lifted his glass, offered a birthday toast, and leaned closer to kiss
me, whispering something in my ear that was as dirty as his martini.
The innuendo raised my eye brows and the corners of my mouth, and as
the server returned, my
looks like the two of you are having a good time in the Keys,"
the table, Gabriel ran a finger beneath the hem of my skirt, painting
my face a deeper shade of crimson. He smiled at the amused waitress
and replied, "Yes, we're having quite a good time."
took our dinner order and suggested we slide to the other side of the
table, as the sun was beginning to set and we would not want to miss
the brilliant light show. When I stood, revealing my white cane, she
grew embarrassed and apologized for some insensitivity she thought
she had committed. No longer the one blushing, I assured her that she
had not offended me and that my companion gave great descriptive
detail, but she didn't seem convinced. I guessed her comfort level
with randy tourists dropped considerably when one half of the
cuddling couple couldn't, at least with the eye, enjoy the rooftop
patio's tropical vista.
summer before my freshman year at the University of Iowa, before my
eye sight had begun to deteriorate, I, too, had worked at a popular
tourist eatery near the shores of Big Spirit Lake, and understood how much a
relies on her tips, how much an etiquette faux pas can hurt that
extra cash income. One evening, while waiting on a pair of
vacationers with a baby, I commented on the cuteness of their little
boy. The mother's face pinched as if someone was working it over from
the other side with a plunger.
she said, annunciating the sound of each letter.
apologized profusely, and their drinks refilled without charge, their
bread basket never emptied, and their teething boy/girl had an ample
supply of crackers to keep him/her quiet. At the end of the
horrifying experience, I did receive a gratuity and if it had been
1888, rather than 1988, the amount would have indicated their
this in mind, I waited, wondering what compensatory card our waitress
would play to sweeten her tip.
love that sweater," she said, "The colors are so vibrant.
It's perfect for Florida."
played," I thought as I touched the loose weave of the crocheted
cotton, and fought the urge to resort to a mischievous melodrama.
I would say with wistful longing, "the colors are wonderful. If
only I could see
rather than messing with the already flustered girl, I just thanked
her and sipped my martini as the sun sank behind a thin cluster of
clouds, dying them to match the pastel pink and orange sherbet shades
of my retro garment. When the waitress retreated, Gabriel draped
his arm around my shoulders.
like it, too," he said, tracing the tip of one finger on the
bare skin showing through a loop of lavender yarn, "It reminds
me of salt water taffy."
a sweet tooth?"
my lips to his ear, I planted the seed for after dinner plans. This
time, he blushed.
we had finished, the waitress left the check and Gabriel laid his
credit card on the tray with our bill. She took it up to the bar tender.
her a nice tip," I said, feeling it necessary to prove to her
that she hadn't said or done anything worthy of ticking off the
average blind patron...that is to say, at least not yet.
reappeared minutes later with the card, the slip, and a loaded tray
of drinks for a large group at the other end of the patio. Eager to
get back to the rented house boat for the "dessert" I had
promised, Gabriel jotted in a generous gratuity and we prepared to
leave, but as we made our way through the crowded tables, the
waitress, her tray now empty, hurried up behind us.
we wondered what might have accidentally been left behind at the
table. Sunglasses? Gabe's wallet? Car keys? But after a split-second
mental inventory, we realized we
just curious," the waitress began, lowering her voice as if what
she was about to ask might be too personal for others to hear, others
who had not brought us rib eye and coconut shrimp, therefore not
having earned, like she felt she had, the
right to satisfy a curiosity.
and I moved closer to one another, bracing for whichever one of us
was about to get hit with the kind of question that, nine out of ten
times, seemed more than a bit intrusive. Would she ask about his long
braided hair? Would she pass further beyond the polite perimeters and
actually touch it? Would the "Native American" and the
"tribe" questions follow?? Would she ask me if I am Indian,
too? Would she then comment that my skin is lighter than his? Gabriel
and I had been together for almost a year and had heard this line of
inquiry on a weekly basis. But, of course, there existed the other
source of endless curiosity; my blindness. Not having a clue as to
what might follow this particular, "I'm just curious", we
both waited, smiled, gritted our teeth, and formulated possible
dresses you?" she asked.
that this one was mine to field, I rolled her odd choice of words
around in my brain, an image floating to the surface. It jarred
laughter loose, which, try as I might, I could not suppress. I had
translated her query into one of the most common questions and would
have explained the methods I employ to match my clothing, shoes, and
jewelry. I would have mentioned Braille tags pinned in colors,
separate pieces of an outfit hung on one hanger, tactile recognition
and my avoidance of purchasing different colors of the same item, but
I couldn't get passed the hidden comedy of it all, wondering if my
companion had caught
to dinner, as Gabriel had lounged in our room on the house boat, I,
freshly showered and wrapped in a towel, pulled the short black skirt
and crocheted sweater from my bag. As I unfolded a camisole and
started to dress, he called from where he reclined on the queen-size
here for a minute."
ventured over. He tugged my towel off and tossed it across the room.
Laughing devilishly at my feigned indignation, he pulled me towards
with one appetite satisfied and another beckoning, he suggested we go
for dinner and grabbed my skirt, offering to help. He slid it up my
legs and began to zip it in the front like a pair of jeans, until I
giggled and swatted him away.
for the help," I mocked, twisting the waist band around until
the zipper lay at the rear.
on sensual giddiness, I let him give the sweater a try. He managed
not only to get it on backwards, but inside out as well. He forgot
the camisole all together. Without it, the sweater's extremely wide
weave left nothing to the imagination. I posed, hands on hips, and
you think this is a bit revealing, dear? "
He said, "It's the tropics. It's hot! I love it!"
rolled my eyes.
sighted guys are all alike," I had scolded, as I took the
sweater off, and put the camisole on.
waitress, not sure what to make of my laughter, began to back away as
Gabriel, hip to the inside joke, snuck his hand beneath the sweater's
hem and tugged playfully at the skirt's zipper.
does," I finally said, the martini exacerbating my
we departed, two happy lovers on holiday, a very befuddled waitress
in our wake, the raucous peels of laughing gulls echoing over the
we walked up the gang plank onto the house boat and Gabriel slipped
the key into the lock, he turned.
me. I'm Curious."
I said, batting my
the first blind teaching assistant at the University of Minnesota's
American Indian Studies program. Interviews with her have been
featured on Radio for Peace International. Krout-Horn is a regular
contributor to Slate
and Style magazine and, in 2008, was
their top fiction prize for War
She, with the contributions of her life partner, Gabriel Horn,
co-authored the novella, Transcendence (All Things That
staunch advocate for social and environmental justice, she writes and
lectures on native history and culture, diabetes and disability, and
humanity's connection and commitment to the natural world. For more
information, visit her web site at: http://www.nativeearthwords.com/