I was very young when it happened so I don’t really remember it well, but as far as I was told, I fell down when I was three but when I looked up, I could no longer look. Naturally, I was given special treatment. My parents were there at my beck and call. My most favourite question was, “Tell me, how do I look?”
They could never answer me. When they described my clothing, I would say, “No I mean, how can my eyes see me?” and when they said “We’re trying, honey,” I would reply “Why do you have to try? Your eyes can see. Is the shirt blue?”
My sister was an entirely different experience though. If I tried the same question on her, she would reply, “Tim, I’m gonna kill you!” She didn’t sugar coat my situation. Honestly speaking, I hated her because of it. When mum read to us, I would say, “I wish I could see what candy looks like!” She would retort in a low voice, “not that you can!”Mum never chided her, if I complained she’d just say “I didn’t hear it.”
Unfair, but I didn’t have an answer. I couldn’t check with my own eyes. Violet spoke to me about school when mum forced her. She hated me and she always had a cold, which was an excuse because she’d mock me with that voice. That voice, the hitching, short breaths and words barely escaping. Dad helped me about the house and mum fed me. All of this was done in silence, they knew I didn’t want to be pitied. They knew I hated being pitied.
I don’t know what anyone looks like. My imagination however is guided by a reluctant Violet who is forced to spend an hour with me every day. According to Violet, mum has red hair and black eyes, but I think she also has freckles and reddish cheeks. She also has a tendency to scratch her head whenever I ask him to describe her face. As for ‘red’,’ black’ and freckles, I don’t know what they are but they keep coming up in the books mum reads and I like how cool they sound. Yup, colours sound cool.
I groped my way up with the help of the banister, because I refused to accept help with it. I was quite used to it, of course, but I occasionally stubbed my toe sometimes. So I was climbing up when I heard sobs from Violet’s side of the house. When I quietened my breathing I heard mum too, “...Vi, don’t...cry...”
My life changed that day.
No more people at my beck and call. No one read me books at night. All the attention suddenly went to Violet. Everyone stopped answering my “how do I look?” So I groped and grabbed my way to mum’s room, hit my chin on the bed. It stung badly. My entire jaw seemed shaken up, I began crying. Snot and tears ran down till a hand held my head.
That was Violet.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” That’s mom.
“Why is Violet sleeping with you?”
“Umm...I had a nightmare.”
No one replied. “Honey, do you need something?”
“All the love to Violet lately! I want to be read to! Why is she special? She isn’t blind!”
I heard thudding and then for the first time I felt a different sort of contact on my cheeks. It wasn’t a gentle kiss. This contact stung. I think you would call this a slap.
I think I ran from there then, I slammed into the door. I could hear Violet’s footsteps and I could hear mum, crying. I think my hearing faded or maybe my consciousness.
I woke up to this blinding thing. No blinding isn’t right, because I’m already blind. Apparently when the doctor reported that my vision was affected, my brave heart sister ran away from home. She was brought back by the police at 3AM. Regardless, my vision was gone. I’m 10, now. Mum keeps telling me that I could have this cor-neal trans-plant soon. I would see candy. I couldn’t wait to rub it in Violet’s face.
Something waved before my eyes.
“Honey, can you see us?”
Wait! Something waved before my eyes and I saw it.
Then I looked around. Standing beside my ‘bed’ were two people. Their voices were that of my parents. So then these are my parents. My mom has the prettiest eyes and my dad has an abnormally sharp nose. They were holding on to my shoulders and I could see their lips curve. Does one call this a smile?
“Where’s Violet?” In my new found joy, I had forgiven my sister.
I later realised that my mother’s pretty eyes were almost dying and father’s nose was red. They were probably sobbing hysterically. My mother’s words from that day still resound in my ear.
They had held up a mirror. “Can you see him Vi? He’s looking at you, through your eyes.”
I think I saw my sister that day. Of course I saw her later too with her eyelids shut. That day, in that reflection I could see Violet look back at me. I cried without knowing why. Maybe it was joy or maybe I could feel the absence of my sister. The absence of my voiceless helper around the house, the one who always fed me snacks, Violet. Not mum.
In photos, I saw her, but her presence I feel when I look at the album. The album which had pictures taken by Violet. She started taking them when she ran away. Pictures, of literally everything and anything. They had captions, written by her hand. The first page had a letter stuck to it.
“To Tim, when you can read this, I’m not beside you. However, if you can read this, I’m glad. Sorry it took so long...” Violet left us owing to cancer, but I’m trying to learn to be half as good a photographer as her.