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第4册 - Unit 3, Section B - A Blind Man Helped Me See the Beautiful World

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It was late afternoon when the chairman of our Bangkok- based company gave me an assignment: I would leave the next day to accompany an important Chinese businessman to tourist sites in northern Thailand. Silently angry, I stared at my desk. The stacks of paper bore witness to a huge amount of work waiting to be done, even though I had been working seven days a week. How will I ever catch up? I wondered.

After a one-hour flight the next morning, we spent the day visiting attractions along with hundreds of other tourists, most of them loaded with cameras and small gifts. I remember feeling annoyed at this dense collection of humanity.

That evening my Chinese companion and I climbed into a chartered van to go to dinner and a show, one which I had attended many times before. While he chatted with other tourists, I exchanged polite conversation in the dark with a man seated in front of me, a Belgian who spoke fluent English. I wondered why he held his head motionless at an odd angle, as though he were in prayer. Then the truth struck me. He was blind.

Behind me someone switched on a light, and I could see his thick silvery hair and strong, square jaw. His eyes seemed to contain a white mist. 'Could I please sit beside you at the dinner?' he asked. 'And I'd love it if you'd describe a little of what you see.'

'I'd be happy to,' I replied.

My guest walked ahead toward the restaurant with newly found friends. The blind man and I followed. My hand held his elbow to steer him, but he stepped forward with no sign of hesitation or stoop, his shoulders squared, his head high, as though he were guiding me.

We found a table close to the stage. He ordered half a liter of beer and I ordered a grape soda. As we waited for our drinks, the blind man said, 'The music seems out of tune to our Western ears, but it has charm. Please describe the musicians.'

I hadn't noticed the five men performing at the side of the stage as an introduction to the show. 'They're seated cross-legged on a rug, dressed in loose white cotton shirts and large black trousers, with fabric around their waists that has been dyed bright red. Three are young lads, one is middle-aged and one is elderly. One beats a small drum, another plays a wooden stringed instrument, and the other three have smaller, violin- like pieces they play with a bow.'

As the lights dimmed, the blind man asked, 'What do your fellow tourists look like?'

'All nationalities, colors, shapes and sizes, a gallery of human faces,' I whispered.

As I lowered my voice further and spoke close to his ear, the blind man leaned his head eagerly toward me. I had never before been listened to with such intensity.

'Very close to us is an elderly Japanese woman,' I said. 'Just beyond her a yellow-haired Scandinavian boy of about five is leaning forward, his face just below hers. They're motionless, waiting for the performance to start. It's the perfect living portrait of childhood and old age, of Europe and Asia.'

'Yes, yes, I see them,' the blind man said quietly, smiling.

A curtain at the back of the stage opened. Six young girls appeared, and I described their violet- colored silk skirts, white blouses, and gold-colored hats like small crowns, with flexible points that moved in rhythm with the dance. 'On the tips of their fingers are golden nails perhaps 8 centimeters long,' I told the blind man. 'The nails highlight each elegant movement of their hands. It's a delightful effect.'

He smiled and nodded. 'How wonderful - I would love to touch one of those golden nails.'

The first performance ended just as we finished dessert, and I excused myself and went to talk to the theater manager. Upon returning, I told my companion, 'You've been invited backstage.'

A few minutes later he was standing next to one of the dancers, her little crowned head hardly reaching his chest. She shyly extended both hands toward him, the brass fingernails shining in the overhead light. His hands, four times as large, reached out slowly and held them as though they were holding up two tiny birds. As he felt the smooth, curving sharpness of the metal tips, the girl stood quite still, gazing up into his face with an expression of wonder. A lump formed in my throat.

After taking a cab back to the inn, with my Chinese guest still with the others, the blind man patted my shoulder, then pulled me toward him and embraced me tightly. 'How beautifully you saw everything for me,' he whispered. 'I can never thank you enough.'

Later I thought: I should have thanked him. I was the one who had been blind, my eyes merely skimming the surface of things. He had helped me lift the veil that grows so quickly over our eyes in this busy world, to see a whole new realm I'd failed to appreciate before.

About a week after our trip, the chairman told me the Chinese executive had called to express great satisfaction with the trip. 'Well done,' the chairman said, smiling. I knew you could do the magic.'

I was not able to tell him that the magic had been done to me.

已经是下午很晚了,我们驻曼谷公司的主席分配给我一个任务:要我在第二天陪一位重要的中国客商去泰国北部的旅游点。

我眼睛瞪着桌子,心里直冒火。

桌上成堆的文件足以证明,尽管我一周七天都在工作,可还有大量的工作等着我去做。

我真不知道如何才能把这些活儿赶出来。

第二天早晨,坐了一个小时飞机后,我们与其他数百名游客一起游览了一些景点。他们大多数都带着相机,满载着小礼物。

我仍记得那天挤在密集的人群中,心里很恼火。

当天晚上我和这位中国伙伴一起坐上了旅游包车去吃晚饭、看表演。那场表演我以前看过很多次了。

他跟其他游客聊着天,我则在黑暗中跟一位坐在我前面的男士说些应酬的话。他是位比利时人,讲一口流利的英语。

我开始感到奇怪,为什么他的头一动不动地保持着一个古怪的角度,好像在祷告一样。

后来我才恍然大悟,

他是位盲人。

我身后有人打开了灯,我看到了他浓密的银发,还有方正有力的下巴。

他的双眼里似乎有一层白膜。

"我吃饭时能坐在您的旁边吗?"他问道。

"我很想您能把看到的向我略作介绍。"

"我很乐意,"我回答说。

我的客人与几位新交的朋友径直走进了餐馆,

我和这位盲人跟了进去。

我用手搀着他的肘部给他领路,但他昂首挺胸地前行,没有丝毫的犹豫或佝偻,好像是他在给我带路。

我们找了一张靠近舞台的桌子,

他要了半升啤酒,我则要了一杯葡萄汽水。

我们等着上饮料时,这位盲人说:"我们西方人听起来这首乐曲似乎变调了,但还是挺有魅力的,您能描述一下奏乐的人吗?"

我并没注意到舞台那头的五个人,他们在奏着演出的开场乐曲。

"他们盘着腿坐在小地毯上,身着宽松的白色棉布衬衫和肥大的黑裤,腰系染成鲜红色的布带。

他们中三个是年轻小伙子,还有一位中年乐手和一位老年乐手。

他们中一个击鼓,另一个奏着木制的弦乐器,另外三个用琴弓拉着一种类似小提琴但要小一些的乐器。"

光线暗下来,盲人问:"那些游客们都长什么模样?"

"他们来自不同国家,肤色、体形、个头也都不同,简直就是一个不同种族人的大聚会,"我低声说。

我把声音压得更低,凑近他的耳朵说话,他也热切地把头靠过来。

从来没有人如此强烈地想听我讲话。

"离我们很近的是一位日本老妇人,"我说。

"她旁边有一个黄头发的斯堪的纳维亚男孩,大约五岁,身体往前倾,他的脸刚好在老妇人的脸下面。

他们一动不动,等着演出开始。

这真是一幅生动完美的画像,有老人也有儿童,有欧洲也有亚洲。"

"是的,是的,我看到他们了,"盲人微笑着轻声说。

舞台后部的帷幕拉开了,

出来六位年轻女孩子。我向他描述她们身着紫罗兰色丝裙,白色外衣,头戴形似小皇冠的金色帽子,帽上的饰物随着舞蹈节奏有弹性地跳动着。

"她们的手指上有金色的指甲,有八厘米长吧,"我告诉盲人。

"长指甲使手部的每一个动作都更显得十分优美,真好看。"

他微笑着点点头:

"太美妙了,我真想摸一下那些金色的指甲。"

第一个节目结束时,我们刚好吃完甜食,我找了个借口过去与戏院经理搭话。

我一回来就告诉我的伙伴:"有人请你到后台去。"

几分钟后他站到了其中一位舞蹈演员的身旁,她戴着小皇冠,但还不及他胸部那么高。

她害羞地将两只手伸向他,黄铜指甲在头顶射下的灯光下闪闪发光。

他慢慢地伸出双手,那双手足有女孩手的四倍大,他握住了那双小手,就好像捧起两只小鸟一样。

他抚摸着那些光滑、呈弧形弯曲的金属尖指甲时,女孩静静地站着,惊奇地注视着他的脸。

我不禁哽咽了。

乘出租车回酒店后,我的中国客人仍然与别人在一起。盲人拍拍我的肩膀,把我拉向他,紧紧地拥抱着我。

"你帮我看到的一切太美了,"他低声说,

"真不知道怎么感谢你。"

后来我想,是我该谢谢他。

其实盲的人是我,我看事物只是在表面一掠而过。

在这忙碌的世界里,一层快速形成的面纱遮住了我们的双眼,是他帮我揭开了这层面纱,见到了一个以前从未欣赏到的崭新世界。

此行之后的一周,主席告诉我,那位中国经理来电话说他对旅程非常满意。

"干得好,"主席笑着说,

"我就知道你会有神奇的表现。"

我无法告诉他,是别人的神奇改变了我。

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