Last night I started reading InSight by Polly Iyer, and it kept me up way too late. Polly throws together a blind counselor and a deaf police officer. Abby Gallant, blinded by a vicious ex-husband, is a psychologist supposed to help Luke McAllister deal with issues over sudden, duty-related total loss of hearing. But the professional relationship is compromised when they develop an almost instant mutual attraction, and Abby refers Luke to another counselor. Meanwhile, it appears someone is stalking Abby.
Polly has done a terrific job capturing the world of the handicapped (Abby resents such pc terms as “hearing impaired” or visually challenged,” saying “I’m blind; you’re deaf.”) But we feel Luke struggle as he reads lips and Abby worry about whether or not she’s facing directly at him so he can read what she’s saying. Her house is arranged so that she knows her way around it, as she knows the way from her taxi to her office and to the restroom. We even watch her feeling for utensils and her food at the table—I’ve eaten often enough with a blind friend to know Polly got it just right. Helen Keller is supposed to have said once that of the two senses, the loss of hearing would be worse because it cuts you off from communication, music, all that ties us together as humans. As someone whose hearing is going, I understand and sympathize with that, but I think a world of blackness would terrify me.
No spoiler to stay that in an early scene Abby is tempted out of her well-known paths to the back of her large yard to rescue her whining seeing-eye dog. She makes her way over rough grass, finally holding onto the wooden fence until the reaches the dog that has been injured. Then the stalker appears—she can hear him approaching. There’s a scene of true stark terror when the villain chokes Abby before finally releasing her. She’s left in the dark, far from all that she uses to guide her, with an injured dog. I could feel her panic.
Thinking about the obstacles faced by these two fictional characters—who seem so real to me—I got to thinking about my anxiety problems. Lately I’ve felt my old friend anxiety hanging around—a knot in the center of my chest one night, an uneasy feeling yesterday morning (I think I was worried about President Obama’s safety)—sort of there but not really, nothing disastrous. And it all fell into perspective. I can see and, with hearing aids, I can hear. I am blessed, and I can deal with a bit of anxiety. Hey, it’s all in my head anyway, isn’t it?
If you haven’t read Polly Iyer’s books, explore them. They’re worth it.