Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Light and Dark (05/21/09)
TITLE: When I Close My Eyes
By Joanne Sher
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On a good day, closing them was enough to make me smile. It reminded me of hide-and-seek with my younger cousins, of the pictures I created in my mind before I picked up a colored pencil to create them for Mom and Dad. Darkness had always been where my imagination had best taken flight, where I had truly connected with God.
Today, however, had not been a good day. In the past, closing my eyes had also been a way to flee, at least to an extent, whatever was upsetting, distressing, overwhelming, or frustrating me. But now, it did no good. Whether my eyelids are up or down, the view is the same: pitch black.
The car crash took my parents. The emergency surgery took my eyesight. And today, my friend took my hope.
I'd worked on my project all morning and had hung it up on the refrigerator, with help from Grandma. I could feel the texture when I'd massaged the paper with my fingertips. And, when I closed my eyes I could see what I'd drawn: Willow Lake, sunlight filtering through the trees onto its surface, reflecting the branches onto the backs of two swans.
"It's lovely, Amy," Grandma had gushed. "Just beautiful."
I hadn't considered at the time that Grandma might have been biased, or just acting polite. But now I can remember the hesitancy in her voice. And I know.
If only Grandma had been honest. Told me the picture was awful. Then I never would have put it on the refrigerator for Jessalyn to see.
She and I had been chatting, and Jess had gone to the kitchen to get juice boxes and cookies for us. Then she'd said it.
"Mrs. West, that picture is so cute! Did Howie make it for you?"
My heart stopped beating. Howie, my cousin, is three years old.
"Um...no, Jessalyn." Grandma lowered her voice, but I could still hear her. "It's Amy's."
The voices stopped. I hated that. Not only couldn't I see what was going on, as usual, but I also couldn't hear. So I tried to imagine. Didn't even bother to close my eyes. Like I said, it didn't change the view.
But I couldn't. It was like my brain was broken. All I could see, and all I could think of, was black. And only one sentence repeated in my head:
I draw like a three-year-old.
And then Jessalyn left the kitchen and started walking toward the living room. The squash of her feet on the carpet got progressively louder. I couldn't tell if she knew I'd overheard, so I forced my face to relax and even tried to smile.
"Hey. Should I put the cookies on the coffee table or hand them to you?" I could hear the smile in her voice. She was probably clueless.
"Just put 'em on the table. Thanks." I turned toward her voice and faked a yawn. "Hey, Jess? I'm feeling kinda tired. Would you mind heading out and letting me take a nap?"
"Um...,sure, Amy." I felt her hand on my shoulder. "You sure you're okay?"
I nod and fumble for a cookie. "Really. I'm just gonna eat this then head up. I'll call you later. Okay?"
"Okay. See you later, Amy."
I hold back a sob. "Yup." You'll see me, but I sure won't see you. Ever.
Once I'm sure she's left I sob silently, but only for a few minutes. Don't want to worry Grandma. But what can I do? My dream of being an artist is shattered, and I'll never see again. I feel so lost.
So, because I can think of no other option, I figure I'll pray. And, even though it doesn't make a difference, I close my eyes.
Before I can speak, or even think of what to say, I can see again. Within my closed eyelids are the compassion of my grandmother, the love of my friend, and the light of God, shining through the darkness as the sunshine filters through the trees of Willow Lake.
Maybe my artistic abilities need some work. Perhaps the "real" world will always be black for me. But I know--God has assured me--that when I close my eyes, His eternal light, and the love of those I hold dear, will shine where everyone else sees only darkness.
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