Blind Spots I Have (Not) Known by Judith Katzman

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close-up of spout of public drinking fountain

Optic nerve fibers pass through the back of your retina inside your eye. Where the nerve passes through there are no cells receiving light. At this tiny spot, which is approximately the size of a pinhead, you are technically blind.

Try this:

Hold your left thumb out in front at arm’s length and close your left eye. Focus on the thumb with your right eye. Continuing to focus, bring your right thumb up, next to the left.

Move your right thumb out to the right while continuing to focus on the left.

Notice the tip of your right thumb will disappear.

You have located your blind spot.

Now try this:

Sit on the cool green-streaked linoleum while your mother pays for groceries.

Notice her Fire and Ice fingernails reaching into her small, black coin purse. Imagine the ads for nail polish in her Vogue magazine on the front seat of the Packard.

Notice the Fourth of July window display and how your mother looks like the pale wooden woman sitting under a red, white, and blue umbrella, the tinted green curve of a coke bottle in her hand.

Now, notice the drinking fountains against the wall. With your new Kindergarten skill read aloud what you see:

“Whites Only”


The drinking fountain on the left is a humming machine.The one on the right looks like a bathroom sink with an angry rust stain spilling from a hole. Tell your mother you are thirsty.

Tell her again.

Although we technically cannot see this light, our brain can usually fill in the information that we are missing based on the other things around the blind spot or based on what we already know. This is the reason why we don’t usually notice our blind spots.

When she hands you a small brown bag of Texas summer peaches, notice her voice. Sweet but not smooth, betraying something in the pit of her stomach. Notice as she directs you to the fountain on the left. “This one sweetie, the water is cooler.”

Focus on what is now your drinking fountain. Notice how the promise of cooler water and the perfume of peaches make the other drinking fountain disappear.

As you approach the exit on this promising summer day, imagine what would happen if one day doors opened automatically when they saw you coming.

Later, years later, notice that they always did, for you and people like you.

Meet the Contributor

Judith KatzmanJudith Katzman is a therapist in Austin, Texas, who began writing late in life. Her entry “Still” won first place in Literal Latte Essay contest, to be published in a future issue. A flash piece, “Danger,” appeared in The Sun. Since the summer of 2020 she has been obsessed with blind spots.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Photos by Clark

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