bring my cane?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, placing it in his hand.
"Mind helping me in the shower?"
"Now what kind of question is that?" she asked. She took hold of his free hand and led him carefully to the bathroom. He got undressed on his own while Beth turned on the water. She helped him in and put a loofa in his hand. "I'll hang around," she said. "Just let me know if you need help."
Luckily, Steve usually spent most of his time in the shower with his eyes closed, so he already knew where most things were by feel. He dropped the soap twice, and Beth found it for him. He would have insisted on finding it himself, but his ibuprofen hadn't kicked in yet, and it was too hard for him to bend that far. When he was finished, Beth gave him a towel and went off to pick out some clothes for him while he dried off. Steve felt his chin. His hair didn't grow very fast. He could go for a day without shaving.
He turned to the left of the sink, and walked slowly in the direction he knew the bathroom door lay. Before he reached it, Beth came back. "Okay," she said. "Ready to get dressed?" He nodded, and let her help him to the bedroom.
Steve wanted to get dressed on his own, so Beth told him what he'd be wearing and showed him where the clothes were. She'd picked a shirt with no buttons, so all Steve had to do was find the tag to make sure it was facing the right way. The jeans were a little more difficult because of his leg, but he managed it. Beth handed him his shoes next. He felt for the arches to figure out which was which, then put them on and tied them. Done! He stood up and smiled. "I did it," he said proudly.
"That's great, honey," Beth said.
"Oh my God," Steve said, suddenly feeling depressed. He slowly sat down on the bed and put his head in his hands.
"What's the matter?" Beth asked worriedly.
Steve sighed. "I just got excited about dressing myself."
Beth didn't say anything. In a moment, he felt the bed dip as she sat down next to him and put her arm around him. "Come on, Steve," she said after a while. "We'll sort this out when we get to the doctor's office."
"What the hell do you mean, there's nothing wrong with my eyes?"
Dr. Reynolds sighed. "Mr. Perry, please try to calm down."
"How? How am I supposed to calm down? Huh? You just told us that there's absolutely nothing wrong with my eyes, but I can't see a fucking thing and now you expect me to calm down?!"
The doctor sighed. "I'm sorry, Mr. Perry. I'm as mystified as everyone else. But the fact remains, there is nothing physically wrong with your eyes. There is no cataract, no retinal damage and your pupils dilate properly. Everything checks out normally."
"Yeah, except that I'm completely blind!"
"Mr. Perry, please. I can't control the test results."
"Run them again," Steve said.
"Run the tests again," he repeated.
"Mr. Perry, these tests are seldom ever inaccurate. I doubt we'll find anything different if we run them again."
"Do it anyway."
"God damn it," he shouted. "What is so goddamn hard about this?! RUN THE FUCKING TESTS AGAIN!"
The tests were run again without delay. When Steve asked them to run the tests a third time, there was no argument. He insisted on their running the tests over and over again, until Dr. Reynolds told him that if they tested his eyes anymore, they would cause damage. The results of the last set of tests were just like all the others. Nothing. His eyes were not damaged in any way. Neither Dr. Reynolds, or Dr. Smith, the hospital's resident optometrist could provide an explanation for his sudden blindness.
"I'm so sorry that we can't help you further," Dr. Reynolds said.
"Your wife can be your visual guide for now," Dr. Smith said. "But if you'd like a greater degree of independence, I'd suggest you purchase and learn to use a white cane. We have several that you can choose from here. I also have some pamphlets on coping with blindness, and I have the addresses to several Braille Institute centers, where..."
Steve stood up suddenly. "Take me home." Beth took his arm without a word and led him outside. When he was safely in the car, he buried his face in his hands and took a deep, shuddering breath. Too much. It was too much to take in. In a few short hours, he'd gone from believing there was hope of reversing his blindness to being told he should check into white canes and the Braille Institute. He swallowed past the lump in his throat and struggled against the tears that threatened to fall. He heard Beth get into the car on the driver's side and he tried hard to pull himself together. She put a hand in his hair, stroking him without speaking. After a few minutes, Steve sighed and wiped away the few tears that had managed to escape despite his efforts.
"Will you be all right?"
Steve nodded. "I'm sorry about..."
Beth put a finger to his lips. "Shhh. Don't you dare apologize. If we hadn't left, I think I would have slapped him myself."
Steve grinned. "I guess I should be realistic, though," he said. "We might as well get the cane at least, since we're already here."
"I'll do it," she said. "Just wait here. I'll be back in five minutes or less."
In slightly less than five minutes, Beth returned. She handed him a small, rectangular box. He frowned. "Doesn't it need to be a little longer than this?"
"It's high tech," Beth said. "It folds out. I figured you'd like one that you can put in your pocket if you want to."
Steve grinned. "Thanks, baby."
"Do you still want to go home?"
"I'm not sure. What time is it?" he asked.
"It's almost three."
"Aw, crap! I was supposed to be at the studio over two hours ago!"
"Are you sure you want to go in?"
"I have to. We're supposed to finish today."
"All right, let's go. If I drive like you usually do, we'll be there in no time."