The first few weeks flew by in waiting rooms filled with cold cups of coffee and shifts of relatives taking turns. Bits and pieces of news were conveyed by strangers who came to him fresh from delving into his child's face. Some good: the eyes wouldn't have to come out. There were deep cuts on her jaw, but they would fade over time. She had been knocked unconscious by something that had fallen off the wall—a wheelbarrow, Jack eventually found out. And this was excellent news too, the doctors said. This would limit Lila's memory of what they called "the event."
But then in the center of it all, whatever salvage might be found among the wreckage, there was the conversation, the now-inevitable talk Jack began having with his daughter, six years old and emerging so untidily from all the anesthesia, all the painkillers, emerging so he could tell her, not once but many times, that she would never see again. Six years old, he would think as he spoke the words. She doesn't understand forever. She can't imagine what "never again" really means. And of course a part of him didn't want her to, as he sat on the edge of her hospital bed, touching her continually so she'd never feel alone in the dark, caressing her constantly—for himself as much as her. So neither of them would feel alone. While Ann stood just outside the doorway, listening as though she were eavesdropping, retreating even then into the fears that would engulf her as if less frightening than real life turned out to be. And Jack repeated the truth to his girl—because that's what the psychologists had cautioned him to do. Never lie. Never lose her trust. But have the conversation again, again and again, until the child understands, as no six-year- old should have to do, exactly what forever really means.
"This is it," he says, pulling into a long, rutted drive.
Looking up at the small ranch house, set on stilts, Jack frowns at the empty flowerpots that line the porch rail. An old bicycle leans against the front window. "Not really," he says. "Not somewhere I'd want to live, anyway, though someone else might find it quaint, I suppose." He should be used to being her eyes. He shouldn't even notice doing it by this time. But in the car, as he peers at this nondescript house, he can feel himself resisting her questions, as he does more and more when there's a matter of taste involved. Is he handsome? Are the flowers pretty? Nice place? Does she understand how often these are matters of opinion and not of fact? Realize how likely it is that if she could judge these things for herself they might disagree? Does she ever guess how very injured and myopic a filter he has become?
"It's a small place," he says. "It's reddish and a little run-down."
A tall woman steps out onto the porch and waves what looks like a powerful arm. Jack waves back, out his window.
"Come on," he says to Lila. "It's showtime. Look's like she's here."
"Giddy-up," she responds, lowering her glasses again. "As long as we made the trip, let's do this thing."
When he told Miranda how much he hated the idea of Lila getting a guide dog, she accused him of balking at letting Lila grow up. She said he was resisting the idea of her transferring her needs and her dependencies onto someone else—even a dog. "Same old, same old, Jack," she said. "You are way too attached." Jack was visiting the cafe where she worked, catching her at odd moments between her customers. "You're so identified with her. It would be good for you both if Lila could lean on someone else."
We Hear You!