We stepped into darkness, my hands clutching his shoulders, the rough wool of his sweater scratching my skin. He led me through blackness , his soothing voice drowning in a cacophony of chatter and laughter. We arrived at a table where he lowered me into a chair, guiding me so I could find the edge. I ran my hands over the glossy surface of the table, flinching at the unexpected sting of cold cutlery against my warm fingers; the grooved edge of a plate undulated beneath my hands. In my absent sight, I was surrounded by the onslaught of servers calling out “careful, careful” as they moved confidently through the darkness to which they were born. I concentrated on listening for my friend’s voice from across the table, waiting for my other senses to step up and take the lead.
This was my dining in the dark experience. Blind servers waited on customers in an adventuresome tasting experience, giving me a tiny glimpse of living in a sightless world. It got me thinking about how my writing would change without the benefit of sight. For two hours I was pressed to rely on my other senses. I didn’t notice a super-human heightened awareness; instead I discovered I needed to pay close attention to what I was hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. I had to concentrate to manoeuvre my way through dinner, sifting through the voices to find the ones I recognized. I learned to slow down and take my time, allowing my fingers to discover the objects around me. I learned to locate the base of my glass, wrapping my fingers around it to carefully lift it to my mouth; I grew accustomed to the weight of my fork, with and without food. Each touch, taste and sound was a distinctive journey into the mystifying world of the human senses.
Whenever I have difficulty writing a descriptive scene, I close my eyes and permit my other senses to take up the slack. It’s amazing what you can discover with eyes wide shut.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.