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Pride and Sight
He had warned her about the book, now it was too late. Helen had a beautiful mind. Her mind was like a sponge, soaking up knowledge, cleaning up others’ confusions or misunderstandings, giving them the facts, the statistics. It was always in such a graceful demeanor. She didn’t brag, she didn’t boast, she just informed. She was grateful of what she had, and did not take advantage of her gift.Her mind was full of color, bright. It was hard to believe she was colorblind. You would think, from just looking into her deep brown eyes, she would be able to process the colors around her, to take those colors, and make them more vibrant. That, compared to what she saw, our vision was dull as can be. But the only colors familiar to her were grays and blacks. That’s why books were friends of hers. She didn’t need colors to read. Even though she was limited to only an imagination without the wonders of a bright orange Sun, emerald green blades of grass, and muddy-red brick buildings, she had an imagination beyond compare. There were gray, black, and white adventures with dragons, kingdoms, birds that flew to space, much higher than the birds she saw in the park flew. Even as clear of a mind Helen had, she had the tendency to be naive. She didn’t want to believe there is such thing as bad in the world, or that people can lie, or cheat because she couldn’t accept the fact that bad can happen to her. So when she learns that there is something that can fix her sight, that can make her see the world around her, and learn about the one thing that she can never really have any knowledge of, the ability to see colors, to describe what the dogs in the city or what the little girls playing hopscotch looked like, she was going to jump at the opportunity.
It was mid-July in Oklahoma. Helen’s house was a big ranch house in the country. Her mother and aunt lived with her, taking care of her and keeping an eye on Helen. A young girl with such a mind as Helen needed attention always levitating around her, a watchful eye always on her, following her, analyzing each step she takes. Watching to keep away any danger, brushing away any dirt or dust that risked dirtying her ecru stockings with frills and flowers that covered delicate feet fit for a dancer. Helen is thankful to have someone cautious and wary of her actions, it made her feel loved. But she wished to have more freedom. She was 11 years old, and her mother just began letting Helen out into the woods behind her home. When she was younger, Helen would constantly ask her mother to tell her about the colors. To try to explain them
“Well, Helen, you see that tree right there, hun? The bark is brown.”
“What does brown look like, Mama?” Helen would inquire. She knew all the names of the colors she was told, but she can never picture what they looked like. No matter how wild her imagination was, the colors were always just a little more daring.
“Well, hun,” her mother would say, looking her in the eyes and smirking, “brown looks like your eyes. But they’re different browns. Your eyes are.. Alive. The tree, it’s just muddy, dull. But your eyes are amazing. Ever since you were just a little baby, your eyes would shine brighter than those stars up in the sky.”
Her mother was right, Helen’s chocolate brown eyes caught the light around her and and her irises mimicked the Milky Way she’s read about. Helen’s mother tried to do her best to help her daughter understand what everyone around her was seeing, but it was never enough. She tried to make Helen feel better, but it would just frustrate her. It frustrated her mother, too. Each question on what brown, or red, or green looked like, would trip up her mother, make her stutter, make her mind begin to whir, groping for an answer to an unanswerable question. As her mother tried to answer, Helen would sit, tense, straining her ears, waiting for an answer to an impossible question. Even though she knew her mother wouldn’t be able to answer the question, she couldn’t help but hope that, maybe this time, she would finally understand, that all of a sudden, Helen would blink and her mind would be washed with a livelihood of color that she didn’t need to see with her eyes, but was enough to see with her mind. It would never happen though. And each time, Helen’s shoulders would slump, and she would jut out her lower lip slightly, in disappointment.
Why do I even bother in hoping? She would think to herself. Angry that would always fall for the same tricks that life pulls on her. She can almost here the Three Fates, sitting around their loom, snickering. After yet another failed attempt at understanding how the world around her looked, Helen decided she wanted to go for a walk to the bookstore not too far away from her home. The bookstore was a blessing. Along with the rusty gas station and the not-so-super-supermarket, that was all that was within miles of her home in the barren land of corn fields and gravel roads of Oklahoma. As her mother was washing dishes in scalding hot water, steam rising from the sink, Helen timidly tugged on her mother’s salmon cardigan, having to tug a second, harder time, when her mother didn’t respond. Her mother looked down, eyebrow raised.
“Yes, hun?” She said, lips pursed.
A small smile crept up on Helen’s face. The thought of books and the new things she can think up with their help made her do that, made her smile. She couldn’t help it.
“Can we go to the bookstore?” She asked, as quiet and polite as always. Her mother paused, and turned off the sink faucet, drying her hands on the dish rag draped over the cabinet handle below the sink. Her mother crossed her arms, contemplating.
“I think you should go to the bookstore. It’s about time I start accepting the fact you won’t be my little peanut forever.”
“Mom!” Helen’s alabaster cheeks turned rosy, warmth spreading over them. Her mother, amused by her daughter’s frustration, smiled and said,
“Oh, I’m sorry, Sugar. I can’t help it. So, how do you feel going out into that big, bad world on your own?”
“The world isn’t all that bad, Mama. There’s good in the world. I’ve never seen the bad.” As the last word floated off her tongue to her mother’s ears, Helen she knew she made a mistake saying that. She was in for one of mother’s famous life lectures, telling Helen she should be old enough to know that she should be cautious of the world, that an attitude like hers will get her kidnapped. Each time Helen wanted to tell her mother that she knows how to put a brain like hers to good use, but she didn’t want to risk getting her mother upset. But it was different this time. Her mother gave an exasperated sigh and said,
“Helen, there is a lot of good, but always be careful. Okay?”
The young girl nodded silently, seriously. Her mother smiled at her. And after her mother giving her the handful of dollars, three quarters, and a few nickels to put in one of the pockets of her plaid overalls, Helen was on her way. Helen walked for a long time, watching the sun move in the sky. Her mother told her it was a yellow color. And that the sky had the same color as the bows she had in her teddy bear- brown hair. She looked down at her shoes. To Helen, they were black, she knew that. The words in her books were black, too. She thought of other things that were black, like the night sky. Helen liked to think of the night sky, the big, black blanket enveloping the world, holes cut in it to let in just enough light for people to see what they’re doing. Daydreaming made time pass faster. Before she even knew it, she was at the bookstore, stepping into the cool, dark, cramped space from the harsh, hot, and bright world outside, the little bell on the door announcing her arrival, as if she were royalty visiting the people of the kingdom, and news of her appearance must be spread. Helen blinked, her eyes getting used to the darker shades of gray, after being in light, almost white, shades of gray for the entire walk. She went to her favorite section, fantasy. She loved to go to other worlds hidden within the pages of the books she reads. It was the only time when trying to figure out the color of a banana wasn’t important. As she looked through, reading authors’ names, trying to find titles that caught her attention, she didn’t notice the old man behind her. His shadow washed over her, making the dark grays even darker. His shadow loomed over her like one of the trees in her backyard, thin, gangly, colossal. Those trees made Helen feel like an ant, as if any second, the tree will look down on her, think she is nothing of importance, and step on her, killing her. Helen jumped, terrified by the big, dark figure.
Before she can even utter a word, the old man handed her a book, a rather large book. There was no title on it. Helen grasped it with both hands, a blank look on her face, confused.
The man bent down and said, in a low, deep voice,
“This book will make your biggest dream come true. But do not let your knowledge make your head large. One with too much pride is more ignorant than one with no knowledge.”
He then urged Helen out the door, not even letting her pay. Too scared to walk back in to pay for the enormous book, Helen hurried home, confused and in wonder. After she arrived home, the Sun was setting and her mother was watching her soap operas. After quickly giving her mother all the money without a word, Helen scurried upstairs. Closing the door, turning on her lamp on her nightstand, and began to read. The book was the best book Helen had ever read. It was an adventure story, filled with magical creatures, fun characters, princes and princesses. Helen fell asleep reading the book, dreaming of her own adventure. Of vines that grew from the walls, of flowers that talked, she felt as if she were Alice in Wonderland.
That morning, Helen awoke to a shock. Her sight, it... Changed.It wasn’t all black and gray and white. Helen shot out of bed, looking around. She didn’t understand. Are these different what she hoped they were? Were they colors? Helen looked at her teddy bear, Mr. Buttons, and looked at her hair, they were the same color. Her mother said it was called brown. Out the window, the sky looked like the bows in her hair, the blue. Peering out the window, she saw the grass. Not only did she know what grass looked like, but what emerald looked like, what envy looked like, what green looked like. It was a miracle! Helen had everything she ever needed or wanted. She had her knowledge, her sight, everything. Her mother was happy beyond belief, hugging her daughter, squeezing her. But, as the days went by, as weeks went by, Helen changed. She was no longer the sweet little girl. She had turned sour. Her beautiful mind was spoiled, stained by pride, arrogance. She had become a prima-donna. Once school began, Helen became worse. She found herself of higher value than anyone else in the whole grade. Even the teacher couldn’t match up to Helen’s superiority. Her mother put her in counseling, thinking it was a phase she was going through that must be addressed. But Helen just became worse and worse. Every night, she continued to read the book, there wasn’t a night she didn’t. Then one night, as every night before, Helen fell asleep with the book in bed, she began dreaming of vines and horses and kingdoms, as always. But this night was different. This night, the vines, the plants, attacked her. They wrapped around her tight like a snake around its prey. Helen, the little mouse for dinner, tried to squirm and wiggle her way out, but the vines just tightened around her, squeezing her. The vines wrapped around her more and more. Her arms, covered in green leaves, then her shoulders, her neck, and finally, her head. Helen was encased in a cacoon of green. Her muffled screams were no help.
It’s just a dream, it’s just a dream...She repeated to herself, over and over again. Then she opened her eyes. For a split-second, everything was calm, and she was simply in her darkened room, golden light washing over her walls from a lamp. Helen went to turn off the light, but she couldn’t. That’s when she realized, it wasn’t a dream. The vines were real, and were sprouting from the book. Helen soon was completely wrapped in the green, evil weeds, unable to move, speak, see, or hear. When she opened her eyes, all she would see is the blurry green, until all she saw was black. Helen woke up in the morning, still startled by the dream, but when she awoke, she wasn’t home, she wasn’t anywhere. She was in another world. A dreary world of different shades of grays and blacks. There were no distinct buildings, no plants, no sky, no color. The only color came from her lime green button-up pajamas, her sky blue bows, and teddy bear-brown hair. Everything in this world was smudges and blurs and nothing was clear and everything was slow. Helen had paid the price for her pride.