Barbara's story

by Bobby Laurel

Note.
I decided to use names of real towns in the Czech Republic a small country in the central Europe. Do not worry about the pronunciation; enjoy the exotic names instead.

In the autumn I was tired of the relationship with Jim. Although the first year after we had met he seemed to be the best guy in the world for me, although the second year everything was still going on well, the third year I realized he was not the right man. I got sick of his bodybuilding training, the strongish way he spoke, his friends, and his instructions that I should wear contact lenses instead of my glasses.

Jim was a man of perfection. He wanted both himself and me to be nice, fashionable, reading the bestsellers, watching the newest movies, being able to chat about soccer and playing squash. I go tired of contact lenses, American bestsellers, Hollywood films and his successful friends and their blond girlfriends. I packed clothes, my books, my make-up case and all my glasses and called a taxi. A former schoolmate of mine helped me survive first week, and then I moved to a small flat at a suburb.

I needed a rest and a new start. After I managed to make the flat look just like I wanted my new home should look like I took two weeks off from my job. My boss was very susceptive. He told me he could see I was rather tired and confused, and told me to go for two weeks instead of one. I did not know where I would go, but I did know I needed to spend some time on my own somewhere else, without too many people.

I packed put on my travelling glasses with plastic frames and plastic myodiscs, took my big long brown skirt and a huge sweater I loved. Jim hated both of them. I bought a ticket for a bus that was going to leave the main station in ten minutes. I asked for a ticket to the last station of the line without knowing where it really was. The woman at the counter looked at me, obviously unsure if I was serious, but then she passed me the piece of paper without asking. The destination on the ticket read Rychnov nad Kneznou. I had never been there.

When I get on the bus I found my seat, put my glasses into a pocket of my skirt and tried to sleep. After three hours I was in the small town. What I was going to do there? The station was full of people, people I wanted to get rid off for the whole week. So I bough another ticket for the first bus leaving the station that day and for its last station again. I was told the last station is Neratov. I had not heard the name before.

Neratov appeared after another hour. Wooded mountains rose above tiny houses overspread along the narrow road. Just behind a creek I could see a pole with a plate. The plate read in four languages: State border. Polish Republic. No admittance without your passport. The road ended in the village. There was no custom office, no big hotel, no cable way, no large parking lot and no people in the street. I was the only passenger. Gee, it was really the end of the world.

The only small hotel had a big signboard. U labute. What a nice name! I asked for a room. The guy in the reception looked at me as if I had landed with UFO in the middle of his garden. They probably did not have many guests in cold rainy autumns.

The room was clean and tidy. It had one small window overlooking a large meadow with some trees that already lost their leaves and were waiting for the winter. I was alone. I unpacked my stuff, and put my small bag with my spare pairs of glasses on the table. I opened the cases with my glasses. Jim hated my glasses. He kept making me wearing contact lenses.

According his point of view glasses were something bad, glasses were for stupid intellectuals, and glasses were definitely not for women. Oh, how many times he tried to make me have a laser surgery done! I always resisted. I would never go to the hospital to have my eyes operated. I liked my glasses - all of them. They were fashionable, they were nice, and they made me special.

He never understood that. At the beginning he even could not comprehend I cannot see without them. I have minus 12 diopters, so I think anybody should understand the simple fact I need to wear them full time. Jim was different. He wanted me to go without glasses. So I wore glasses when I was not with him, but as soon as we were together whether at home our in the town I put contacts in. After three years I was really sick of it.

But the moment I was sitting at the table in the small hotel room Jim was not there. I hoped he had disappeared from my life forever. I did not want to see any men suitable for me for two weeks. No men, please, no soccer, no TV, and no contact lenses, never more. I took the newest pair. In a plastic frame dark myodisc lenses were set.

I caressed the bowl and the carrier. I liked them. I knew it was a good day for the myodiscs. I carefully cleaned them and put them on. It felt good. I had new glasses and new life. I had a week off in a small hotel were probably no-one wanted to stay during this rainy season. And more I had time to think and read, to walk in the woods, to sit at a table in the small restaurant with a cup of hot coffee with thick cream. And sugar! No more the stupid saccharine! Jim, poor Jim, I will never be the tall slim girl fond of sports. I was really angry on him and the male breed.

Since it was noon I went down to have something to eat. The guy in the restaurant looked at me again with a strange face, his eyes stopped at my glasses, and told me they have only one kind of soup and three kinds of hot meal, because they did not have many guests. It did not matter to me at all. I sat at the table and wait for the soup. The first day of my very special vacations was about to begin. In the afternoon I made my first walk and after dinner I slipped into the bed and started to read a book. Everything seemed to be all right. No men except for the country receptionist-waiter, nothing to do, no crowds, no cars, that was exactly what I needed.

The second day I discovered I was not the only guest of the hotel. As I was walking in the village I found an old ruined church on the top of a small hill. The walls towered above me as I was walking round the old building. There was no roof, no ceiling, no glass in windows, no floor. The whole spot had very mysterious atmosphere. The ruin stood on a small hill overlooking the village. I could see the bus stop, some houses and the hotel.

Suddenly a window next to the window of my room opened. Somebody was standing in the dark room. I could recognize only pale spot that was the face and the silhouette. So I was not as alone as I thought. I spend about two hours near the ruined church, because the melancholic mood of the place fascinated me, and then I set off to get to the hotel for dinner.

When I came into the restaurant I noticed a young man sitting at a table near the window typing on portable computer. There was a cup of coffee and an ashtray full of cigarette stubs on the table, one burning cigarette was in his mouth, and his fingers were running over the keyboard. He did not notice me. He did not look like a person that was going to disturb my vacations. I chose a table in the opposite corner and asked for the menu.

When the waiter came back with my meal the young man rose his head, pushed his glasses up the nose and gave me a absent look. I could see he did not really saw me. He was thinking about some problem he was solving. While I was having my dinner he drank some more cups of coffee and smoked probably ten more cigarettes. I noticed he was not using a lighter, but he lit one cigarette by the other and kept typing and typing as if he wanted to break the keyboard.
I changed my glasses before I went into the restaurant since it was rather dark already so I was wearing my clear hi-indexes. They look thinner than the regular lenses and much thinner than plastic lenses. In fact I did not like them too much, but I did not feel like having the other plastic frames with thick plastic lenses. The waiter may have given me his strange look again so the hi-index lenses were my choice for the evening. I wanted to wear the plastic CR39 the next day. I hoped he would get used to my spexy look step by step.

Glasses were always very important in my life. Not only I need them to see well, but also I like them. Believe me or not, I like glasses, I like how I look in my glasses and I am often very attracted to people who wear glasses - especially to those who wear strong glasses. I remember that when I was a small girl just before I started to attend school I wanted to have glasses really badly.

I got my first glasses very soon and was very happy to have them. Some kids at school had glasses too, but most of them used them only to see the blackboard and in the afternoon when they were playing did not wear them. Some girls wanted to hide their nearsightedness as long as possible. It was not my case. In spite of the fact I had only 0.75 D I wore them full time since the first day I got them. I was happy. I had glasses.

As the time went on I was prescribed more and more diopters. My eyes were shortsighted and got worse as I was growing. The other girls at school, who also had glasses, were unhappy when they were told that they had to wear glasses full time. But I was happy anytime I got a new pair of glasses or new lenses. I never asked myself why I like glasses so much. This was a part of myself and the glasses were almost a part of my body.

When I was a student, a boy asked me if my glasses bother me. I had about 7 diopters that time and he thought my glasses were very strong. He could not understand when I told him they did not bother me at all. Maybe it was that day when I realized I am rather different. While most people around tried to avoid wearing glasses, I longed for more diopters. As I knew nobody would understand that, I did not tell anybody about this craving.

I visited my eye doc once a year and anytime I was leaving her consulting room I had a new prescription. I even simulated I could not see the lines that were quite clear to get more diopters. I love glasses. So what?

The third evening, I did not feel like reading. I decided to go down and have some wine. I love red wine especially Hungarian wine. I sat at the bar and ordered the best wine they had. It was not the Hungarian Bikaver I really wanted, but it was quite good. So I was sitting and thinking about the change in my life. I liked the quiet hotel and the weird small village with ruined church.

When I was having the second glass of wine, the young man who also stayed at the hotel came to the bar to buy cigarettes and a glass of beer. I turned my head. He had long black hair bound up into a thick ponytail, big nose thin even lips and glasses. Thick glasses! Oh my God, they were really thick! I could see the edges of the lenses protruding from the frames. As I was experienced in the issue so I could estimate he had about minus 9 or 10 diopters. They were obviously plastic CR39 lenses.

I looked at the waiter. He was frowning as he was handing him the box of cigarettes. We were unexpected guests who came in the time when he probably wanted to enjoy dead season before the invasion of skiers in winter. I took a sip of wine. The young man looked at me, his hand bringing a cigarette towards his lips stopped, and he smiled.

"Good evening." he said. He had a quiet baritone voice. "Good evening." I replied and looked at my glass of wine. He murmured something and left.

The fourth evening the scene repeated. Frowning waiter in the empty restaurant, my glass of wine, young man buying his cigarettes and a glass of beer. I could see his glasses again. Strange, although I had decided not to look at a male again this man attracted me. No, not the man, his glasses only I said to myself. Barbara stop! No men!

The fifth day I visited the church again. As I was walking I could smell some smoke. Then I turned round a beaten-up corner of the wall and there he was. He was sitting in a window of the tower.

"Good afternoon." "Good afternoon." After a minute of silence he spoke up again: "You are staying at the hotel, aren't you?" "Yes." I said briefly hesitating if I really wanted to start a conversation with him.

He was silent for a while and then, pushing his glasses up the nose with index-finger, he said: "So, I am not the only one who is hiding here from the other people." I smiled, because he expressed exactly what I felt. "Do you have a nice view?" "Yes." He did not invited me to join his lookout nor told me how to get there, so I slowly left.

That evening the scene at the bar changed. He bought his cigarettes and beer, smiled at me said hello, and left. As I saw him leaving, I suddenly realized I wanted him to stay in the bar. But he may have been thinking about his computer and the work he had to do.
After a while the barman broke the silence. "He comes every year in October." "Really?" "Ehm," muttered the barman, "one more glass of wine?"
I looked at my glass. It was empty. I must have drunk the rest of the wine - but when? I could not remember. After he filled another glass with the red Frankovka wine, a lady came form the kitchen looked at me and said:

"He always comes in autumn, he always types on his laptop, he always smokes a lot, and he is always alone." Always - I was thinking about the word she used four times in one sentence. The barman apparently did not understand his regular autumn guest. Who was he? I started to be curious. I wanted to ask the barman, but he looked so sulky, that I gave up.

But the lady may have felt what I was thinking about. After a while she took the phone, dialed one number and asked: "One more beer, sir? ... Shall I bring it to you? ... Would you like to have a rest and have the beer here? You room must be full of smoke again. If you come down, I will air your room."

I looked at her. She was enticing him to the bar. Was it because of me? Was she thinking I was lonely? I started shaking. And he came. He sat at the bar beside me, stretched, heaved a sigh of relief and smiled at me. He had a charming boyish smile. I knew I got hooked. He was waiting for his glass of beer cleaning his glasses. I felt like cleaning them for him, I felt like touching the thick lenses. But I knew he would not understand; I knew he would think I am weird. So I kept silent.

He was the one who broke the silence. He explained he kept coming to the village every year to spend some time in the quiet hotel working. I asked him what he was typing and when the answer came I got hooked more. He was typing short stories.
He waved the barmaid, she was not probably merely a barmaid, she must have been the wife of the owner, because there was not any other personnel in the hotel, and ordered a bottle of red wine for both of us and leaving his half full glass of beer he invited me to a table in a corner near a big fireplace. The lady at the bar smiled at me with all-knowing, almost conspirational smile. It looked as if I was not going to enjoy my loneliness for a long time.

I did not protest. As I was sitting at the table with him, talking, I discovered we liked similar music, we read the same books and admired the same painters, sculptors and film directors. The time went on and he kept talking and talking. After two hour I stopped him.

"Don't you want to know more about me? You speak so much about books and movies, paintings and everything, but I still do not know your name and you do not know mine. You did not get to know almost anything about me, but you speak as if we knew each other for years!" He burst out laughing. Then in one single second he was deadly serious, his voice changed:

"Dear young lady," he said. "You are so mysterious, so charming, so pretty, that I can't help trying to persuade you that you must fall in love with me." He smiled bashfully and continued: "I am very sorry if I spoke too much, I apologize if I was mistaken, you probably, you see ... ahem ..., I don't know, but you probably want to ..."

"Stop!" I said. He looked up, confused. "Give me your hand." I took his hand with those long fingers firmly into mine. I looked into his eyes, which were so small behind those fantastic glasses, caressed his palm gently, and I said: "No more words, please."

x - x - x - x - x

I woke up very early next morning. The window was open and the fresh air smelled good. I looked beside me. There he was, lying in the same bed, sleeping. I was thinking about the last night.

After I had stopped the avalanche of the words he was telling and took his hand we were quiet for a long time. I was looking into his eyes. It was a beautiful moment. The words were useless. We knew what had happened. I felt his hand. I felt as if electricity flew from him to me and from me to him. I have never experienced such strong excitement holding somebody's hand. Both of us what was going to happen. We went upstairs to his room ...

The very morning I put my glasses on my nose to watch him sleeping. 

This tall tough guy with loud and rough voice, who smoked so much and who drank half-liter glasses of beer in one stroke was making love with me last night. He was gentle. I have never made love with a man who was so gentle to me. I knew I discovered his secret. There was a tender soul and a good heart hidden behind the rough appearance. For the first site he may look as if he was ready to hit anybody who might make him angry anytime, but it must have been only a kind of camouflage. In truth he was as helpless and vulnerable as anybody else was, and beyond, I was sure he was even more vulnerable because of his glasses. I picked the glasses from the nightstand. The lenses were thick and strong. I liked the spex. I realized again how bad his eyes were as I was looking at his glasses and him. He could not see much better than me. My eyes are very bad. I am almost helpless without my glasses and I knew he must have been in a similar condition. The thought turned me on. I touched his arm, I caressed his hand, I kissed his cheek, but he kept sleeping deeply. 

I did not know what he had been typing on his computer the days before, but I was sure it was neither a horror nor a detective story. I was sure I would soon get to know. I looked around. The room was one big mess. Trousers, T-shirts, socks, papers, books and cables were one the floor, on both chairs, and on the table. Empty cigarette boxes were everywhere. My dear new unknown gentle lover, you are probably a sloven, I thought. I still did not know his name, but I already knew he loved hot meals, beer, cheap cigarettes, hard rock'n'roll music, he read a lot of books. He spoke a lot the day before. He spoke about himself, marijuana legalization, Middle East problems, environment, and many other things. When speaking, he was like a waterfall. His speech also seemed to be one big mess. However I also knew something he had not told me. Something he had wanted to hide from me and probably from the rest of the word by the avalanche of his words: He was lonely, gentle, and vulnerable. Plus, which was very important for me, he was very shortsighted.

I always liked men with glasses. They attracted me. I didn't know why, I had never thought about it much nor tried to analyze that. So it was. Anytime I met a handsome man with glasses I wanted to get to know him. However, there were not many men in my life. I was born with inherited myopia. I got my first specs when I was a little girl. You know how it is: Boys do not make passes at girls with glasses. During my teenage years, my eyes got worse a lot. I always had the strongest glasses in the class. But I did not suffer from wearing them. I liked my glasses. Not only because they helped me see well, but also because I liked how I looked with them on. But the boys at school seemed not to know that the glasses suited me. 

In fact I really enjoyed wearing glasses. Once a boyfriend of mine wanted me to wear contacts instead of "those coke bottles". I broke up with him. I did not like being criticized because of my glasses. There is an English proverb: Love me, love my dog. So if a boy wanted to go out with me he had to accept the fact I wore strong glasses. Unfortunately there were not many boys like that.

Well, glasses were a kind of obsession for me when I entered my teenage years. I kept asking my mom for money to buy a new frame once a year at least. As the time went on, I had quite a collection! When I was about sixteen I even simulated I could not see the lines on the chart when I was at the doctor's. I never understood my urge to wear stronger glasses than I was prescribed, but so it was. For me, the thickness and the strength had some strange connection with the attractiveness of a person. Glasses were an erotic object for me. I liked how my thick lenses looked like and I liked men wearing glasses with thick lenses.

Now one of them was lying beside me. I felt as if a dream of mine came true. Suddenly I needed to touch him. I needed to curl beside him. I needed to hold his hand. I put off my glasses, placing them carefully on the nightstand and embraced my new lover.

The last thought I had was that I had come to this small village to get rid of one guy and found another one. How odd...

I did not know how long I was sleeping, but when I woke up again I could see my new long-haired lover watching me. 

I smiled and he said: "Good morning, honey."

"Good morning. How long have you been watching me?"

"Quite a long time." he said.

"Why?"

"Because you are beautiful."

He touched my face with his long fingers. It felt good. So good.

Our faces were very close so I could see him quite well. He was smiling. His smile was almost shy. I started to feel like making love again so I bit his neck. His reaction was pretty fast. He was ready. Oh my God, how ready he was!

When we came downstairs to the restaurant the bartender muttered something and his wife brought us breakfast. When she was putting the last thing on the table our eyes met. She winked at me conspiratorially. I knew she knew.

After we had finished our breakfast - I did not eat much but my new companion devoured really unbelievable amount of food - we went for a walk. When we were sitting in front of the old ruined church I finally asked him what his name was.

"Bobby" he said simply, "And what is yours?" He leaned towards me so close, that as soon as I said: "Barbara", our lips met. 

I left my eyes open and watched his closed eyes through his and mine lenses. I asked myself how many diopters the total of our lenses made. I wanted to ask him how many diopters he had, but I could not because he kept kissing me. I was afraid I would never be able to tell him how important it was for me that he wore glasses. I was afraid he would not understand my strange feelings about lens thickness and the contrast between warm human face and cold glass.

The following days we spent making love every day, drinking wine in the restaurant every evening and sleeping in his room. He slept a lot, even during a day. I thought he was a good sleeper, but one day I woke up in the middle of night to find him sitting at the table typing on his computer. When I asked him what he was doing he just put his finger in front of his lips and made a shushing noise to me. I did not want to disturb him so I lay in bed watching him. The light danced on the flat front of his lenses as he was moving his head. If only he made love with me leaving his specs on, I thought.

The time ran fast. Before I realized that, the end of the week came. It was an exceptional week. Bobby kept working, typing on his computer, searching in papers, and smoking a lot of cigarettes. We went for long walks, had rich dinners in the hotel restaurant, and made love every day. 

I wanted to know what Bobby was typing on his computer, what the text was about, but he said that it was just a boring topic. He obviously did not want to talk about it. I did not know if I could ask again or more, so I tried to find out myself. One day when he was downstairs in the restaurant, I looked at the papers and moved the mouse to see the text in the word processor window. You can hardly imagine my surprise when I was staring at the screen not able to read nor understand a single word. I have never seen a text in the language. All people, who live in the central Europe, which a part of the old continent that is most crowded with many small nations, can speak at least two of the local languages. Most of them can recognize many others although they do not understand. Czech and Slovak are full of funny diacritical signs, German is generally known, Polish has her "sz", "cz", "rz", "dz" combinations and a lot of "w", while Hungarian is full of strange long words with "yi", "gyo", "ss" "cs" groups and those typical "os" endings. I thought I might recognize all Slavonic languages - including those using Cyrillic - by the look of the text, and most of the western languages that use Latin alphabet, but I totally failed trying to read the texts on Bobby's table. I put my glasses off and cleaned the lenses carefully. No change, my glasses were OK. The only words I could understand were handwritten notices at the edge of some papers: "Rewrite this shit!!!" "Out?" "See pg 25." and "Call Meno Blum on Friday." Strangely enough they were not in Czech but in English. So, my attempt of a little espionage brought out more questions than answers.

When we were together he spoke a lot. He was telling me some stories that happened "many years ago" or to "a friend of mine" the way I thought he always added something to a real story to make it more entertaining. He was asking a lot of questions and listened to me, nodding his head, his glasses flashing a lot of reflections. I like that and kept speaking about my childhood and the school years, my friends and family. He was a good listener. It helped me when I decided to speak about my recent breakup. I told him almost whole of the story, although I was not able to speak about the problems when Jim kept making me wear contact lenses instead of my glasses. What's wrong, I thought, he wears glasses as well, he might understand. But there was a kind of block in my mind. The more I thought about his glasses and about making love with our glasses on, the less I was able to start the topic. My mouth got locked anytime I started thinking about eyes, glasses, lenses, or our nearsightedness.

Then the Sunday came. The two-week vacations were over. I had to go back to the town and to my work. When we get to Prague, we kissed each other good-bye. I gave him my phone number full name and my address and he gave me his mobile phone number. I expected he would give me his address as well, but he did not do that. He drove me home and helped me with my bag. I was still waiting. Suddenly I realized he may not have wanted me to know where he lived. He might have had a family, a wife, or even kids. Although he spoke a lot about his thoughts he never mentioned his home, parents, or family. I felt strange and rather apprehensive. Will he ever call me? The moment I realized I knew little about him. He managed to keep his private life secret.

When I turned back at the door he and his car were gone.

End of part 2

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