It was an incident. “Wrong place, wrong time” implies a causality which I’m hesitant to believe exists. So it was an incident, and an unglamorous one at that. A tennis ball, propelled by a cricket bat and blatant adolescence. The pain was negligible. When my vision rebooted, things seemed a little duller and redder than before. The adolescent me proclaimed he was fine, but the seraphic presence inside – what some have not ungenerously called my old soul – was deafeningly silent, which by definition meant I didn’t hear his warnings. The teacher-on-duty expended her duty-of-care by carefully advising me to go to sickbay. I waddled from the playground alone, and the first real dialogue between adolescent and angel began when I peered at myself peering back in the turquoise-laced plastic mirror and saw half my pupil its usual sullen hazel but the other, the bottom half a pale, almost desexed red where the blood had filled up within and I wasn’t sure what to say.
What’s it like to go blind? I barely notice yet when I glance at the maple tree outside, studded with lime-greened conkers which are as yet invisible, hidden beneath the bushy foliage of leaves and stars. It is not dramatic. If anything, it is humorous, like Beckett or televised war reporting. If I close the not-damaged and stare at a person from a certain angle, it appears to me that the top of their head has been chopped off.
The damaged has, by my reckoning, lost around a quarter of its field of vision, not all in the same place. The nice doctor who I have seen since the accident showed me a graph of the damaged, with black spots demarcating the lost areas. Another doctor, also nice, recently showed me a series of graphs illustrating the different rates of ocular decline with, with substandard, or without medication. The sort where you laugh because it is something to do, and you subconsciously fear becoming a cliché. I don’t like seeing the tops of my loved ones’ heads chopped off. Contrary to popular belief, laughter is not the best medicine, but has the least side-effects.
I started writing after the incident. I didn’t write of the week spent bed-bound and motionless, or the cover-up at school that followed, not directly anyway. Two years later, when the same thing happened to a friend of mine, there was a special investigation and he became a minor war hero. I remember the Headmaster – he’s still there now, expressing his utmost sympathies in front of school assembly, as the hero looked on resplendent in eyepatch and blazer. My parents weren’t told not to sue, not directly anyway. I didn’t get an eyepatch either.
At worst, the incident only accelerated the inevitable. The glaucoma is far less pronounced in the non-damaged – meaning less nerve endings have been pressured into pale desexed shadows of themselves – but it is nevertheless present, like the conkers on the springtime maple tree. I have my own regime to complement what the nice doctors recommend. I try not to worry or overexert myself, physically or otherwise. I take laughter despite being hesitant to believe in its palliative value. I save my money so I can spend it on luxury goods – new drugs, surgical procedures, second opinions. I do my best to live by the old verities.
I pray for my family and friends to enjoy the same good fortunes as I, but without the incidental side-effects. I choose to forget where I cannot forgive. My documents say I am 22, but those around me say I resemble an old man in many ways. The physical deterioration is purely incidental.