Robert never felt like he was at a disadvantage. No matter how people treated him or what they said, he shrugged it off. How was he supposed to know what he was missing if he never had the opportunity to see it? Being blind was something that affected about 39 million people in the world. If they could get by, so could he.
Growing up wasn’t so hard. He did almost the same things as other kids, besides of course being physically active in the sports field. His favorite activity though, was flying kites. It didn’t matter what it looked like or if it had a design. It could have been made for a girl and it would have meant nothing to him.
It was a spring day and at 10 years old, he was sitting outside reading and enjoying the breeze when his dad came out to ask if he wanted to fly a kite. Being limited to a lot of other things, Robert said yes to whatever was presented to him, especially if it was something he had never done before.
In the middle of the park, he could feel the open space, smell the fresh cut grass, feel the breeze through his hair, over his skin and in his hands he could feel the pulling of the kite. “What color is it, dad?” The kite was a bright orange, “so people all over the neighborhood can see it and know we’re here. Maybe they’ll come join us.”
It was those simple pleasures in life he enjoyed. He didn’t ask for much because of his ability to withstand being alone and revere in those moments. Sometimes, though, he wished he was Daredevil because even blind kids had superhero idols. He read the comic books in braille using his imagination for all of it. He was convinced that his version of the superhero was 10 times better than what the rest of the kids saw.
At 12, he got a seeing eye dog, Charlie. He loved Charlie with all he had. They did everything together, even flew the bright orange kite. With Charlie, he was able to be a little more independent– allowed to go to the park alone to fly the kite with a few friends. Charlie went everywhere with Robert and he talked to her all the time, as if she were a person.
When Charlie turned 12, she started to lose her hearing. Robert’s parents thought that he would be devastated. “It is what it is,” said Robert. “I’m not going to stop loving her or even talking to her. She knows me. She feels me. She’s my girl.”
Robert was now 23 and looking for a job. Charlie was now fully deaf, but still lead him where he needed to go. Instead of talking to her, he always placed his hands on her. He felt closer to her that way.
Recently, he had itched to travel. Maybe it was his procrastination from looking for an actual 9-5.
“Where are you going to go?” said his best friend Jaime. “What are you going to do? You know, you are blind, so it’s not like you can go see the Wonders of the World or anything.” Jaime chugged the coke he was drinking with his Jimmy John’s Gargantuan. He had a way with words.
“You’re funny,” said Robert, petting Charlie who was leaning between his legs. “I don’t know where I want to go, but it has to be some place I feel.”
Jaime laughed. “You can feel everything, anywhere. You have to go someplace that has good food! Like China or Tokyo.” Jaime also liked to eat.
“What if I went someplace like the Saharan Desert? I mean, if I wanted to visit even a piece of it, I could go to Egypt, Algeria, Libya. Those countries would be amazing to visit,” said Robert.
“Really? Egypt? Isn’t it like, falling apart?”
“Don’t be ignorant, Jaime. That was like 10 years ago.”
The thought of traveling seemed even more adventurous for obvious reasons, but the fact that he had never been out of the country irked him quite a bit. Nothing else had ever limited his ability to do things, not even his blindness and it wasn’t going to get in his way now.
Later in the week, Robert decided to do a little research on flights and countries. For some reason, the desert countries called out to him and he decided to scout those out first. Charlie was also getting old and taking her on a trip to a foreign country that didn’t chow down on pups was ideal for him.
That night, he called his mom. “I’m going on a trip overseas, mom. I’ve decided.”
“Oh yeah, Rob? Where are you going to go?” She never limited his abilities even in theory.
“Well, I’m looking that up right now and am checking out the best places I’d be able to take Charlie…”