i thought he was on drugs but turns out he’s just blind

Back when I was working at Cheesecake Factory I was helping wash dishes one night when some bussers started singing “Besame Mucho” as a chorus, got it stuck in my head, and so that night, driving home, I listened to a video of Andrea Bocelli singing it, live, which only dug the song deeper in my head, and inculcated this Pavlovian link between it and my encounters with bussers, so now (i.e. back then), night after night (sometimes during the day), I’m listening to this fucking video on my way home from work, thinking about the bussers flinging water and bellowing, and then it haunts me while I’m back at the restaurant, and I don’t know Spanish too well so I’m like murmuring phonetic renditions while wiping up the many cases of didn’t-quite-reach-the-bowl diarrhea that blight patrons daily.

Anyway. Eventually the song/video falls outta my life and then a couple days ago, for no particular reason, I watch it again and find that, having seen and heard it so many times last year, literally every beat of it is familiar. I’m anticipating every note. Even, to my surprise, Bocelli’s body language as he sings. Distracted, ethereal, a heavy-lidded downward gaze that seems disinterested and floaty. Perpetual grin.

Next day at work I say to Pavel, “Have you ever seen Andrea Bocelli in concert?”

He shakes his head. “Why?”

“It’s weird. He kinda does this…” I get up from my desk and do the thing.

Pavel winces. “Well yeah, he’s blind.”

I stop mocking the blind man. “No he’s not.” (Why is my immediate reaction to refute the now-readily apparent thing?)

“Yeah,” says Pavel, “he is.”

I go back to my desk and look up photos of Andrea Bocelli. I’m indignant. “Andrea Bocelli is not blind.

Andrea Bocelli is conspicuously blind.

“How did I not see this?”

Pavel’s dour. “Is that another joke?”

So now I’m on this kick of watching Bocelli’s videos and listening to his albums and I’m focusing on em with like a magnifying glass held up to my mind’s eye, trying hard to appreciate his work more than I have in the past, feeling a kind of heart-twist to look at this hugely talented dude and know that he can’t see the beauty of his outdoor stage and setup, can’t see the masses that’ve turned out in blackties and pearls to hear him on a cold night. The faces of those who accompany him on stage. It’s a meta-appreciation, I guess, and one that Bocelli himself might not appreciate cuz what I’m mostly focusing on is how the disability adds some beautiful tragic gloss to his talent, rather than just appreciating the simple power of the talent.

Also I’m thinking of that Montaigne essay — I hope I’m remembering it correctly — where he’s talking about what it’d be like if you had to choose between being deaf or being blind. He says that, as a young writer, he thought of going blind as a fate worse than death. Woulda rather lost his hearing. But now, as an old man, he realizes that the greatest joy in his life has always been conversation and that, if he had to choose now between his eyes and ears, he’d choose his ears. No hesitation. Prompts us to imagine the loneliness of a life where we’ve been only temporarily privy to, and then eternally stripped of, a companion’s voice.

I’m also wondering how much of this appreciation is rooted in guilt about having stood up in front of my colleagues and inadvertently mocked a blind man.

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