His fingers savored the cotton he was lying upon. It had a hospital feel to it. Years of experience had accentuated his sense of smell and touch so much that he could use them in figuring out where he was and what was happening. This had allowed him to rely entirely on his smell, feel and hearing ability. The limited visual data in his memory restricted his sense of imagination. The few pictures his mind had ever recorded were minor glimpses. The memory he remembered most was the last image he had seen. He was eight years old when it happened.
A busy street lined with apartment buildings, stalls of fruit and vegetables buzzed with people and flies. Men with dark freckled skins and sweat drenched clothes shouted out their exclusive bargaining deals. He remembered his two stringed blue slippers and his dirty feet that he had decided to wash before his mother saw them. He was carrying a pouch of yoghurt in his hand and looked longingly at the man standing with a stand full of small bird cages. There were little finches of colors orange, green and pink. He really wanted to buy another set after a cat had attacked his chicks. There were motor bikes parked at the ground floor near his apartment building. A man sat on one of them and put the key inside the lock and turned. The engine jerked to life. The next moment, there was a loud noise and Ahmed felt blown backwards by a very disturbing white light as sharp objects pierced his skin. The last view he remembered was a blur of people running here and there. There were shrieks and there was blood. As he lay on the shaken ground, his mind trying to comprehend the last minute, the blur began to dissolve into darkness and there was a gush of pain in his forehead. He screamed with agony and the colors of his eyes seemed to fade into the air with his voice.
The next few days were confusion. Ahmed could hear panicked sounds, he could feel needles being injected into his body, he could smell the sterilized hospital air but there was no picture. What he could not feel was whether his eyes were opened or closed or whether he was alive at all. He wondered if it was something that happened to all the dead people. He found it hard to think because there was so much numbness. He had spoken to a female one night, she sounded like a doctor, very consistent and polite in speech. He also remembered that he had answered something and that she knew that he was awake. He recalled her words the next morning and realized that she had been talking about a bandage around his eyes. Then his mother and father came in one day. His mother sobbed and pressed his head into her chest. Ahmed could smell his mother’s scent and could feel her tears falling on his nose. He wanted to cry as well but the bandage was too tight to allow tears to flow. His nose bubbled instead and he let out a cry from his mouth. It felt so much lighter.
As the doctor injected another needle near the corner of his eye, Ahmed returned to the present. His adrenaline was too high despite the numbing injections which the doctor had been feeding him since morning. He was very anxious to see the world again. Ten years of his life had been nothing but mere darkness, those ten dear years when he transitioned from a toddler to a teenager. Life had not allowed him the sight of pretty girls, the laugh of school friends and the pleasure of cigarette smoke. He was eighteen now and the best thing he knew was the language of the blind. He had developed an expert intuition; he could sense peoples’ emotions only by the tone of their voice, something even people with a perfect sight could not do. He had become very sensitive to the sounds and sensations around him. He had grown from a bewildered child to a practical teenager hearing exactly the same content of news. Public places bombed, innocent people dead, their families left helpless. Sometimes he was thankful for only having lost his sight and still having his family beside him. Television was like radio to him and he spent most of his time hearing it. He had been enrolled in a blind school and was much more focused and thoughtful about what he studied because there were fewer distractions than what people with a sight would encounter. Podcasts and lectures were his educational aides. He had friends who lived in the same world of darkness filled with so much feeling and insight at its core.
Today he was being operated for an eye transplant. It felt like a transition to another life. His blood pressure was pumping high, there was so much surprise to handle. He wondered if his father wore the same spectacles, if his mother had any grey hair now. He wanted to see Ayesha and Rehan and all his friends. He wanted to see how his birds looked like; he had made guesses of their colors and could distinguish them from their chirp. It was like imagining a book character and waiting to see how it looked like in the movie. Most of all he wanted to see his face, hair and body. People said that he had grown into a tall muscular man. He only remembered his long face, lean figure and dirty eight year old feet. It was like being born again to a different world. However, he was also afraid, that it would all be the same and in fact, more desolate. After what he had known from television, what he did not want to see was bigger blasts, hopeless faces and relentless apathetic leaders having a good time ruling people who were struck with a worst kind of poverty than what he remembered.