Amina sat by the small fire she had built outside the barracks she was staying at. She took out her diary and started writing the day’s journal. It was a habit with her, documenting what she experienced, every day. She did not want to forget anything she saw. On her dull days, she read her journals and relived her past sojourns. She recorded what she saw, to one day be able to recite these to the one person she was looking for. She needed to tell him all that she had seen whenever they met. If they ever met.
Lost in her longing and hope of meeting the man she owed everything, she turned back to the first page. It had blotched patches of ink juxtaposed with a beautiful handwriting. She remembered how her tears had fallen over her words, immortalizing the pain she had felt.
As her mind drifted, she found her vision blurring. Or did her vision blur, so that her mind could drift? The eyes, they had always seemed to have a will of their own. Refusing to do their job, they forced her to indulge her nostalgia; forced her past to trespass into her present, riding the memory train. It brought back the horrid times when she had been truly happy – a fleeting happiness that destroyed her world in its wake.
Yes, she had been in love once. She had loved dearly. What they had together, what they shared were the most beautiful emotions Amina had ever felt. But that is what love does. It romanticizes and makes everything grander in retrospect, she heard her logical self argue with her true self.
Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. All I know is what I felt during that phase of my life. Everything was better, our handicaps did not seem to matter. We completed each other, not only by overcoming our physical limitations through the complementary nature of our defects, but also emotionally. How can you deny that? It is the truth…
It was around the time she had started her Masters in Developmental Studies, when she had met Gabriel. He was a quadriplegic. He had been in a war, in his country. “We had many wars back then. I don’t even remember which one or even whom I was fighting,” she remembered Gabriel telling her. The war had taken away his faculty of movement. He had come to Amina’s country, seeking refuge from his own. His surroundings reminded him of his athletic days and his love for all sports. He could not play anymore and watching the sports only heightened his bitterness. Amina was the balm to his pain.
She recalled how Gabriel used to lie next to her, reminiscing, for hours together: sometimes about his countryside, sometimes his war. His voice, his words painted a world for Amina. Her imagination took flight and she felt his country better than she had ever felt her own. She felt like she belonged there. She felt she belonged to Gabriel.
Her heart skipped a beat, fearing where her mind was going next. She shook her head and forced her eyes to focus on something to derail the memory train. Out of the blur, her journal materialized into focus. First page – at the start. When she had opened her eyes for the first time in the hospital. No, she hadn’t just been born, but the experience had been quite like that. It was the most eventful day in her life.
Gabriel had brought Amina news of her surgery. The most beautiful gift she could have ever dreamt of. Such joy she had experienced at just the thought of it. She had forgotten to ask any questions, fearing she would wake up from the dream. She had waited all her life for a donor and it had finally happened. Gabriel had come with her to the hospital. He was with her when she was being prepped for the surgery and left her side only after she was anaesthetized.
When she recovered from the effects of the anesthesia, she asked for Gabriel. She took in the reaction of the doctors and nurses in the silence, her heart sinking. The room stank of their tension. But she was fighting against her logical self and would dare not venture where it was taking her…
Amina was born blind. She, however, had learned to live, and not just manage, without being bogged down by an obvious handicap.
Her mental development had been acute, because her mind was extremely keen. It wanted to take in and process everything. “Vision makes the mind lazy,” a ten year old Amina had declared to her mother, “I have four working senses.” Indeed, she had an extremely developed olfactory sense and perceived most objects around her with an acute sense of hearing.
She could tell the height of the person speaking to her, through the angle at which the voice was coming from. She could tell the length of the car, and the speed it was moving at through the sound it made while passing her. With her sharp memory, she could remember where everything was, once she had sensed it.
Her world existed in a complex code of sound and smell signals. Even the inane objects, which we see but refuse to register in our conscious memory, letting them slip into the subconscious, drew her attention and affixed her gaze.
Gabriel was enamored with Amina’s passion. Her zest for life, because of her handicap not in spite of it, made her very different from Gabriel. Though healing, he knew he could never embrace life the way Amina did.
Her fingers involuntarily pulled out her only connection to the man she loved. Tucked between the pages, buried in there was a note he had left by her hospital bed.
“One complete life. Better than two incomplete ones.”
Amina felt the irony of having lived the darkest moment of her life with a brand new pair of eyes.