Today I welcome my good friend Cheryl to the blog to talk with her beautiful boys from The Face In the Window about being blind and other cute things.
Take it away Cheryl!
There are those who can’t see, and those who don’t see, but we are all blind sometimes.
The Face in the Window is a story of two very different boys, trying to find their way and bring together two worlds that are as different as night and day.
Ace’s world is dark. Born blind, he’s learned to open his eyes in a different way and from the very start he is a stabilizing and calming influence on Haze.
Haze’s world is lonely, filled with the crushing pain of a long past event and the crippling fear of the uncontrollable outbursts of rage it left in its wake.
Ace struggles with a brother who is intent on making his life miserable in every way, and Haze struggles to control the rage that threatens whenever he does so.
Gradually, they learn about each other’s world and, as the two are brought together the boys head toward an explosive climax when they meet.
Let’s hear what the boys have to say in their own words about the journey that led from the first glimpse of the face in the window to the traumatic events that very nearly part them forever.
Cheryl: So, Ace, how do you do that thing where you turn to someone and look into their face? How do you know where their face is when you can’t see it?
Ace: I don’t know, it’s not something I’ve ever thought about. I suppose, it’s something to do with how they sound. I can’t do it if I can’t hear them. When someone speaks, I orient on their voice and look where I think the voice comes from. I picture the person’s face, if I know what they look like, otherwise it’s just looking into the dark like usual.
Cheryl: How can you know what someone looks like?
Ace: I see them through my fingers. If I touch your face I create a picture in my mind of what your face looks like and then I always see that picture when I hear your voice.
Haze: It’s truly amazing. He doesn’t think it’s anything special, but it’s almost uncanny how close he can get. He has amazing ears. He’s very particular about where we sit in a cinema or in his room, so we get to the best place possible to hear the sound. It all seems the same to me.
Ace: You’re a philistine when it comes to music anyway. The rubbish you like does sound the same wherever you sit. I’m going to give you an appreciation of the depth and nuances of classical music if it kills you.
Haze: They teach you a load of crap at that school.
Ace: They teach me how to kick your ass.
Haze: You wish.
Ace: Don’t make me have to do it again, here and now.
Haze: You wouldn’t want to destroy the image of sweet little angel would you?
Ace: That’s not the image I’ve ever had of myself. I’m quite happy for it to be destroyed. On your feet and prepare for a good old fashioned ass kicking
Haze: Easy ninja. Trust me, this is not the place for that kind of shenanigans
Ace: Okay, but you know I could, right?
Haze: You can do anything.
Ace: When you are with me I can.
Cheryl: Alright, guys, enough of the smooshy stuff. We get that Ace is pretty amazing, but I’ve been hearing good things about you too, Haze.
Haze: There’s nothing amazing about me.
Ace: Yes, there is. You saved me.
Haze: No I didn’t. You saved me
Ace: We saved each other.
Haze: No, seriously, you saved me. If you hadn’t recognised the sound of the waterfall I might never have been found and I was in no shape to get out of there on my own. I’d likely be dead.
Ace: No. You’d have found me if I hadn’t found you. I know it.
Cheryl: You sound so certain.
Ace: I am. We were meant to be together and that’s it.
Haze: Ace sees the world in very simple terms. It’s all black and white to him.
Ace: Actually, it’s all black. I’ve never really got my head round colours. I’ve never seen them, after all. I think in pictures but I don’t think they’re pictures you’d recognise.
Cheryl: That’s very interesting. I didn’t think about colours, or rather not being able to see them. I can’t imagine a world without colour.
Ace: I can’t imagine a world with colour. I see shapes and patterns, sometimes shadows and light.
Cheryl: You see patterns?
Ace: Yes. Actually, I see sounds. Mostly sharp sounds. When I listen to music I see a lot.
Cheryl: That’s fascinating. What does sound look like?
Ace: Depends on the sounds. Sharp sounds usually look sharp. Sweet sounds, softer, like bubbles or whorls. Sudden loud noises kind of explode out of the middle and sometimes loud and sharp make black and white squares.
Haze: He can be really weird sometimes.
Ace: So can you.
Cheryl: I hear you’re going to university next year. Have you enrolled at the same one?
Ace: Yes. It took some organisation but we got there in the end. My mother wanted me to go to the same university as my brother, Nick, so he could keep an eye on me, but they didn’t do the courses we both wanted, so it took some investigation and discussion. The university we’re going to has amazing facilities for blind students.
Haze: When we went to look around, they assigned Ace a girl who’s just like him, except not as beautiful, of course. *At this point Ace smiles coyly and snuggles up to him. It’s so cute* She’s in her third year and is absolutely amazing. She’s so bubbly and brilliant. She showed us around and had Ace using all kinds of hi tech stuff I couldn’t begin to understand. The blind students have so much going on I don’t know when he’ll find time to spend with me.
Ace: I’ll always find time to spend with you. Besides…. We’re going to be living together.
Cheryl: Okay, that look needs censoring, so I think this might be a good place to draw the interview to a conclusion.
I can tell you two are going to do just fine. Maybe one day you’ll come back and let us know how university works out for you. Somehow, I know you’ll have plenty of adventures to recount.
Ace is blind and Haze is damaged. They live in different worlds and not everyone is happy when they become boyfriends. Haze is struggling with the after effects of a traumatic event in his past that has left him at the mercy of an uncontrollable rage. When Ace’s brother steps up his campaign of torment against Ace, they’re all in danger from Haze’s outbursts, though it isn’t until things get completely out of control that the healing can really begin. But with Ace unseeing and Haze perched on the edge of a cliff, will either of them survive long enough to benefit?
Next we went to the phone shop and I started browsing the displays while Ace breathed in the sounds and scents.
A young salesman came shyly over. “Hi. I’m Shaun. I hope I’m not being presumptuous but I was wondering which one of you was looking for a phone.”
“That would be me,” said Ace orienting on Shaun. “Although it’s my friend who’s doing the looking for me.”
Shaun coloured slightly and became even shyer. Speaking directly to Ace he said, “We have a new phone which I think might be of interest to you. It’s just come in. It has special features which make it particularly suitable for people with impaired vision. Can I show it to you?”
“Absolutely,” Ace said, clearly excited as hell. His excitement was infectious and Shaun was lit up as he showed him the phone. Right from the offset he put the phone in Ace’s hand and guided his fingers over the keys.
“It’s no bigger than some of the other phones we carry and the only obvious difference is that the screen is absent, which allows the buttons to be larger. It is very durable and can be thrown at a wall, dropped in water, even stepped on without damage.
“From your point of view the most significant feature is that it’s entirely voice activated. We’ll teach it to recognise your voice and you can dial, disconnect, check the time, set alarms, in fact use all the normal features including texting, by touching a button and speaking.
“When you touch a button, it will tell you what you’ve pressed and what options you have opened. After that it’s all voice. Let me show you.”
He gently took the phone out of Ace’s hand and pressed a button. A surprisingly gentle, although clearly electronic voice said, “You have accessed the menu for alarms, applications, calendar, tasks, notes, timer, stopwatch, calculator, and menu.”
Shaun said, slowly and clearly, “Calendar.”
“To set an appointment,” said the voice, “please say ‘set’, to check an appointment already entered, please say ‘check’, to add a note, please say ‘note’, to set a task, please say ‘task’.”
“Set,” Shaun said.
“Please state the date on which you wish the appointment to be entered into the calendar.”
“Twenty-sixth of June two thousand and ten.”
“That’s the twenty-sixth of June two thousand and ten.”
“At what time does the appointment commence?”
“At what time does the appointment end?”
“Would you like a warning?”
“Of how much?”
“Would you like to add a note?”
The voice read back all the details and then said, “If all details are correct, please say ‘close’, to change any of the details please say ‘change’.”
“Close. Lock,” Shaun said and smiled at the awed expression on Ace’s face. “That’s in tutorial mode. Once you’re used to it you can turn that mode off and you won’t get all the prompts just the check back at the end.”
Shaun then proceeded to take Ace through a few more applications but I could already see that the phone was about to be his.
“How much is it?” I asked eventually.
“£350. But if you take out a twelve month contract it’s only £100.”
We haggled slightly and finally settled on a tariff and filled out the paperwork. Ace was bored by this but was more than content playing with the phone, running his fingers over it, feeling the smoothness of its glossy black surface. It was a way cool phone.
When we were done Shaun set up Ace’s phone and had him to speak into it a few times until it recognised his voice and then to practice some of the applications. In the middle of it all a loud buzzing sound came from the phone getting progressively louder.
“What’s that?” Ace asked, alarmed.
“It’s the warning, remember we set it earlier?”
“Wow. It must be eleven o’clock then, yeah?”
“Absolutely right. You have a good memory.”
Ace grinned happily. “What about all the numbers I’ve saved?”
“If you want to give me your old phone, I’ll transfer them all over for you.”
When Ace handed him the Disney phone, his eyes widened.
“Cruel brothers who pick out his stuff knowing he can’t see how hideous it is,” I explained, surprised by how much the words stung.
Shaun nodded. “Would you like me to recycle that for you? We have a £25 gift voucher available if you do.”
“Hell yeah. Never mind the gift voucher just get rid of that hideous monstrosity.”
Shaun spent no time at all transferring all of Ace’s numbers onto the new phone and showing him how to access them.
Ace would have been happy sitting outside the shop playing with his phone all day but I had a whole different agenda.
Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.
Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.
In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and her two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. The part of her that needs to earn money is a lawyer, but the deepest, and most important part of her is a storyteller and artist, and always will be.