On Learning to Trust at 38

I remember the first time I understood trusting people was my job. The knowledge came late. I was thirty eight years old. That’s how it is when you’re disabled. Songs come when they come. As a kid I played folk guitar and sang “It takes a worried man to sing a worried song…” Even at 11 I knew it was my tune. G and C chords and my squeaky voice. The blind kid bullied on the playground, was singing alone in his room…No, trust wasn’t high on my list. In high school I’d read Flannery O’Connor’s story “Good Country People” where a traveling salesman seduces a crippled girl and steals her wooden leg. I thought the whole world worked that way. And that was not a form of naivety—disability puts you in the way of lots of crappy people. The graduate school professor who said you shouldn’t be in his class because you couldn’t see; the HR director who said they don’t need to help you with an accommodation in the work place. “It takes a worried man…” And then suddenly, trusting people was a new assignment, like planting, let’s see if we can grow asparagus on a mountain top. Let’s see if we can be somebody different.

That was what my decision to get a guide dog was about. I was at a school where dogs and people were working in the trust garden. “So this is the trust place,” I said half aloud. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. I think the premise was Hemingway’s. I got to laughing. My “Death in the Afternoon” heroic manly man moment was upon me and it didn’t involve bull fighting. It was just a matter of belief. Grow some fucking asparagus. Decide to be different. “People can do that,” I thought. Just decide.

Tomorrow I would get a guide dog. I was about to learn its name.