Wednesday 31 July 2013

True love is blind

By Lisa Rapley

Her eyes opened and for the first time she saw. If it were anyone else, you wouldn’t think twice about being able to see the sky, or your hand in front of your face. But for Alice, it was the first time she was seeing anything in the 22 years she had been alive.

Alice was born blind. A congenital defect where she was born with cataracts clouding her vision. All she could make out throughout her childhood were shades and shapes, but now, her eyes fluttered as the doctor removed the bandages.

She saw the white-washed walls of the doctor’s office, the leather chairs and mahogany desk. Catching her eye was the vividly coloured abstract painting behind the desk.
She stared at in wonder, taking in the colours and lines. It astounded her how something could be so simple, so colourful, yet so beautiful.
“That painting,” she said, “It’s gorgeous.”
The doctor looked at her, with a smile spreading across his face.
“Well I guess that answers the question of whether you can see or not.”
She grinned up at him. She could see.

Half an hour later she exited the doctor’s surgery and began walking down the street. Alice no longer needed her guide, she could walk freely, avoiding people who were walking in the opposite direction, stopping when she saw a crossing, even looking up and seeing the clouds moving across the sky.

She took in the tall buildings and the cracks in the pavement. Unknown colours popped everywhere, she could barely take everything in as she headed towards the train station. There were so many new experiences and she couldn’t wait to start.

Arriving at Greg’s was a new experience. She knew how to count the blocks from the station and to count the houses down the street. It was almost a second home for her, she was at Greg’s house as much as she was at her own. Counting the blocks was the only way she knew how to get there. But as soon as she saw the house with the brightly coloured letter-box and coloured flower after coloured flower lining the garden, she knew where she was.

It was Greg’s idea to plant the flowers in the first place. She had constantly told him she could never make out the colours, just shapes and varying degrees of grey. But he had insisted in planting all the flowers. He would say that if she ever could see colours, she would know exactly which house was his. They swayed in the slight breeze, brightening the decrepit picket fence. How very right he was. She had no idea what the flowers were, or even what colours they were, but they were every colour and absolutely stunning.

Alice knocked on the front door of Greg’s townhouse and a few seconds later he opened the door.
“Alice!” he exclaimed. “I said to text me when you left the doctor’s and I would come pick you up. What happened?”
She just looked at him. Taking in her best friend for the first time. She had run her hands over his face many times before, attempting to know it and recognise it. But that felt a long time ago and vastly different to what she was seeing, and experiencing, now. His eyebrows were big and bushy, with sharp light eyes underneath. Creases splayed out from the corners, making him look older than he actually was - 29. His lips were thin, but a wide smile creased his face. And finally, his dark hair sat spikely over his head. Alice took him in slowly. This was her best friend. This was her Greg. At the thought, a feeling awoke in the pit of her stomach, beginning to snake through her body.
“I decided to make my own way here, are you going to let me in or not?” she finally said, after realising Greg had actually spoken.
“Of course, I almost forgot,” he said, reaching for her arm to guide her inside the house. But Alice pulled her arm from his hand.
“It’s ok, Greg, I got this,” she said, pushing past him and into the dimly lit foyer. Out the corner of her eye, she swore she saw his mouth fall open.

After relaying what the doctor had said, Greg sat on the couch next to Alice dumbfounded.
“I just can’t believe you can see, this is amazing!”
Alice smiled a wry smile and took another sip of coffee. She couldn’t believe it either. And now was the time that Greg decided to test her on her new found power.
Holding up a throw pillow he asked, “What colour is this?”
She looked at him sideways, “Now that’s the downfall of this new ability of mine,” she said. “I know my colours, I just don’t know what to associate them to. For all I know that pillow is actually grey.”
Greg snorted. “This pillow is far from grey. It’s red.” And he lopped the pillow at her. It had the same brightness as the painting.
“See, now I know that this colour is red. I can now tell you that that pillow is also red,” she said pointing at the pillow on the other couch.
“Ok,” Greg said with a pause. “What about the bowl on the table?”
Alice looked at it skeptically. Once again, it could be grey for all she knew. But what she did know, is that it wasn’t red.
“Well, it isn’t red,” she said smartly. “What colour is it?”
“It’s blue,” Greg exclaimed with glee, unable to contain himself. The same colour as his eyes.
“You’re far too excited about this,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“That’s because this is fantastic news. And we should celebrate! But aside from that, it is actually fun being able to tease you about something.”
“Ok, so how should we celebrate?”
“I don’t know, we could have fancy dinner?”
“I’m not really in the mood for a fancy dinner, but maybe just dinner?”
“But that’s what we do most nights, is just dinner. This is a special occasion, don’t you want to do something?!”
“Then we’ll open a bottle of champagne,” Alice suggested, “This seeing thing is going to take some getting used to. Slow steps out into society are needed.”
“Dinner here with champagne it is then,” Greg said, nodding his approval.

They had entrenched themselves on the couch for the night. For dinner they had ordered pizza and pulled a bottle of champagne out of the fridge to celebrate Alice’s new found sight. She was still absorbing so much. Greg had taken her through the house showing her every room and pointing out colours as they went. It was exhausting. She wanted to crawl into a ball and sleep for a week. But the fact she had Greg to show her everything - she couldn’t have asked for more.

They had first met after she finished high school and instantly became friends. They had many things in common and Greg was overly protective of her. He was practically the brother she didn’t have, in a way. Or just, the family she didn’t have. He had guided her through so much and had even been the one to encourage her to look into treatment. The only reason it had taken 22 years for her to get the surgery she needed was that she didn’t have a family that cared for her. Growing up with foster families meant she was pushed aside, with no one really caring for her. Almost as if she was a second-class citizen. Until she met Greg, she had no idea that her blindness was reversible.

“We have so much catching up to do now that you can see. I have so many movies I want to show you. I don’t really know where to start.”
Alice looked at him. “I have watched movies before. I don’t think rewatching will make much of a difference to how I feel about them,” she said tossing the last pizza crust into the box.
“It’s not about whether you’ve seen them before or not, it’s about the imagery. You’ll love it, I promise.”
“Ok, we can re-watch stuff, but maybe not tonight. It’s been a long day and I kind of just want to sleep. Can I crash here tonight?”
“Sure,” he said. “You’re usual room is ready, as always.”

She’d been lying in bed for awhile now, trying to get to sleep. Even though she was exhausted, blissful unconsciousness was not making an appearance. She had heard Greg head to bed about half an hour ago. Maybe she would sneak into his room like she sometimes did when she couldn’t sleep.

Padding into his room quietly was easy for Alice, she was so used to not seeing anything, she knew where the obstacles were. The timber floors were cold underneath her feet, but she soon found the bed and pulled the covers back, crawling in beside Greg.
He rolled over and put his arm around her.
“Can’t sleep?”
“Uh huh.” He knew her well.

And she started to think. He did know her well, just like she knew him. Having seen him for the first time kind of awoke something inside her. She thought back over the years, not once had she known Greg to  have a girlfriend. She wondered why. It was the type of thing she could ask him freely. Or maybe he was gay. Why would he never be interested in anyone and let her sleep in his bed when she couldn’t sleep in her own. Plain and simple - gay. It had to explain it.

“Are you gay,” she blurted.
“Um... no,” Greg replied. “What makes you ask that?”
“I don’t know. It’s just... you’ve never had a girlfriend in the time that I’ve known you.”
“I did when we met. Her name was Cass, but we broke up shortly after. I guess it wasn’t really worth mentioning.”
“And what about since?” Alice asked. They had known each other for four years.
“There’s just never been anyone.”
Alice took this in. Maybe there was someone, but he just wasn’t telling her. Why wouldn’t he tell her? Why had it taken her this long to figure it out? Why had it happened on the day she could finally see? All the questions raced through her mind. She could see it clearly now, there was no one else because of her. She was it for him. Clear as day.
“Is it because of me?” she asked.
At this Greg opened his eyes and propped himself up by an elbow.
Simply, he said, “Yes.”
“Why have you never said anything?” she asked, looking directly into his blue eyes.
“I didn’t think you felt the same way. You never acted like it was something you wanted,” he paused, “... do you?”

She thought hard. She had never met anyone else like Greg, who had accepted her so openly and without hesitation. Now that she would not be labeled as different, would there be someone? Did she even want someone else? Or was it because she could finally see, that she had noticed the one person who was standing in front of her this whole time? That’s absurd, she thought. Vision isn’t what dictates love. But something had changed with how she perceived Greg, in just the few short hours since she could see.

She noticed how he acted around her - his expressions and body motions. She now saw how he looked at her - intently, piercingly, with his blue eyes. The look he was giving her now made the feeling in the pit of her stomach lear again, as if electrocuting her. She was certain the pangs she was experiencing were dormant feelings finally taking flight.

“It is now,” she said simply.

Greg leaned down and kissed her on the lips gently, then with a bit more pressure. A pulse shot through her. Sometimes it just takes time to see what has been right in front of you all along. Or a miracle, Alice thought.

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