Black and White

May 5, 2013
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I felt like a deranged pirate; indeed, I probably resembled one to a tea. I’d been too afraid to confirm the notion by peering into any kind of mirror on the way home from the hospital. Besides, it wasn’t as though I’d be able to see anything; unless, of course, you counted the shadows which transformed my world into one huge black-and-white television screen.

I’d been born with the same kaleidoscope of colours as nearly everyone else. It was Type 2 Diabetes which had stolen the light of my vision. The disease pitched me into an unknown sea of darkness pulsing before my eyes in an undulating black wave.

I continued to view this world of silhouettes through my left eye, and for some inexplicable reason, I felt reassured by what were formerly nightmarish shades. Indeed, I had known and come to be familiar with this world for a few months. How would this shadowland appear beside one filled with plumes of colour? My anxiety spiked as I sat at the kitchen table and reached up a shaking hand to peel at the tape securing the eyeshield over my right eye.

The experience was comparable to drawing back a curtain or flipping on a light switch. In a sensational spectacle, the colours exploded before me. I realized with delight that the once ominous shapes were plates of food – dinner. My gaze raked over the heaps of delight, while my eye absorbed the colours as though I could suck them through a straw. Suddenly, red peppers were startling roses, brown rice rich earth. What surprised me most was the corn. Had yellow always been that bright? Perhaps the comparison I was drawing between my right and left eye was making the colours more striking than they actually were? Mentally, I stomped on the unwanted premise. I could see.

As I threw out an arm to grab hold of a foreign-looking fork, I found my hand clutching a gleaming silver knife instead. Surprised, I dropped the utensil with a thunderclap which reverberated throughout the room. Unease draped me in the form of cool sweat. I tried for the bowl of corn, only to find my hand tipping over a glass of milk as my arm snaked out haphazardly. I reached forward to break the fall but grasped only at air. The glass smashed against the table, another sound echoing in my ears.

I struggled to keep my tears at bay in order to not ruin the lens replacing the cataract. I’d grown used to living my life according to the blurry shadows. It was now as though someone suddenly beamed a flashlight on the world and held a microscope up to my eye. Worse, the more I thought about my situation, the more it seemed the world of colour had changed since I’d last laid eyes on its landscape. The corn which had been so ethereal disappointed me. In fact, everything appeared cooler than I recalled, almost as if the colours had been dialled down, or as though they simply could no longer manifest the warmth I’d treasured.

I wanted to return to the complete world of shadows. This canvas splashed with colour was dazzling, but it wasn’t a place I recognized. Shoving my one hand over my new lens to reveal a hazy smorgasbord, I wondered if the answer to my dinner dilemma was simple. Dropping my hand, I carefully compared each of my views – the black-and-white world created by the remaining cataract on my left eye and the bursting world of colour manifested by the new lens on my right eye. Then I reached out to grip a fork, shining as if a polished diamond, and, with a smile turning up my lips, I claimed one piece of delicious victory.

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