Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower,
And you its only seed
It's the heart, afraid of breaking,
That never learns to dance
It's the dream, afraid of waking,
That never takes a chance
It's the one who won't be taken,
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dyin',
That never learns to live
When the night has been too lonely,
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love,
In the spring becomes the rose
Bette Midler/The Rose

What the Heart Sees

He made his way through the busy streets of New York with the ease that only someone born and bred there could know. He was an average man, average height, average weight, but well dressed considering he didn't make much money… yet. He knew that someday his paintings would sell. It was just a dry spell that he was going through now, that's all. His mom always told him he would be a great artist someday and he always believed her. He painted mostly seascapes although he liked to add a special flare to it that made it his own. He reached Washington Square park, put his pads and sketches down on the bench and sat down. Picking up a piece of charcoal and the pad, he began to draw. The buildings in front of him became cliffs, the noisy cars became waves and all the people were fishes. He did his best work here, but he didn't know why. He loved being around people and hearing their voices as they spoke about getting to this appointment or buying that special hat that they saw on Delancy St. Greenwich village was filled with artistic hopefuls, all of them waiting for that one day when fame would strike. Most of the time the only thing that struck was the realization that they'd better get a good 9-5 job if they were going to stay alive at all. They lost their talents then, giving them up for a dull office job and a dull colorless world. Poems were traded in for paychecks and music given up for money. Well, he wanted none of that. He would just plug along no matter how long it took. His parents would send him money when they could, which helped, but his pride would often force him to send it back. They didn't know how bad off he really was and he had no intention of telling them. So he would tear up the checks and mail them back saying "I'm doing fine, I don't need the extra money" when in reality he would dream of the things he could buy with the cash. He sketched with ease, his fingers blackened from the charcoal. He reached up and ran his hand through his blonde hair, leaving tiny streaks of black through it. It was the middle of summer and the heat and humidity was unbearable for many. He didn't have any air conditioning in his little loft, so he would sit here under the trees for hours practicing his art. Little kids were playing in the fountain and they came up to him and crowded around his bench to say hello. His was a familiar and safe face to them, and they enjoyed hearing him tell his stories about the baby dolphins in the sea, or how it felt to be a seagull flying above the clouds. He always had a new story to entertain them with because he knew how much they enjoyed hearing them and, in truth, he enjoyed their company. He would take some colored pastels and draw the pictures of the story as he told it, enthralling the children to no end. Then he would give the pictures away to them at the end so they could show their friends the next day and retell the story to them, too. He had a wonderful bond with children that he never quite understood. He was an only child who had a very lonely childhood. He would draw friends and speak to them on the canvas instead of developing real friendships outside of his little world. After all, his paper friends never criticized him or made fun of him or hurt him in any way. The lonely boy grew into a lonely man but he was not bitter. He resigned himself to his life of aloneness and never gave it a second thought. Until that day.

She was in a hurry. She only had a half an hour to eat her lunch and get back to work before her boss noticed that she didn't finish the report he wanted her to do. She would be damned if she was going to forfeit food for his silly drafts, especially as hungry as she was. In truth, she hated her job, and if it wasn't for her car payment she would have left a long time ago. She even put up with the little advances and sly remarks he would make about her legs or eyes. Well, she thought to herself, as soon as I get settled in my new apartment I will start looking for another job. She walked briskly into the park carrying her brown bag filled with the delicicies of the day: tuna on rye with some dried out lettuce and a can of Coke. She saw him sitting under the tree and sat down on the bench next to him.

"How are you doing today, Noah?" she asked with a smile, her dark hair tied into a neat ponytail and her blue eyes sparkling. He stopped his work and looked her way "Hey Sam, how are you doing today? Still got your pretty little nose to the grindstone?" She giggled. She liked the way he called her Sam instead of Samantha.

"Yep, still toiling away behind a desk." She opened her sandwich and began to eat.

"What's on the menu for today?" he asked, continuing his sketching.

"Let's see, I have filet minon on a kaiser roll with a side of caviar. Want some?"

"Ahhh…tuna again, huh?" he laughed, and she laughed with him. He fascinated her and she was always happy to see him when she came here for lunch.

"Do you want a bite?" she asked, knowing that he would be too proud to take it. "No thanks, I'm not very hungry." was his expected reply. She always offered and he always turned her down.

"So, what was the story today about?" she asked in all seriousness. She loved his stories as much as the kids, and always hoped to get there in time to hear a piece of it anyway.

"Ahhh… it was the continuing saga of Daisy dolphin. Today's episode: Daisy plays with an eel." He was totally serious and gave her the strangest look when she burst out laughing.

"Oh Noah, that just sounds so funny!" she could barely catch her breath, "Did you ever think of doing some improv at Max's Kansas City?" He broke into a smile. "Everyone used to tell me that I was a funny kid but I never took them seriously…" She burst out laughing again at the irony of his words. He was really a fascinating character, she thought to herself and she adored his drawings. He told her once that he had never been to the beach before, he just drew the ocean as he saw it in his minds eye. He had a real gift, one that she was sure would make him rich someday if he kept at it.

"Oh well, I'd better be getting back before the old fart does." she stood up and cleaned off the bench.

"Well, you have a good day now, Sam, and don't let him get to you." he smiled her way and, for a moment, she had the craziest feeling that he could see deep inside of her. "You too!" she said back, turned and hurried on her way.

It was getting dark and quitting time finally came. She put away her books and covered up the computer. "Another day, another dirty dollar." she said out loud. She made her way into the elevator and tried to leave the day behind her. She was bone tired, and the thought of her own comfortable bed made it hard to keep her eyes open as she rode to the bottom floor. She left the building and headed for the train station.

As she passed the park she happened to glance into it and she saw Noah still sitting there. "That's strange," she thought to herself, "he never stays after dark." As tired as she was her curiousity got the best of her and she veered past the gate toward the bench under the tree. "Hey, Noah, you fall asleep or something?" she began to ask but then stopped in her tracks. He looked up at her, and his face had been cut and was bleeding. His left hand looked broken and all of his beautiful pictures had been ripped, his materials stolen. "Oh, Noah!" she gasped, hurrying to sit next to him and smoothing his hair back to get a better look at the damage they had done. His one eye was swollen almost shut. "What happened?" she asked, already knowing the answer. "I walked into the tree." he attempted to smile. "This is not funny Noah, you are hurt and you need a doctor." she was mad at whoever did this to him.

"No, no doctors. I am alright, I just need to get home and put a little ice on my eye, that's all." he was adamant, so she didn't push. "Well," she said, "at least let me take you home and make sure you don't pass out on the way, alright?" She felt a deep need to take care of him, to keep him safe. He began to say no but she wouldn't hear of it. She took his hand and helped him to his feet. "Did you get a good look at them?" she mumbled before realizing how stupid the question was. "Oh yeah, sure Sam. Make fun of the blind man while he's down." She shook her head and with an arm around his waist she helped him into a cab and brought him home.

She had never seen such a cozy loft before. New York was full of lofts, some big and some small. Noah's was a nice and airy one. She stood, amazed at how he had decorated it. Seascapes and shells lined the walls, his older paintings scattered over the whole room. She made him sit down and got him some ice and a cold drink. She walked from corner to corner, admiring his work, her hands touching the delicate forms on the canvas.

"Thanks for going out of your way like this, Sam." his sincereity broke her heart.

"No, no thank YOU, Noah, for letting me come into your home. I had wanted to see your work for awhile now and this has given me the opportunity. Though I do wish it was under other circumstances." She was brought back to the situation at hand. He looked lost and so alone, that all she wanted to do was hug him to make the pain go away.

"Tell me Noah, how is it that you can paint so beautifully the things that you can't see?" she asked, not feeling the least bit self-concious. "I don't really know, to tell you the truth." He leaned back in his chair and relaxed. "I've been blind since birth, so it is not even like I can remember what colors are, or what things look like. My mom used to tell me that I see with my heart instead of my eyes, which I guess is the closest I am going to come to an explanation."

"Well you must have a very big and beautiful heart to draw such amazing images." she was so comfortable being here with him like this, she didn't think twice about watching what she said. She thought that he was very brave to be living on his own the way he did, and she told him so. He just smiled, and for a moment she thought she saw him blush. She had never noticed how handsome he was before, his strong face illuminated in the moonlight. They talked about so many things, his life and her life and how they both came to be where they are now that she totally lost track of time. She was supposed to meet her boyfriend for a late dinner but that was out of the question now, it was way too late and she was sure that he had probably given up on her showing up.

Part 41