You think maybe it will help break a bit of the tension if you say yes. You’ve read on a recent forum for low vision people that allowing someone to do you a favor is a sign of strength, not weakness. This girl is not your ex, after all.
She begins on the appetizer page, going through each item slowly, looking up at you after each to see if you’re interested. Her voice is kind, concerned.
A bit like an elementary teacher reading to a student, checking for understanding. And you do feel like a child, shaking your head at everything, because nothing she’s read so far sounds good, though you realize you should just pick something, or this will go on, and on, and on.
Soon, you’re not even really hearing the words, and you just say, “Yes, sure, that one.”
She repeats the item.
“Yes,” you say. Then, “Thank you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I know that was asking a lot. So thank you.”
“No problem,” she says. “I actually really like reading aloud. It’s kind of like performing. I always wanted to be in the plays in my high school, but I was too shy.”
“Me too,” you say.
“So you get it.” She smiles. “But just reading, I can do. I was in this group in college that used to do community outreach kind of stuff, and we went to a nursing home and read like Charles Dickens, that kind of thing, and I’d get super into it, do different voices for the characters. And Dolly — she was one of the ladies there — used to tell me I had an NPR voice.” She paused, did a funny sort of gasp. “Not that this is anything like that, of course.”
But that’s exactly what it is. You wonder if she’s imagining a relationship with you as one long task that will earn her some sort of badge, like in girl scouts. Distinguished Helping of Disabled Girl. You imagine yourself in a rocking chair in your living room, covered in a crocheted blanket, teetering back and forth and humming absently while the girl reads to you from a newspaper, and you saying, “Thank you, dearie. That’s so nice.”
You don’t say any of this. “Dolly sounds like a trip,” you say. “And you do have a nice voice.”
“Thanks,” she says, and nothing else, as if expecting you to steer the conversation from here. Steer it anywhere else, somewhere comfortable and safe for you both. You want to, you really do, but you can feel yourself transforming into Dolly under her eyes, feel yourself growing feeble, needy, distinctly unsexy. You have to say something very witty, very interesting and young and independent and cool.