Carroll Young. Nobody knew her like I did.
We grew up at the same School for the Deaf and Blind. She was blind. I was deaf. I remember the first time I saw her. It was the fourth grade. She was new. Her handler had gone to the restroom. She was there in the hall, just standing. Her eyes going empty into nowhere. But she was beautiful. I was ten years old. Lust or love had nothing to do with it. She was radiant, with her hair down, the kind of beauty you feel when looking at a classical statue or a Rembrandt.
I walked quietly past her, being careful to keep my steps muffled but she heard me anyways, asking "Who's there?" I was taking speech classes, but I wasn't confident in my voice. And I didn't plan on taking 'em anymore. Despite this I understood her clearly, the words outlined on the shapes of her lips.
Her handler came in at that moment, smiling. Hello, she signed. This is Carrol. Then she spoke to Carroll, "This is Thomas. He's deaf." Carrol's hands quested outwards like a pair of pale doves. Her handler beckoned me closer, and raised Carrol's hands to my face. They fluttered over each valley and hill of my features, a smile blooming on her face.
Her hands crept down my neck, my shoulders, along my arms to my hands which she enfolded lightly. Her handler smiled at me and signed, Go on, talk to her. Reading my expression of confusion, Carrol's handler signed, She can understand you. She knows the alphabet. Turning my eyes to her warm hands I spelled H-E-L-L-O.
After we had talked for a few minutes, her handler apologetically interrupted us and said that Carrol had to go to class. "You can meet again later," she said. "Would you like that?" Carrol nodded, smiling. My closed fist mimicked the movement of her head in a quiet yet resounding YES.
I watched her go away. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Despite being in two entirely different worlds as delineated by our disabilities, we remained very close over the years. Carrol became fluent in sign language, and I took her to "see" the world outside the halls of our alma mater. We would go through hardships and moments of joy together, strengthened by our bond.
I visited Carrol last night. It did not end well. I told her I was leaving the country to backpack in Europe for an indeterminable period of time. I promised to write. What use were letters to the blind, she said. She always had a friend read her letters to her, but when she was angry like that, reason did not prevail. She wanted to come.
A single word sent her sobbing into the muffled confines of her pillow. We had been inseparable all these years, and I wanted to go and see the world... without having to describe everything. Shamed, I whispered good-bye with my deaf voice at her door and left the dormitory.
Little did I know I was never to see her again.