For most of my life, all I remember is seeing darkness. Yes, it is true that I wasn't blind when I was a mere infant of 3 years of age, but all my memories of colors are tainted with black and white. A sloppy job by my brain.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Samuel and I am 17 years old. I have been blind since I was 3 and all this time I have never attended a school or ventured out in society. There are only a handful of people I have met, but I know them very well. My parents Robert and Michelle, my elder brother John and finally my best friend and my caretaker Julia.
My parents are the most hard-working, optimistic and determined people I have ever known. As a kid, I used to crave for my mother's arms especially after the darkness settled in and I was left alone. She used to take me in her arms and softly sing me to sleep even if it was late at night. Later, I learnt that at the time I had turned blind she was preparing for one of the most important exams in her life. My mother cared for me deeply, and never shouted or got angry at me, even after my irritable behaviour. I used to get frustrated a lot after I turned blind. I used to hit my head on walls, and hit my toes on edges of the table in my living room. Then, I used to turn into a feral beast who would start throwing things around, waving my hands like a madman, I had even hit my brother and my mother sometimes. Nonetheless, my family had always been patient with me.
I could go on and tell you about my family in detail and the mishaps I have had but this story is not about that. This story is about Julia and it is dedicated to her.
When Julia came into my life, I was in a terrible state. I had just entered puberty and my tantrums had become more and more difficult for my family. They were beginning to realise that I was becoming too much to handle and I needed a person to help me. So, they bought me a friend. Julia, at that time, was a 13 year old girl, who was receiving training in a social service society in which her parents had enrolled her. I was the first 'patient' she had been assigned.
The day she came to our house, I could smell her faint strawberry shampoo before she even stepped inside. I was drawn to the smell and went inside the living room to attend to the new guest.
"Hi Samuel! My name is Julia Porter and I would like us to be friends." she said in a cheerful tone. I wasn't sure how to reply and felt confused. Nobody had ever asked me that. I wasn't even sure what a friend was at that time. So, I asked her frankly, "What's a friend?"
She breathed in deeply and came close to me. She touched my arm slightly, and softly spoke, "A friend is a person who listens to you all the time and never leaves your side. A friend guides you to the right path when you're heading in the wrong direction."
At that time, I had no idea what she meant at all, so my first question was, "Will you accompany me to the bathroom too?"
Julia burst out laughing and replied, "No, Samuel, I will not intrude your private space."
From that day onwards, things began to change. My temper fits grew less in number and my interaction with Julia increased everyday. It was not as if we were always happy and friendly with each other. I hurt Julia many times, both physically and emotionally, for which I can never apologize enough.
Julia was my constant support but she was also the first person who scolded me. My family had always been patient with me and I had become a nasty spoilt brat. Julia made me understand what was right and what was wrong. She taught me manners. She would come every weekend and spend time with me. During her summer breaks, she would come and teach me. Since I was homeschooled, I had been mostly taught by my mother and brother. My father was a busy man and couldn't make much time for his family. But, that was because he was trying his best to arrange for funds for my eye operation. It took him quite a few years to save enough money.
So, beside my mother and my brother, I still consider Julia as my first teacher. Julia didn't just teach me math, science or literature, but she taught me life too. She took me out of my house to play in the fields, to enjoy the breeze and to greet strangers. I was apprehensive of this idea at first, being a shut-in for many years, but slowly and steadily I began to enjoy my outings with her.
One day, I asked her, "Juls, do you have other friends?"
She remained quiet for a moment and answered honestly, "I'm afraid not Sam. You are my only friend."
There was a small twinge of pain in her voice as she said those words. Me, being the cold insensitive boy at the time, couldn't sense that and replied, "So, you're just like me then! You don't need other friends, other than me, right?"
Juls chuckled sadly, and said, "Maybe not Sam..."
It was later when I told my mother about this incident that she made me realise how selfish I was at that time. I realised my mistake for the first time, and began to see that my actions and words were harsher and more hurtful than I had known. For the first time, I felt deep regret and sadness. I never asked her about it further nor did I ever apologize to her.
Slowly, I started becoming more sensitive to the people around me. I started feeling thankful to my family and Julia. I was growing up. But, there were days I was absolutely lonely. Whenever guests came over to our house and talked about our beautiful wall decors or lighting I remained quiet. One day, I even asked, "Is it really that beautiful?"
The entire room became silent by my question. I realised I was being insensitive and promptly exited the room and ran to my room to cry in my bed. That day, Julia came to sleepover at our place. My mother had called her because she understood I was feeling lonely and sad. She knocked on the door and said, "Sam, may I come in?"
I didn't reply, my face still buried in the pillow.
"Sam, I won't come in until you allow me to."
"Alright then, I will leave since you are-"
I'm pretty sure Julia was probably smiling when she entered my room. She poked me gently and said, "Hey dumbo, I brought you some food. You must be hungry."
She fed me the warm chicken soup and bread. I ate in silence without speaking a single word. She lay me down in my bed and comforted me by hugging.
"It's alright Sam", she whispered in my ear, "I am here now."
That day, for the first time, I felt this wonderful emotion that I had only read in braille books called, 'love'.
I wasn't sure what it was at that time, but I became sensitive to her. Everytime she would touch me to help me stand up or for some other reason, my heart rate shot up and I felt my cheeks flush. Every time she would say something, I would enjoy it like a nightingale's song. Every time she called out my name... I felt so happy I could touch the sky.
All these wonderful emotions inside me, quite contrarily, were displayed in the most inaffectionate manner. To her, it looked like I was angry with her. I would get startled at her touch. I would not pay attention to what she was saying. I would ignore her often when she called out my name. I was once again hurting her without even realising that it was my feelings which were to blame. I was so obsessed in thinking what these emotions meant that I didn't realise what I felt for her was ruining my friendship with her. I couldn't possibly ask her straightaway, could I? What did these new feelings and emotions mean?
She told me later that at that time she felt as if she had done something wrong and I was unhappy with her. She had felt frustrated with herself but she couldn't bring herself to ask me why I was being like that. It was later, when I told my elder brother John about these feelings, that he told me I was in love. He understood what was going on between Julia and me, and somehow cleared up the misunderstanding between us, which, to this day, I don't understand how. He talked to Julia secretly about something and told me how my behaviour was actually hurting her.
Immediately, I realised my mistake and felt sorry. I went and apologized to her, much to her surprise. Puzzled, she asked me, "Why are you apologizing Sam?"
"I'm sorry because the past few days I have been rude to you and ignoring you."
"Well, yeah... But can you tell me why? Did I do something wrong?"
"No! None at all."
"Oh, that's because I am in lo-"
I choked on my words. For the first time, I realised how hard it was to confess your feelings. All those moments I had heard in books, where the protagonists couldn't confess their feelings, I had laughed at them while my mother, who would be reading the books to me, patted my head knowingly. And now, I was going through the same thing. Oh, how I regret laughing at that time! Certainly, the god of love must have been laughing at me seeing me reduced to the same pathetic and feeble state of which I had made fun.
The following few weeks were almost hell for me. Every time I tried to muster up the courage to tell her how I felt, my words would choke in my throat and my mind would stop working. But, finally I managed to get the words out and that too, in the most amusing manner.
I had learnt how to take baths by myself by the time I was 10. But, my habit of forgetting to take my towel in the shower had persisted for a long time. It was Saturday evening and I was taking a good hot shower. I felt around the bathroom to find my towel, and much to my chagrin, I had yet again forgotten it. I called out for my mom to help me out, but unfortunately, she was in the kitchen preparing dinner for everyone as Julia was supposed to come for a sleepover. Unfortunately for me, Julia had decided to show up early and was already inside the house, ushered by John, and heard my call instead. She went to get my towel and quietly handed it over.
Finally feeling the soft touch of my towel in my hand, I said, "Thanks a lot! I love you"
Yes, I did forget to add 'Mom' in front of the I love you and suddenly after speaking those words I heard a small squeal.
Confused, I stood there, hiding my naked body behind the door as Julia was flustered beyond imagination, or so I had heard.
"Who- Who's that?"
She replied in an unusually high pitch voice, "Um... It's me Julia."
I didn't come out of the bathroom for an hour even though I was done bathing.
Later that night, Julia closed the lights and lay beside me on the bed.
Awkwardly, I began, "Julia I- Today, when I was bathing-"
She began to giggle and cut me off by saying, "It's ok Sam! I understand. You were saying that to your mom. Hahaha!"
She hadn't stopped laughing and this time with a much forceful voice I said, "No! I meant what I said!"
And then she stopped laughing. She was quiet for a moment and then stuttered, "Re- Really?"
"Yes... I love you Julia Porter!"
Again, she was quiet.
Then, she whispered in my ear, "This is a very important lesson for you."
She turned me over and then pressed her lips on mine. At that moment, I felt I could suddenly see. I could suddenly remember all the foggy colours and as they blew up in my mind like fireworks. I could feel her soft... oh, so soft, lips as they pressed against mine. I could taste a hint of the orange juice we had for dinner. I could feel her hot breath blowing in my face and for the first time, I could sense more, more than touch, sound, smell or taste, I could see our love. To this day, I still mark that day as the first time my sight returned to me.
The forever lasting kiss ended after a few seconds and I could hear her shy away and turn around. I could feel my cheeks burning bright and I turned away too. With our backs against each other, I softly said, "Goodnight Juls"
She replied with a small "Mhmm, you too."
One can say, my life turned brighter after that.
After half a year, my father brought good news for everyone. He announced that he finally had enough money for my eye surgery and the doctors had found a matching donor. My family was overjoyed. I was happy too, to be finally able to escape the darkness. I called Julia and told her about this. She sounded happy on the phone but little did I know what she had actually felt at that time.
The next weekend, Julia didn't come over. I asked my mom about her and she said that Julia was busy with some personal stuff. I patiently waited for another week and this time she came over. Later that night, while we were lying on the bed, I could hear her fidgeting. I touched her arm and asked what's wrong.
"I- I am a bad person, Sam. I don't deserve you."
"Juls, don't say that! I feel lucky to have you by my side. Why would you ever really think like that!?"
"Because... I- I don't... want your vision to return."
Shocked by her words, my own voice got stuck in my throat.
All I could utter was, "Why?"
She replied in a low tone, "Because it's better you hate me now than when your vision returns."
"Juls!" I almost screamed.
She began to sob quietly, and I comforted her. I hugged her, and said, "Juls, you were the one who brought colour to my life. I don't want my vision to return if you cannot stay by my side and show me the colours that you've taught me how to see without my eyes. You... are the colour of my life. I know you love me, and whatever you're saying right now is because you want to push me away. But, know this, even if you push me like this, I will stay by your side. So... won't you?"
She nodded in my arms and holding each other we fell asleep.
Two weeks later, I was sitting on the stretcher, being transported to the Operation Theatre. Julia and my mother were holding my hands. Soon, I arrived at the OT and I could feel Julia's palms sweating. I squeezed her hands and then let go.
I don't remember what happened during the surgery as I was under general anesthesia. After a few hours, the surgery was over. The doctors said it was successful. My family came to visit me as my head and eyes were covered with bandages. The doctor told me that the bandages would be removed after some time so my family waited. Tired of all the mental pressure of their blind son undergoing a life-changing surgery, they fell asleep outside my room and Julia was the only one who was still awake. When the time to remove my bandages came, Julia squeezed my hands as the doctor slowly unwrapped my bandages.
I slowly opened my eyes... and the first thing I could see was blinding white light. Slowly, my eyes adjusted and focused on a girl holding my hand. She was about 5'6'', neither too tall nor too short, just the perfect height. She had long flowing black hair, and it looked as silky to touch just as silky they were when I used to run my hands through them. Her blue-green eyes shined bright. Her short cute nose looked perfect. Each inch of her was perfect. Yet, the only thing most people noticed about her was... the big scar that ran through her left eye.
The moment I saw her I understood why she didn't want me to gain vision, why she had told me that she didn't have any friends. I understood all her pain and the way she must have been pitied, just like I was for being blind, for her face. That's why it was easy for her to befriend a blind boy, because he would never judge her for her looks. I looked at her worried face as she began, "Sam I- I know what you must be thinking right now. I know I look hideous. I am- "
I pressed my finger on her lips to keep her from speaking.
For the first time, I saw her smile.