The Four Things You Learn In The Dark

Earlier this year, we briefly discussed booking an exotic travel experience for our fifteenth wedding anniversary.

“We could go for the weekend to some fabulous foreign city.”

“Yes!”

“But not together.”

“…”

“Instead, we’d go separately, and we’d spend the whole time looking for each other. It would be romantic.”

“But not entirely unlike a lot of our previous holidays?”

“We’d both be looking for each other.”

“Yes, actually I suppose that would be different.”

In the end, though, we swapped not finding each other, for not seeing each other*. At NOX – where you dine in the dark.

This picture of a cave interior, which our canoe paddler made me take on pain of not moving out of the cave, seems appropriate here.

(This is actually a photo of the inside of a Thai bat cave.)

To Move, You Know

It was Rohammad who led us out of the light. To him, since he’s visually impaired, dark and light are all much the same. “Your chair is to your left,” he advised. “Feel for the seat before you sit down.” Soon he was bringing us food and drink and teaching us to reach for the invisible. To move without knowing, and to know by moving.

My knife… my fork… my plate… and my mouth. We amazed ourselves with our abilities to not squish mashed potato up our nostrils.

What My Eyes Remember

On the downside, we seemed to have impaired powers of recollection. “Aha, a bit of… You know, it tastes like… Oh! Yes! This! This is…” It’s not that I couldn’t put my finger on it (my finger was right there, at the ready) but my vocab must be wired to my vision. How on earth do I remember words like “bewildered” or “confounded” or “wrong”?

Around the second course, things started to take shape. “Kimchi!” said Æ, and I realised with a jolt he was right – or at least I agreed. From there it seemed easier. If we never found the link between our words and our taste buds (and we didn’t, as demonstrated by the after-meal quiz) we instead cast off the silly notion of having to name things correctly to understand them. “I like the…” “Yes. I know. Have some more.”

The Bandwidth of The Void

Æ said the conversation reminded him of radio. “You’re not distracted by visuals.” He seemed to find that a relief, but I found it a difficulty. My words went out alone, and they were all I got in return. I guess it was like radio. It was like speaking on the internet to people you’ve never met.

We talked for ages about the extent to which botanists are like Robocop in place of simply knowing, at a glance, that the other was there. Pings across the table. Tiny packets of information for their own sake. Perhaps no less, in the end, than usual, and if I’m honest, not a hundred miles divergent in content. Botanists, we decided, are almost exactly like Robocop – as if that’s important.

Experienced Whole

It was the cheesecake, though. I’d been slowing down as the courses progressed, full for one thing, but also casting about for new ways to relate to the world before the meal ended and I fell back on the old ways again. My spoon on the yielding texture of soft cheese and cream was like a kind of vision. Some foods are their own revelation, no matter how you look at them. And some experiences, even without sight, are whole.

This is not a sponsored post – just an unusual experience. More about NOX on their website.

*We also swapped “anniversary” for “birthday” but this was mainly on account of not having thought of anything for the former til it was closer to the latter. We went out. I wasn’t going to bore you with nuances, but Æ insisted.

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