The second writing prompt: A gifted eye surgeon is contacted by a 6 year old former patient. After 6 months, he wishes to be blind again.
Take them back, the voice whispers.
He often lay awake at night, driven to sleeplessness because of the horrors of the world, and it was the boy’s voice who narrated his despair.
In the morning, he got up the first time his alarm went off. He kissed his wife goodbye. He ate his breakfast at work before getting started with that day’s patients: cataract removal, cornea reshaping, glaucoma surgery, tumor removal, orbital implant… Most of them thanked him for their gift of sight. It was once the children who had made him the happiest.
Several years back, he had perfected a surgical technique to give sight to children with a certain type of congenital blindness; the perfected technique was even named after him: the Smith Repair. Certainly few would know or care which person of the name of Smith had developed the technique, but he knew and was proud. He used to be proud.
Now he no longer performed the surgery. He knew better than to give people such a dubious gift: one which granted them passage into a world they would do better not to know. So many spoke of the wonders of a sunset, or moonlight on the surface of water, or the face of loved ones – but that was where pain lay.
Why? He said back. You can see now, you can see your mamma’s face and the screens at the movie theater. Haven’t the last 6 months been wonderful?
I don’t want to see, the boy replied. There’s too much hate.
Smith didn’t want to get into a philosophy discussion with a 6 year old.
Well… the matter is, that’s life, he said. It will always be there. This way, you can see the beautiful things that make it better – the puppy dogs and the –
I hear bad things on the news. I hear when momma’s mad. I don’t want to see when people I don’t even know look at me and hate me. The boy began to choke on his words. I was playing at the park with Jessa. I didn’t know Jessa was ugly before I could see. Now I know, but I still don’t care. But they do. We were at the park and I saw the people walk past and look so angry. I couldn’t hear their stares before, but now I see them and I don’t like them.
He laid his face down on the table and cried in the way that children do, with their whole body.
That night on the way home, Smith saw the world as it really was – in black and white. He saw the good and the bad and he saw that the good could never make up for the bad. The more he ruminated on it, the more he realized that a sunset was not beautiful – it was death. It was like the deaths we all die every day when we wake for work and wish we could stay home; when we hate our families and wish we could leave, but know we cannot; when we realize that no matter how much we try to set things right, there will still be children starving for the love of an absent parent or dying of cancer every night that you lay sleeping in bed.
So he lay awake, as if he could somehow fix the problems that plagued humanity simply by thinking about them long enough.
One day, long after retirement, Smith found that the letters on the newspaper in front of him blurred and ran together. He told no one, but continued to live his life with as little interruption as possible, keeping each object he would need for the day in a precise location so as to find it without looking. Eventually, he moved to a home where the nurses would look out for his safety and take care of his needs –although the overarching threat of medical care was always present from the physicians who worked there. He had not had an eye exam in years until an enterprising young doctor insisted on performing full check-ups on every resident in the home.
“We know his sight is going,” said one nurse to the doctor, “but he seems to get around okay.”
“It’s not just going, it’s gone,” said the doctor after finishing the exam. “He’s completely blind!”
Smith saw nothing, and smiled.