My name is Calla. It means beauty, in Greek. I never thought I lived up to this name, though I was told I did. It’s not on the outside that matters, it’s what’s on the inside, I was told. I still did not believe them. I always thought the world was full of colours, colours that I made up in my head. I was told the sea was blue. Blue they said, soft, calming, light. Except for dark blue, they said, that’s dark. So that’s what I imagined, soft calming. The sea sparkled they said, little diamonds flashing everywhere. I told them I didn’t know what diamonds looked like, but I could imagine them. I don’t know if I imagined them right, but they were right in my mind. I was told that trees grew from the ground, they had brown trunks and green leaves. Brown, dark, rough, not the most favourite colour. Green, bright, calming like blue, one of the most diverse colours they told me. I asked what a leaf looked like, so they gave me leaves. Some were rough, some smooth. They were all different so I couldn’t get the right picture. So I made up a picture in my mind, of all the leaves. Are trees beautiful? I asked. Some are, most aren’t though, they told me. But my tree was beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
They put shapes in my hand to show me how things looked. I learnt what an apple was, what a flower was. They drew pictures in Braille to show me how bigger things looked. Bumps on a page showed me everything I see.
Someone once asked me what I saw. I told them I saw nothing but what I imagined. Don’t you see black? They asked. Light, dark? Nothing, I answered. Her voice was soft and high, like an angel’s voice would be. You do not know what I look like? Her voice grew softer. You are beautiful, I said. You do not see me, you do not know. You are kind, you have not run away or tried to help me, I told her. That does not mean I’m kind, she was upset but I did not understand why. You are beautiful I told her. So are you. We became friends after that, my first friend who understood I did not like to be worried over.
When I opened my eyes I heard nothing. I was not deaf, but I heard nothing. I heard the voice of the doctor, the voice of my mother. But I did not hear the beeping machines, nor the footsteps pacing outside. I was deaf. The man leaving over me had the voice of the doctor, and I knew it was him. His clothes were light, bright, but his skin was dark. So dark, smooth, almost shiny. I held up my own hand, expecting the same. My skin was fair, light, not at all like the dark beautiful skin I had seen before. But my skin was beautiful in its own way, soft, beautiful. The colour was like what I had imagined the sea as. The sea that was said to be beautiful. And although my skin didn’t sparkle or shine, it was beautiful.
They took me to a mirror. I didn’t understand them when they said, are you ready to see yourself? I had always seen myself, just like I had always seen everyone. But that was on the inside, not what everyone else saw. When they put me in front of it the first thing I noticed wasn’t myself, but the way that light seemed to dance in the mirror, stooping around its frame. Then I noticed myself. My hair was short, straight. I had five fingers, that moved when I willed them. My mother and father stood behind me, I couldn’t see them, but I could hear them shifting nervously. My mother came and rested her hand on my shoulder, her skin like mine. I asked her what colour this was, pointing at my own hand. She told me it was tan, like orange. Orange. I had imagined this colour as blue, not orange. I looked around then, trying to find something that was orange in my mind. I asked what colour it was, pointing at a toy lying on the ground. Green, they told me. I played with the toy in my hand, green. It was orange though, in my mind, orange.
Things were odd to me that day. Colours danced all through my eyes. They told me what everything was when I pointed, what the colours were. I found that grass was pink to me. Pink grass, orange sky. Nothing fit where it was meant to, it was all wrong. They told me it was normal for me to feel confused, that I would get my bearings quickly. I wasn’t sure if they were right.
I was sitting in the hospital one day, in the waiting area. Not waiting to go in though, waiting to go out. A girl came and sat beside me. She looked at me and smiled, then turned her head away. We sat there for awhile, her tapping her foot slightly, so slightly that few people could hear. I knew only one person who always did that. I turned to her, watching her turn to me. Am I still beautiful? She asked. Her face was covered in large swollen scars, configuring her nose. Her left eye was half closed, showing barely the pupil. Her left arm was identical to her face, going down to show a stump where the thumb should have been. It was all red, the colour I had recently learnt. But she was still beautiful. Behind the scars and the lumps, she was all beauty. So that’s what I told her. Do you think fire is beautiful? She asked me. I told her, yes. She frowned at that. It’s odd how a beautiful thing can form an ugly curse.
My parents took me to the sea. I told them I wanted to go, but really I was scared. I couldn’t imagine to sea to be blue, to me it was orange, tan, my colour. But I kept that to myself, and let my parents lead me eyes-closed to the sea. They asked me if I was ready? With the wind blowing through my hair, and the strangest small coming to my nose. Standing like this, with my eyes closed I could hear everything. A dog barking nearby, leaves swinging in the wind, sand whipping round ankles. I’m ready. My eyes opened slowly. My first thoughts were that they were right; the sea did sparkle. But what I saw was not an immense of blue, but an immense of myself. In my eyes the sea was still the colour of my skin, not the new colour here. I held up my hand to the sea. They were the same colour, if only to me. My fingers sparkled as I moved them, finding its way up my arm. I was the same as the sea. Whilst the sea sparkled, so would I. Whilst the sea moved, so would I. Whilst the sea was beautiful, so was I.
My name is Calla. It means beauty, in Greek. I never thought I lived up to this name, though I was told I did. I believe them now.
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