/ First Date

We'll meet by the church on the corner of Goose Green, we said. It should take me twenty minutes to get there. I’ve got a good stride going, striking out with the cane, tip, tap. I don't want to be late, don't want to keep Daisy waiting. On Champion Hill I pass a girl carrying Sainsbury's bags, then a young man with headphones, then a woman in a red top, her sandals shuffling on the warm tarmac, her perfume, the sun on the red-brick wall and coming through the leaves overhead. I won't keep Daisy waiting. At a decent clip now, tip tapping, and I won't arrive worn out or anxious by the church on the corner of Goose Green because of the tip tapping, the skip skipping, because of this tool, this instrument, this cane running on the paving stones ahead of me, now, today, the day I use the cane on a date, the first time ever, tip tapping under the shade of the trees on the bumpy tarmac down Dog Kennel Hill, about to do this thing, the thing I’ve never done, could never do, this thing with the rubber handle, the jointed sections, the clicking into place, the thing where I’m placed, pinned, rejected, there there, the man with the cane, the blind man on a blind date. The curb, the entrance to the supermarket, the bumps on the pavement and the traffic lights, waiting, waiting for the green man. I pull my cane up to my chest and smile at a woman opposite, imagining that it’s Daisy, waiting, watching me, seeing the cane, tip tap, skip skip, there there, pinned, placed, rejected. The green man appears. I cross (she watches me cross), my back is straight, my head up, no slouching. I’ll show her how confident I am, how strong, how happy, with a quick wave to the waiting cars and it's all right, it is all right now that I'm passing the music shop, closed, the long line of people outside the bougie café, the lumber yard, the Kwik Fit, the Total garage, round the grey bollard and this lamppost blending into the soft pavement. I take a left onto Goose Green, heading toward the church on the corner where Daisy might be waiting for me already, looking out for me, the man she's been talking to on the app, the man from the photos, the man on the terrace, wearing a flat cap, with the blue eyes, the man who enjoys books and tomato plants, the man who sees well, she assumes, the sighted man, because I haven't told her I use a cane, haven't told her about my sight, about what to expect, what to prepare for, that shock she'll get when she sees me in my sunglasses with my cane, tip tapping, skip skipping toward her, at first not realising it's me, the man from the app, the terrace, the flat cap, the blue eyes, and she'll return to looking at her phone or looking at the trees or watching the dogs jangling on the green before lifting her gaze again and seeing me closer, more intent, bearing down, and she'll think Is that..? and Could that be..? with a mist spreading through her, curling out around the cars parked along the curb, the wheelie bins lined up by the houses, the dogs janglng on the green as I round the corner and see her ahead of me, by the church, about twenty metres. It's definitely her. Tall with dark hair, cut short. I know the curve of her nose and the tilt of her head from the photos on her profile, one in a meadow, one at a fancy dress party, one close up with a flower in her hair. It's her, leaning against the wall that runs along the front of the church, looking in my direction as I approach, her phone in her hand, thinking, thinking. My cane ahead of me on the pavement between us, the tarmac cracked by tree roots, tip tap, skip skip. I adjust my sunglasses (blind man) and wave to her (sighted man), just being friendly, showing her I’ve seen her, showing her I can see her, that it's me, the man from the photos, the man with the blue eyes, in the flat cap, on the terrace, the man almost within speaking distance, the man feeling his cane snag on the cracked tarmac, the man thinking he should have told her, warned her, said something like Look, Daisy, I should tell you, or There's something you need to know, because surely, reasonably, it's not fair to show up to a first date swinging a cane, and some prior notice would have been appreciated to prepare for this, this awkwardness, this shame, this dark corner that's spreading, spreading, this tip tap, skip skip, fuck fuck I'm so out here Daisy, I'm so far out here if you only knew how far out I am, right here, now, with my cane by the church on the corner of Goose Green as she pushes herself off the wall and turns to face me and says Joe!



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