I lean forward in the chair as the blind man walks past me. I don’t pull the seat closer to the table, but he finds his way with ease. Black sunglasses over his eyes, smile on his rosy face, his hand on the shoulder of the man in front, guiding him through the waves of drunken Super Bowl fans like a fishing boat motoring into the marina. My girlfriend points him out to me.
“Look, a blind man,” she says.
“He’s not blind.” I ponder. “Lots of people wear sunglasses in here.”
As if listening, the blind man proves me wrong, making a path from one end of the restaurant to the bar area, pivoting at the point of my chair. Can he feel the air brush up his bare arms as he walks past? Does he smell my fear? He is happy and makes his way with more ease than most of the drunks. The familiar flower lady walks by once more, her arms full of red roses, a voluptuous vulture circling the couples and then making her move, sweeping in with a rose between the cheeks of man and woman.
“No gracias,” they usually say.
Baja Cantina is full of people who hate me: the angry manager, the tall unfriendly waiter with the crew cut and the maze of white scars on the back of his head, the handsome locals who treat me like a second-class citizen. I ignore another flower lady, less familiar than the first, but just as persistent. The battle-scarred waiter tells me to move my chair, take a seat at another place at the table because there’s no room to walk past. I tell him a blind man did it with ease.
“Estaba aqui primero,” I tell him, explaining that I was here first, before the portly local gringo who sat smoking cigarettes at the big table beside me. They are the treasured first-class citizens of Baja Cantina; they outrank me. I move my chair. Counting my money, I realize we have four hundred-and-forty pesos (less than forty dollars). The manager and waiters already hate us and expect no expensive orders or excessive tips. There is a cigarette burn on the corner of the white tablecloth. We are at the worst table in the restaurant; during important plays the manager stands in front of the only TV my girlfriend can see from the seat where the waiter made her sit.
“Agghh, he does this all the time,” she says.
“He hates me,” I explain.
At halftime I walk around the marina and into the parking garage, pay the fifteen pesos and drive home. Find her yellow envelope of money, tips from tourists for buying tickets to a canopy zip line in a canyon in Cabo. I’m out of breath. Roll a joint, smoke it fast, drive back to town, stoned and paranoid. The closest parking lots to the restaurant are all full; I make it in the middle of the third quarter. Need to go to the bathroom.
Only one man in urinals is reason enough to celebrate. He pees slowly and it takes me a while to get going. He finally walks away from the urinal, toward the sink to wash his hands. He does so leisurely (like he doesn’t care about watching the end of the game) as I pretend I’m still going. The water runs for a long time. I can only contain myself for so long; I walk toward the sink, reach over the man to turn on the automatic faucet and rinse my hands. Hit the plastic soap dispenser as the gentleman throws his wet paper towel over my arms at the waste basket next to me.
“Somewhere about here?” he asks his friend, one of the waiters.
The paper towel lands near the garbage can and the two men walk out, blind man and young waiter. Ashamed of my actions and perhaps encroaching on the shadows of a blind man, I stand for a while in the bathroom before following their footsteps out into the madness. Good news is I won my bet; New Orleans should recover from the flood waters. Bad news is I have to go the bathroom, but I’m afraid of the blind man.
Matthew Dexter lives and writes on a fortified compound near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He has been known to drink beer and eat tacos. He belongs in an insane asylum.
© 2010, Matthew Dexter