Blurred Faces

When you first open your eyes, all you can see is the brightness. You don’t know what it is, but you feel your stubby fingers reach for that light. Pale clouds of cream dot your vision as you squirm, your back brushing against a fur blanket. You feel tender hands wrap delicately around your torso, its sensitive warmth spreading across your skin, and pull your small form away from that security. The pale clouds stitch together into a quilt of color, and you blink frantically to focus.

Later, you recognize the splash of pure white as your mother’s dazzling smile, and the black spots as your father’s stubble, scratching you whenever he kissed you on the cheek. From your mother’s playful peek-a-boos, you realize the swinging blues as your mother’s sapphire earrings, and from your father’s fluttering hand butterflies, you make out the shimmering silver as your father’s platinum wedding band.

When your vision finally allows you to observe your mother’s face, you admire how her dark eyelashes shiver in delight when she laughs, how the edges of her eyes crinkle when you try to talk, bubbles of spit blooming around your mouth that you think is gross, but your mother cooes and calls it adorable. It takes you longer to recognize your father. Maybe it was the way his dark beard climbs up half his face or how his mess of brown hair curls to hide his otherwise striking green eyes. You like to tangle your hands in those curls, swishing them and watching its chaotic dance. The boisterous laugh you emit makes your father undeniably happy, and you wonder how a grown man could make such a high-pitched sound.

You dream of the colors you were finally able to explore, darting through lush forests, chattering with toucans and waltzing with peacocks. You race through meadows of wheat and watch as their beige arms extend endlessly towards the sky. You lie on the damp grass of your backyard, gazing towards the magenta sunset. You watch as the sky becomes a canvas and the sun its artist, painting a transitory masterpiece. You scrawl across untouched papers with your tools of creation, the colors you mix brilliantly dashing in a curved formation, a fragile butterfly, mid-flap, struggling to escape the paper’s incessant restraint.

One night you startle awake, grabbing for anything that will sustain your presence in reality. You breathe, telling yourself it was just a dream. But even with the lights on, you can no longer see the paper cranes you hung off your ceiling, only fuzzy dots of pink, blue, and purple, splashes of color that had once been your stunning creations. When your mother comes to check on you, you feel hot tears run down your face. No matter how hard you squint, you can no longer make out the deep dimples you used to poke affectionately at, nor the light brown freckles you used to count one by one.

They tell you it’s retinal detachment. A rare case in such a young individual, they all say. You ask why it had to be you. You hear your mom say maybe you cherished too much. You spend the first few weeks in bed, willing yourself to sleep. Because only in your dreams can you see the crimson specks in your mother's eyes and your dad’s heart-shaped birthmark on his chin. In your dreams, you take them in. You count the wrinkles on their fingers, make mental notes on the shade of their skin, the brightness of their eyes, the curve of their smile. Before you can finish memorizing the shape of your mom’s nose, the colors mix together and you wake up once again in your obscure reality.

You grab your walking stick and tap your way downstairs, only slipping once: a new accomplishment. You smell omelets and you imagine the mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers wrapped in a gentle yellow blanket, and as you shakily sit down, your mom tells you today’s the day to go back to school. You shake your head. I’m not ready. Your mom lays a hand on your shoulder. Today, you have to be. It’s your birthday today, you realize. You reach towards what you believe is your mother, and you feel her arms wrap tenderly around your middle. The pale clouds stitch together into a quilt of color, and you blink frantically to focus—but this time, you can’t.

You’re a kaleidoscopic butterfly, made to admire Mother Earth yet forced to endure a life surrounded by blurred faces, ones whose features you used to know so well, now only a thin mist—an illusion—drifting in and out of your sight.