The blind girl is blind so she can’t see, but she has the most terrific sense of taste and that has to be some kind of consolation. This is what she tells me. She says she can take a sip of wine and count how many virgins have stomped on the grapes. I don’t believe her. I say, “Even if you could, you can’t tell a virgin by how they taste.”
She shakes her head. “Believe what you want,” she says, “but it’s true.” She takes another sip of wine. “Four,” she says.
The blind girl is also very beautiful, and because she’s blind men walking past her on the street have no problem staring at her face or chest, turning their heads to study her rear end, but her boyfriend who isn’t blind does have a problem. People also stare because her boyfriend isn’t at all attractive or even unoffensive-looking and they wonder if he isn’t some kind of volunteer for the blind or her cousin twice removed until she kisses him, and not the kind of kiss you give to a cousin or a volunteer for the blind but the kind of kiss that navigates the mouth like there’s a little white ball attached to the tip of her tongue.
It doesn’t really matter to her what he looks like so much as how he tastes, and he tastes pretty sweet. Like caramel, she says, on account of he was conceived in the back of a sweet shop. I don’t think very much of her boyfriend. For one thing his face is covered in acne scars on account of all the sugar. And also there’s her health to consider. I tell her, “You’re going to become diabetic if you keep seeing him.” I say, “I have a grandmother who’s diabetic. Insulin shots are no fun.” She says I sound like her mother.
She likes me too I think, enough to kiss me one night after too much to drink, but then she says I taste like sauerkraut. We’ve stopped at a convenience store and I’ve just finished eating a hot dog and so I explain to her that must be it but she shakes her head no, no, she has a more distinguishing palate than that. I say, “My German ancestry goes back pretty far, I guess,” joking, but she doesn’t laugh. “Maybe that’s it,” she says.
When I wake up the next day I decide to spend as much of the day as possible with my eyes closed to try as best I can to simulate her experience. I don’t want to hurt myself, though, so I spend the day in bed. While I’m in bed, I decide that my heightened sense would be smell, which is kind of like the Ringo of the four remaining senses. Smell only tells you what you want but can’t have: here is the aroma of a delicious pastry that you can’t eat because it will make you fat. Here is the perfume of a beautiful woman that you can’t sleep with because she thinks you are not attractive. Here is the cologne of the man your wife is having an affair with because she finds him more attractive than she finds you, even though she used to find you attractive, and here is the soap she used to try to wash away his smell in the shower before she got in bed with you.
Eventually I open my eyes. It’s absurd to spend the whole day with your eyes closed when you can still see. I take a goat’s milk and lavender honey bath, put on my best suit and drive to the grocery store. She isn’t home when I knock on her door, or she is but isn’t opening, so I wait on the stoop of her apartment until the sun goes down. She’s pissed when she finally comes home around nine o’clock, sundown, and by pissed I mean drunk and not upset, although she might be upset too. “You smell like you’ve been lactating,” she says.
She’s listing a little from side to side but is still beautiful, and besides perhaps blind people list a little more than seeing people do, determining their spatial limitations. She takes my hand and says since I’m there already I might as well come inside, so I do. I set the bag of groceries down on the kitchen counter and ask how she is.
“What’s in the bag?” she asks.
I pull out the contents: mango, dark chocolate Hershey’s bar, bottle of red wine. She sniffs and nods, licks her lips. When she hears the plunk of the bottle on the counter she makes a grab for it but I slide it out of reach. “First the mango,” I say, which I then slice in half, cube the meat and invert the skin. She bends over the kitchen sink to eat it. “It’s not organic,” she pronounces, wiping the juice from her chin.
Next I hand her the chocolate bar. “This chocolate was made in a factory,” she says. “Can I have the wine now?”
“Can I kiss you?” I ask.
“No,” she says.
“Okay.” I pour two cups of wine, give one to her and ask what she thinks of it. It’s the most expensive bottle of wine I could find at the grocery store. She takes a while to answer, swishing the wine around in her mouth like a sommelier. Finally she swallows, and then she cocks her head a little like she’s searching for that elusive last note, and then declares matter-of-factly, “One.”
“One kiss?” I ask.
“No,” she says. “One virgin.”
Jacob Aiello is the co-founder of the Soft Show (softshow.org), a bi-monthly experimental reading series that weds improvised live drawing with short stories read aloud by their authors. His short stories are forthcoming from Stealing Time, and have appeared in The Portland Reader, The Portland Review, and The Wordstock Ten, an anthology of fiction from the 2007 Wordstock Festival. His nonfiction has been previously published in Reading Local and Street Roots, a nonprofit homeless advocacy paper based in Portland, Oregon.