Wispy phantasms of red, that's what he noticed first. When he was talking to someone, he'd notice a little glimmer of red, then it would fade.
At first he thought it was another of those false color experiences he had been having for years, where stars or flashes or funny patterns would appear in his vision. But as the doctors explained, that was all in his own head, his brain playing tricks on him. For while Ken had gone totally blind at age 4, there were still parts of his brain devoted to vision. They didn't get any of the signals they needed from his eyes for real sight, but they still yawned and stretched from time to time to produce visual sensations.
But this was different. He never saw it when he was alone, only when there was another person. It was the right distance away to be coming from the person's body. He noticed it most clearly in class. Mr. North had a tendency to pace as he lectured, and sometimes Ken saw that barely visible red wisp gliding to the left, matching the distance and direction of Mr. North himself. It came from the level of his hips.
As the weeks went by he saw the red glimmer more and more often. It became more than a glimmer, then Ken realized that it had a shape. There were two separate little circles. Ken began to suspect he was seeing an outline of Mr. North's balls! He had considered mentioning these red wispy visions to his doctor, but had hesitated because it seemed so unlikely that they came from outside of his skull. When he suspected he was seeing right through Mr. North's pants and underpants, it shifted from the unlikely to the seemingly impossible. He knew X-ray vision didn't exist. What's more, he would be the butt of endless jokes if he claimed to be seeing the teacher's balls. They'd say his surging hormones were making him see things -- and without doubt they'd all think he was gay!
It wasn't just Mr. North. He saw nothing when looking at women. But the red he saw between every man's legs resolved itself into a pair of red circles. At first he saw nothing when he looked between his own legs. But Jeff was an older boy whose voice had deepened recently. He lived in the double next door, and Ken saw his balls too -- right through the wall, sometimes.
Ken had just turned 13 and noticed some changes in himself. Whenever one of the older girls spoke, he felt a tingle of something different. When she giggled he sometimes felt a surge of tenderness for her. He had a heightened sense of smell like most blind people and often got subtle odors from others. Now he realized that girls smelled exciting sometimes.
When looking at the newly fascinating girls, sometimes he thought he saw wisps of green from hip height, but they were too fleeting for him to be sure.
Then one morning in bed Ken saw that his own balls had a faint red tinge to them. He wished he had paid closer attention in the "Growing and Changing" part of the health course they had all been given back when he was 11. Now he found himself listening with headphones to the Wikipedia entries on "puberty" and "testicles" and "penis". It said nothing about seeing red with your eyes closed. He got erections more often, and now he fingered his balls in wonder, watching the dim redness roll around in his fingers.
Mirrors naturally didn't play a very large role in his life as a blind boy, but the bathrooms were equipped with them. He was shocked one day to see while washing his hands a faint purple glow from the mirror, so deep it almost wasn't a color. He quickly determined that it was coming from his own head. If he moved towards the mirror, the glow zoomed in towards him, and if he shifted left or right it moved with him. No one else's head showed purple, though.
Then in October a new girl moved to the school. When Lisa came into the room, he was pretty sure he saw that same deep purple glowing from her head! He had trouble concentrating as he contemplated this new development. He'd need to talk to her, but he couldn't figure out right away how to do that naturally.
Ken was relaxing in the second floor lounge a couple days later, listening to music on his old iPod with the earbuds. He liked the feel of the lounge. He became instantly alert when he saw the deep purple glow coming into the room. Any doubts as to who it was were removed when she spoke.
"Ummm, you're the new girl? It's, um ... Lisa, right?" He could never have forgotten the name of the girl whose head also glowed purple. That was on top of the facts that she smelled intriguing, her voice was like honey -- and she was a girl. He pretended to be uncertain of her name so she wouldn't think he was obsessed with her.
"Hi, are you finding your way around OK?"
"Where were you before?"
"I was at a school kind of like this when we lived in New Jersey, but since coming up to Maine I've been living at home."
"How long have you been here in Maine?"
"About 18 months. I was feeling so lonely at home, all by myself. And I didn't know any other blind kid in the whole state of Maine, either."
"I think being home is a drag too -- at least these past couple years."
"Yeah, it was OK when I was younger -- I got homesick at school at first."
"When I go home, it's nice to see everyone, but of course they don't get what it's like to be blind. My parents baby me. My little sister Kathy is just mean sometimes. She'll move my stuff around and laugh after I'm groping around trying to find something. She even says she wishes I'd go back to school because no one pays any attention to her when I'm home. It's all about 'poor brother Ken'."
"At least she's honest," said Lisa. "I don't have any brothers or sisters. It's worse, believe me. All I have are parents who baby me, and they bug me lately."
"I wouldn't be so sure it's worse; you haven't met Kathy."
Their conversation continued in this vein for some time. Ken was surprised he was doing as well as he was holding up his end, but Lisa put him at ease somehow.
"Say, how much can you see?" she asked.
"Nothing. Well, I see a glow in direct sunshine, that's all."
"And were you blind from birth?"
"No, accident at age 4."
"Bummer." And that was all she said, Ken noted with relief. No uncomfortable sympathy.
"Tumor, age 5."
"Bummer," echoed Ken. "Did they get it all?"
"Wasn't malignant, just happened to be sitting on my optic nerve."
"And do you see anything?"
"Nada. Nothing. Zilch." Ken could hear Lisa shifting in her chair. "Except sometimes I think I'm seeing something, or imagining I am."
"You mean like your brain making things up?"
"I get that too, but it's something else. Like -- I'd swear you had this weird purple coming out of your head."
Ken swallowed hard. "Oh," he said.
"What? You think I'm crazy?"
Did he dare take the next step? Would she think he was trying to manufacture common ground because he liked her? Was she baiting him, and going to say it was a joke and of course she didn't see any such thing. And he did? Hahaha.
"You know, I've thought that too -- when I look in the mirror. It's such a funny shade of purple I can barely see it."
"Really?" she said with excitement.
"Yeah. And your head is purple too -- I think."
"That's it! I see it in the mirror! Oh, my God!"
"Have you seen anyone else with it?"
"No. And you?"
"I nearly fell over the other day when I came into class and there was this purple glow."
"Have you told anyone?"
"No -- they'd think I'm crazy."
"I know what you mean..." and then she stopped and shifted in her chair once more.
Suddenly the conversation had died. The question burning on Ken's tongue was whether she saw red when she looked between guys' legs, and there was absolutely no way he could ask Lisa that! But she had fallen silent too. He was burning with embarrassment, and he had the sense she was too.
He looked down and his balls showed clearly as little red orbs. Was she sitting there looking at his balls too? But down around her waist were two faint green dots -- he hadn't been imagining seeing green on the women!
"When did you first notice the purple in the mirror?" Lisa asked, somehow getting the conversation going again.
"Just a few months ago. You?"
"A few years back." She took a deep breath. "Do you see any other colors?"
"Oh, um, yeah, sometimes."
Ken took a deep breath. "Lots of red, and a little green."
"Me too," she said slowly. "Me too." There was more silence. "Let me guess: if I asked you where you saw these colors, you wouldn't want to, is that right?"
"Yes!" hissed Ken at once.
"That's what I thought," Lisa whispered.
Ken looked down at his balls, and thought about Lisa looking at them. He was wearing briefs and jeans and she was a blind girl. How many more guarantees of modesty did a guy need? Yet she was looking at his balls! He found his cock growing firmer in his pants, and he reached down quietly to adjust it.
He could swear she was smiling -- he just had that sense. Could she see his cock too? He could only see his balls, and he felt even more naked not knowing how much she could see.
"I've got to go," he said at once, suddenly very self-conscious. He rose, knocking his cane over in the process. He groped for it and hurried away.
"Bye!" said Lisa after him. "We ought to talk some more."
.... There is more of this story ...