Colors to a Blind Man

Brady Dill  |  3 min read


    I rest the walnut bowl of my lyre in a flowered hollow at the base of a tree and cast my eyes into the shadows of the forest and the waterfall, pinning down the sharper colors in my mind. I close my eyes and let the colors resonate, ripple out into the folds of my subconscious, and then I lie down in the dirt beside the pool and place my face, eyes still lidded, a finger’s width from the ground.

Open. A silently sprawling square foot of ants and plants and rocks, lit from the side as the sun begins to set, roars open before me. Life: an entire ecosystem contained by the span of my sight. There are stilled colors, like the blackened brown of a chip of wood thrown by lightning. The fleeting colors hold faster in my mind, though, like the crisp red of the underside of a ladybug’s wing as it prepares to spring out of sight. The callous tan of a hairy root. An unbelievably tiny tsunami crashes over the ground and soaks my wrists, so I get to see the wonderful shade of freshly soaked soil.

I close my eyes again, but I hold the ground in my mind, a thousand insects and budding plants, and I see the colors. The picture loses focus, starts to sway, to mingle, but the colors stay, and I hear their whispers.

I look in my memories, and I search out the rarer breeds. These are the subtler hues, pinned in me at the crucial moments of my life like the imprint a thumb leaves on an apple-skin. First just the sticky ones, which caught on the crags of my mind in the wind and refused to let go: the hollow yellow of the duck in my first bathtub, the middling reddish taste of the color on the inside of a carrot, the flickering green-blue of a star when I first realized they weren’t white.   

Then those tied to me in the odder moments, the times that jut out from the landscape of memory like newly-shaped mountains. The filtered white of the last, melting snowflake from the snowball I chose not to throw. The curious red of my dad’s bleeding nose and the cloudy grey of my mother’s eyes as she offers him a tissue.

I dig deeper. To the pieces of us that we secret away over the years, that we bury alive under the weightless down of the feathery crap that makes up the bulk of our lives. To my scars and sorrows, where the tangy pleasantry of an unsqueezed lime takes terrible significance under the shadow of the cessation of my sister’s heart, where the beautiful frost of my lies to myself lie as clear as dawn to a well-feathered sparrow. The shadows of broken dreams and realized nightmares that lurk underneath.

These memories are mine and mine alone. I will not divulge them here.

           I let these all out, let them roam in their pathless wanderings inside me. I silence the mutterings and chatter in the back of my head. Eyes still closed, I grope for my lyre in the flowers like a drunken nobleman and position my hands on the strings. The right hand strums while the left chords, the former being stronger, the latter more dexterous. I play, and a heavy stillness lifts from the glade, as though the plants have been yearning for the touch of my sound. Nothing like a song. Just a descending triad. I smile and make a chord that seems to be saying sad.

           The quiet rumbles of the strings under my fingers seem to shift slightly, like the feeling of water-ripples bursting against your skin after a stranger wades into your pool. My audience has arrived. At long last I open my eyes, but hold the colors inside, guarding them like a dealer with his cards.

           The clothes fit him like a snowstorm in summer, hanging lazily off his limbs and likely doing nothing to keep heat from escaping. They function more as a shield against imprisonment for public indecency than against the weather, or public opinion. The eyes are gaunt, wide and unseeing. He wields what some would call a fire-hardened staff, though others might more aptly name it a burnt stick. I pluck stray notes with the beat of my pulse, which quickens as he draws near and seats himself. As I swallow, I blink, and the colors surge with a brief flare in the void.

Now let me tell you something. I’ve played for queens and crowds. I’ve played to wash away heartbreak, to call men to war, and to soothe a bawling child. My playing has spurred men to wondrous things and has torn tears from the hardest sailor’s heart.

           Never have I faced an audience like this. Today, I play colors to a blind man.

           Sightless since birth, the unnamed hermit has so long resided in his woods that he can walk through them as if imbued with the sight of ten men. He looks ahead vacantly, turning not his eyes but his ears toward the echoing whispers of my strummed strings. Though he sits with mien and the condescending silence adults have for children, I see a bristling impatience, a fiercely buried hope and longing. I begin to play.

           I unlock the doors on the cages of the creatures within, the colors I have imprisoned. I let the storm free, and a tempest rolls out my fingers. I play red with the hot anger of a misguided soldier and a first lover, I play yellow with the edgy stillness of a mental asylum. Green comes traipsing along all unbeknownst to me, and he feeds himself through the fiddle of my lyre. Rhyming leaves in spring dance with the puke of a plague, and I see something begin to happen behind the man’s eyes. A spark. I throw on kindling.

           Blue the sole patch of sky among the canopy, orange a low-burning hearth. White an old king’s beard, grey a sudden summer storm. The glade disappears as my notes pluck out a world of rapture and hate, viciously swirling in a heathen blast of color.

           Into the color I breathe life—the man begins to smile. Into the hue I send my soul within me burning—the man begins to cry. A firestorm of soft light invades our senses, and I realize that I too have not yet truly seen. Upon the falling of my lyre’s coos and screams the man begins to live—the man begins to die.

    I walk away wordless before nightfall. A hundred tiny clues, hidden in the fold of his posture, the sag of his eyelids, the tightness of his breath, told me clear as if he had given it voice: leave me be. The silence, easily heard over the brook’s gurgles, was the intimate quiet of a mother with her newborn, the peculiar slice of silence that only comes when life’s holes, so empty they aren’t even felt, are suddenly, often harshly, filled. None need tell me thrice to let a blind man sit with his colors.

    I never saw him again. The longer he’s been gone, the more often I find myself perusing his forest-glades. All who tell of feeling the presence of one who has left a wound in the heart that no colors or newborns can ever fill are liars. The forest never felt more silent, and I never owl my head behind, mistaking a smiling green shadow for his flitting ghost.