“I want to live on my own.”
“No, you can’t!” The rest chimed in at once, like the representatives of some great power waking up halfway through a conference in time to bomb a veto on some mewling little voice they don’t even care to listen.
“I’m leaving,” I responded, oblivious to their objections. With as much crossness as lethargy could muster, I found my way out of the house.
Though it was an icy night, I walked with a stronger stride. For even in this isolation, only the will to go forward and accept more of it seemed worthwhile.
By a stroke of bad luck, I was born into this world unable to see the beautiful things in life. I would have realised my own handicap, if only I was a bit older. After all, I assumed initially that the world is just a mass of blackness. Colours and images were alien to me until I got to know my ABC. It was then that I had come to face the truth – I am blind.
Blind. This obscure fact-of-life to most other human beings chose to keep me company instead.
Unlike what many people would have thought, I wasn’t exactly grieved by not being able to see. I didn’t become angry with the rest of the world, or with myself for that matter. No doubt, it was frightening to live in total darkness. But when day and night make no difference anymore, there’s nothing else to be afraid of. I just lose my sense of time. At least that’s what I think.
For years I lived alone, but was never accustomed to loneliness. I could not get used to it, and had only adapted myself to it temporarily in the hope that someday its spell would break. I remembered little of my childhood, and life moved under me so that I hardly noticed its progress.
How does my mother look? To be honest, I do not know. She seemed to be a fragile woman with thick and wavy hair, a somewhat flat nose, rather rounded chin, and quite a few wrinkles to go with for her age. My mother cried every time I asked to touch and feel her face. I was very young then. I guessed I couldn’t really understand the tears.
Every night during my infant days, I always had the urge to ask her to stay a bit longer after she had put me to bed. But before I could put my thoughts to words, she was gone. I didn’t realise that until I started to grope around in the dark. She just left, as silently as the fleeting wind.
As silently as the night she went away – forever.
It was hard to believe I did not shed a tear. How could I? I didn’t even know what had happened.
I grew up with my grandmother. I was fortunate – she doted me. My grandma wasn’t that lucky though; she had for years suffered from a heart condition that threatened collapse if she dared exert herself. And my suspicion was that looking after a grandson who could not see a thing was simply too much of an exertion for her. Like my mother, she departed suddenly.
I was so dazed by the thought of losing my remaining kin that I walked away – as though by walking away I could escape…
I tried, but failed, to convey my fears and loneliness. I could only perceive sympathy from others – and they were all strangers. I was stranded.
I did not understand my own plight until the primitive fear of man encroached upon me. I was surrounded by uncertainties every day, not knowing what will happen and what can happen. Just the notion of “whatever will go wrong can, and at the worst possible moment” freaked me out. I was left feeling perturbed, sometimes with a foregone conclusion that disasters are just lying out there in ambush, waiting for an opportunity to happen on me.
Travelling around does not pose a serious problem to me these days. It was hell when I first ventured beyond my familiar territory on my own. And that’s when it happened. A vehicle skidded off the road and ran straight into me. I could faintly sense the imminent danger approaching, but could do nothing to avoid it. I was only aware of the earth sliding away from under my feet, and a wave of panic crashing into my mind.
Confined to a wheelchair and faced with mounting difficulties in life – imagine, I couldn’t even answer nature’s call myself – my fears grew to abnormal proportions.
I tried to remember things that had happened and felt panic when I discovered a ten-year vacuum. All I could recall was a grey mist, and before me was the same unpredictable fog. An unbearable but familiar emptiness flowed outwards from a tiny and unknowable point inside me, and a sudden weariness set in my mind.
I shuddered, feeling a kind of half-guilt growing inside me for a half-imagined reason that I hoped wasn’t true.
Time went by slowly. The minute hand of the clock seemed as if it were nailed immovable. Gradually, my mother’s words came back to me through an intricate process of recollection. Like a huge wave gathering momentum, a feeling of intense remorse took hold of me. With a deep sigh, I drove away the thought of dying.
Just at the moment of my darkest despair, a couple who has been yearning for a son took me in. It wasn’t a blessed arrangement though. Despite their efforts to treat me as their own, I could sense that I am not too welcome in their home. Yes, I may be blind, but I’m not deaf. Their daughters’ discriminating remarks like “I wish some people can see how hard it is to be charitable” often made me feel uneasy. Such discriminations may have some semblance to a fairy tale, but I wasn’t going to wait for the miracle of a glass shoe to save me.
I am living on my own now. The hardships I’ve experienced all these years have taught me to be independent.
There were no strong memories to entice me to what had gone by, except the twinkling succession of night and day merging into continuous greyness.
What I find most ironical is the advice from some well-meaning people who repeatedly said, “Look on the bright side. Things will change. It’s only a matter of time.”
Look on the bright side? I mean… how? I can’t even see my own fingers. And not to sound too much like good old Murphy – things will change, I’m pretty sure of that, but for better or worse? Although I have plenty of time on my side, I just can’t sit and wait for things to happen on me – again.
I am still not able to see a thing today, but at least I can walk quite steadily with clutches. And the despair has, somehow, subsided.