The sun was caressing my cheek, its hand offering protection and warmth. Waves crashed against the sand. It sounded like a childhood rhyme; the kind that you grow out of too fast. However, there is still a tiny fragmented glimmer of hope imprinted on your soul. The story survives. The ocean breathes.
The seagulls were eerily quiet with only an occasional caw soaring through the air. The sporadic bouts of wind on the shore felt like dances as opposed to gusts. The salt hung heavy in the air and latched onto my every pore, clinging at my skin with tiny droplets of dew.
As I lay there on the beach, I tried to picture myself. Conjure up some kind of memory, any kind of clue to how I looked. I knew I was on the taller side, because everyone’s voice reached my chin before smacking into my ears. Other than that, I come up empty handed. So, instead I picture my setting. I try to create the seagulls, flying and glorious and regal. I try to create the sand, tiny and sticky and grainy. I try to create the waves. They are the hardest.
In the world of my imagination, I see the sounds take a shape that I can’t identify. They are blurbs of colorless mass. They are the only thing I have.
“Carter, what do you think the sun looks like?”
I hear him shift slightly beside me. A small tug pulls at the blanket. I feel his arm brush mine for a second. It is almost hotter than the sun on my cheek.
“We can’t see the sun, Mabina,” Carter’s voice is directed toward the sky. It is deep and slow, matching the waves in both tempo and purpose. The footprints have already been left on my heart.
“I know,” I say. My voice sounds so feeble compared to his. It sounds weak and feminine. My parents say young ladies would love a voice as soft as mine. But, somewhere in the folds of that softness, I feel like the value of my words is lost on dulled ears. Of course, that is the point. Citizens go unheard.
Carter hears me.
“No one can look at the sun, actually,” he says it with his face towards me this time, hiding his gossip about the sky through cupped hands. “The sun blinds us all.”
It is silent between us for a while. We both seem to seep into the sand slowly, pushed closer together by the earths gravity. I think of the sun and how it blinds even The Leaders who blind us. It keeps us all down. It is almighty. It is unstoppable.
“So, tomorrow is the day,” Carter says.
“Yes,” I agree.
A pause. The waves are the only thing filling the silence.
“How do you feel?” Carter’s tone is light. His question is heavy. My world is already so off balance that I barely notice the shift.
“Carter, if I were to answer that question honestly, we would be arrested,” I say it trivially. In fact, I add a laugh to the end of it. The balance of the world is not fooled by my attempt at regaining equilibrium. It stays off kilter.
The silence grows between us, sprouting up like a weed. It embraces the awkwardness that Carter and I have settled into these past few days. It really isn’t our fault, this silence. It’s just that tomorrow is a celebration. One that I don’t want to participate in.
Tomorrow, all sixteen year olds in our system will put on our childish clothing and walk together to the Saver, the sound of hundreds of canes guiding us there. The Saver will stand in the distance, a large mass of a building that welcomes us to adulthood. We will arrive together. We will be blinded together. We will finally be adults. Together.
“Mabina,” Carter whispers, “We can’t avoid this.”
I do not respond. I know we can’t avoid this.
But, I also plan on trying.
“Carter,” I say lightly, “we should remove the Covers before tomorrow. For old times sake.”
The weed of silence grows with accelerated speed. I hold my breath.
“Bina…” His voice is calming but stern. “We can’t…”
“I don’t want to spend my life in the dark. I want to see the world, if only for a second.” My voice is fiery, somehow breaking free of it’s carefully cultivated shyness. I like the power of it. “I want to see the sun.”
Then, I am running in no direction at all. Carter is screaming after me. My feet are hitting the sand. My lungs are full of salt. My hair bounces behind me. My heart beckons me forward. My brain tells me to go back.
I do not slow down.
I reach the rocky part of the beach. The part that juts out into the ocean. I follow it. Without a cane, the ledge is dangerous. At any moment, the waves could pull me under. The rocks leave scrapes on the bottom of my feet. The crabs pinch at my legs. The roaring of the waves intensifies until the only thing I can hear is the rumbling below me fall in time with the rumbling within me.
Eventually, I feel water start to lap up at my cuts, stinging and saving my bruises. My feet stop their pilgrimage. I can feel the rightness of this place seep through every fiber of my being. This is where I am meant to see the world, for the first and the last time.
My hands graze the Cover over my eyes. It is tied tightly behind my head. I reach for the knot, work it through with my fingers. It starts to loosen, yielding after all these years. Again, I feel strong.
Finally, the Cover falls from my hands, sliding off my face. My breathe catches.
The first thing that registers is the light. It stings my irises. My eyes pound like the waves against the rocks. There is a sharp pain that makes me feel alive. Somehow, the throbbing behind my eyes seems natural. It all seems right.
Through the lightness, I start to see shapes and colors. My world is no longer a palate of darkness. I note the blackness of the rocks. How some of them are darker that others, covered in grime or water or seaweed. I take in the endlessness of the ocean. It is a beautiful color. I don’t know if a name could describe a color that beautiful. I want to name that beauty. I call it Sight.
The sky almost matches the color of the ocean. They mingle on the horizon, casually meeting, but never mixing. If they ever were to blend, their beauty would steal the Leaders job. It would blind us.
I want to look at the sun. To glimpse the light that bathes the world.
I lift my head slowly, waiting for the strongest power I know to engulf my eyes.
Suddenly, I am pulled back. Hands grope at my skin, entangling my arms. They tug on my hair. There seems to be a never ending supply of hands, grabbing and pulling me back from the ocean.
I don’t know what to do. I have never broken the law. I have never fought. I will be caught. I will be killed. Adrenaline rushes through my veins. It fills me with determination and power. They claw at me, I claw at them. They pull, I push harder.
Then, my eyes are covered again. The ocean is hidden in darkness. The sky is shrouded in clouds. The light disappears.
* * *
I am in holding. This is a first time offense. The Leaders are just waiting for my parents to pick me up. They promised to keep what I did a secret, as long as I did the same. I agreed.
Behind my back, I crossed my fingers.
My parents fussed over me. Tended to my scrapes. I was sent to bed with a hug and a kiss from Mother and Father. They squeezed their little girl for the last time.
Tomorrow, I would be an adult.
I wait a few hours before sneaking out. My parents sleep comfortably, dreams of their perfect little girl filling their heads. I shut their door against what I have become. They deserve a night of peace.
I remove my Cover before I go outside. The door opens with a tight click. Then, the world of the night is mine.
In theory, there should be darkness as we sleep. But, people rarely acknowledge just how much light there is. The stars gleam like jewels against a black tapestry, glistening and sparkling and new. The moon hangs in the sky, like a giant about to crash down and destroy us all.
I move quietly, creeping in the darkness where the light of the stars cannot expose me. I make it to my destination without detection. Tonight, the world is on my side.
I move from house to house. At each stop, I remove the Covers of all the children. Very few people stir. I dream smiles on each of their faces. They won’t know who I am.
But, they will thank me.
After I have reached every house in our system, I return home. This time, I can’t dwell in the shadows. They will consume me soon enough.
Instead, I wander in the starlight. I bask in the moonlight. I let it’s beauty seep so deeply inside me that I am almost convinced that I have become the light. I have become the beauty.
Then, I hear the footsteps behind me. I hear the yelling. My feet run, but with the kind of hope that comes from a defeat. I know I cannot escape this time.
As I speed through the streets, I know they will find me.They will catch me. They will destroy me.
I stop running and gaze at the moon. Soon, darkness will find me again. Maybe I will never again see the light.
But, that is alright.
Because, tomorrow, everyone else will.
They will see the sun for me. I hope it is beautiful.
Age 16, Grade 10
Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of Music