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By Domenica Martinello October 1, 2011

Four Senses

Illustrated by Sarah Rosenberg

It is so dark I almost think I see light, something small and dim in the distance, but with a blink the candle in my imagination flickers out. It’s the kind of darkness that the creatures from my childhood closet dwelt in. Utter sensory depravation—that’s the point.

The volume is cranked way up. A voice from across the room suddenly seems to be laughing in my ear. People shout across the invisible table at each other two feet away, or maybe it’s two miles. The illusion of a great black distance creates a sort of umbilical connection. We are all floating in our own amniotic fluid, yet tied down, attached—innately in love with that which contains us.

Glasses clink. Reaching for a utensil, my fingers find the butter plate. I lick them with abandon. This is the singular best place for a date, ever. The mystery of it all, the company of another human being making up for a lack of sense… isn’t that always the case? Sitting side by side instead of facing each other (less accident prone this way), I feel his warmth and bulk beside me. Just as I’ve licked my last finger, not knowing if my eyes are closed or open, I feel cold, indescribable pinpricks on my face. They’re like everything and nothing I’ve ever felt, all my hairs standing alert. His playful laugher cuts through the adrenaline before I can deduct what has happened; he’s dipped his fingers into a glass and flicked water at me. What a rush.

The body beside me jumps as a voice abruptly announces itself above the buzz. It’s the blind waitress, bringing us our dinner plates. I hear the plate set down and my hand is in hers, my fingers suddenly guided to the meal. Her hands are warm and creased and smooth. The unhesitant touch lingers on my skin long after she leaves, making me realize the lack of intimacy between strangers in the starkly lit world. After her touch is gone, there’s a silence between my date and I, unsure of her presence.

“She was nice,” he says.

“Thank you, thank you!” The reply behind his shoulder. It’s a cause of laughter for the rest of the evening.

Food is an entirely different entity in the dark. Eating is the Olympics. I have ordered the “mystery plate,” he the veal and veggies, but I cannot for the life of me get a forkful of mystery into my mouth. I stab blindly until I spear something. I lift the utensil, feeling the heft of food on its prongs, guiding it up towards the general direction of my face. By the time it has reached the anticipated destination, it is empty. Lift, anticipate, nothing. This dinner is becoming a metaphor for life. Lift, anticipate, some sort of vegetable stabs my cheek. I don’t hear his fork scratching around in his plate, but he cannot possibly be having any better luck than I.

Now I know how cavemen discovered fire; the dark can prompt human beings into amazing feats of ingenuity. I discover that by pushing all my food into a mound in the middle of the plate, I can scoop it up much more effectively. I smile at the darkness and my good fortune; both mask how unsavory the mound of food on my plate must look and the gravy I just recently felt drip onto my blouse. I decide to let him in on my secret, thinking that the whole point of a “blind dinner” still contains the necessary concept of eating. To my contentment, he says my method actually works; I hear the sounds of content chewing.

“Mmmm,” he moans. “Finally! What would I do without you? I was beginning to doubt this whole “blind” thing, but only ‘cause of the empty stomach.

”Somehow his voice—rich, disembodied—radiates through me, inspiring an odd confidence. Setting down my fork, I lightly run my fingers over the tabletop; the soft cotton of the tablecloth, the papery napkin and unused utensils, the chill of the perspiring water glass, his fleshy arm. His sleeves have been rolled up, and under the unanticipated touch, I feel gooseflesh rise. I move down his forearm and to his hands to find… a piece of veal between his fingers. My laughter dances around us, probably catching the ear of someone across the room. I wonder if he’s a blusher.

“Damn, you caught me cheating. I’m usually more civilized, I swear,” he says lightly.

I raise my hand into the unseeing void, brushing his shoulder accidentally, before reaching his cheek. They are flaming hot despite the steady voice; I imagine the pomegranate stain of color. Everything is so vivid in the dark. Then I find his hand before he can drop the meat and guide it towards his mouth. What might not seem like a particularliy sensual act, is. My breath quickens as my nerve slowly begins curling around the edges like a burnt piece of paper. His lips brush my skin as I feed him. He nips my finger playfully, and for a split second I feel his tongue flick my onion paper skin. Stars shoot through me, fireworks in the dark, a longing embedded deep in my stomach stirring; such a concentrated sensation spreads fast, like too much wine.

Or panic. I feel as if I’m wearing the rich blackness around me like a gown, pulling him in, justifying a touch. But then at the stroke of midnight, or when we step into the candle-lit foyer to pay, whichever comes first—

A heavy hand comes to rest so naturally on the back of my neck, startling me.

“Do I make you jumpy?” asks the disembodied voice with a hint of satisfaction.

“Not at all,” I reply, trying to play coy.

“I should,” he murmurs as a sudden sweetness overcomes my lips—no, not a kiss. Sticky vanilla frosting smeared across my face from cheek to cheek.

“I thought you’d like to be the first to taste dessert.”

Or maybe sensory overload is the point.


Further reading:

Indulge your four senses -- http://www.onoir.com

About the author

Domenica Martinello is 2nd year Literature student, creative writer/caffeine junky, and bookseller extraordinaire. She enjoys talking, watching, learning, joking, laughing, playing, reading, procrastinating, traveling, eating and multitasking. Not necessarily in that order.

About the illustrator

Sarah Rosenberg is a first year Illustration student.


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    November 30, 2011

    The story line of the article was really appealing, and you did a very good job attracting my attention. The article is well written, and the strong visuals presented helped me immerse into the story. The article was interesting because it demonstrates how strongly our emotion and sense tie into our perception of people. It puts us in a scary situation that a majority of people would not attempt. It does a good job of removing people’s perception of dating, and it adds a twist into all the rule and traditions of dating. All in all, very good article!

  1. space-default-avatar

    lisa mercuri

    November 30, 2011

    It’s funny how when you loose one of your senses, the others are so much more explicit. The idea of a “blind date” actually being “blind” is brilliant. On a first date, your emotions and senses are already so heightened because of your anxiety and expectations. So it being “blind” brings those pre-conceived notions and senses that you have described to a whole new level.

    I like how you’ve combined that. You have found the perfect moment to speak of our senses and how important they are when interacting with people and how it affects your sense of being.

    The piece is so visual, that you have brought that sense of sight back into the picture. I am sure you were able to visualize what was going on without actually being able to see.

    Really enjoyed reading your work.

  1. space-default-avatar


    November 30, 2011

    The story was actually pretty interesting, i was able to read the entire thing without thinking of anything else but this (i hate reading usually). The dialogue was very well done, the narration was excellent. The entire idea of being in the dark where anything could happen would be frightening for me since this would cause me to panic and rush out. Also having an unknown man or woman beside me would make me wonder about their appearance, but it would probably defeat the whole blind date in the dark wouldn’t it. Having all your senses taken away from you in an instant makes me think about a whole new persective on life on how people judge others on their appearance or believe that someones personally is that way because they dress that way but because of this dark room restoraunt it takes out all the perception values and leaves the other person with nothing to judge but their personalities. i enjoyed reading this it was really well done.

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