Hue by Kyra Schlachter

Hue by Kyra Schlachter

 

(Undergraduate Student reading Psychology)

 

For the theme of celebration, I have chosen to write a short story centering around a young artist recently blinded by a freak accident. It follows her struggles to adapt to a new life she seems incompatible with, having lost the ability to create art which was once so integral to her being. With the help of others, she gradually learns to celebrate her new-found position and realize that there is more to life than what she is able to see.

 

 

HUE

 

There is a theory, that what is seen is not necessarily all that is there. That behind or between or in front or even inside all that we perceive there is something Else. That our sense organs- the eyes, nose, ears, skin and tongue- are currently constitutionally incapable of seeing/ smelling/ hearing/ touching/ tasting this worldly Else. That Earth is multi-faceted and it’s a consequence of human ineptitude, and solely this, that we are unable to access its various levels. Father said Earth is like an orange, and we are like dogs lacking opposable thumbs: unable to peel back the layers, content with our municipal view of it whole.

             Father said a lot of bullshit things, though.

            “How are you feeling today, Hue?” nurse Agnes asks.         

            “Blind,” I reply curtly.

            “Alright,” she replies. If I could see, I bet she would be rolling her eyes. 

            “Do you want to go outside today?” she asks.

            “No,” I reply.

            “Come on. It’s a lovely day. The sun is shining, flowers are blooming. You’ll need a sweater for the breeze, but the air is so lovely and fresh.”

            “No,” I reply again, turning over in the hospital bed and pulling my bed sheet over my head.

            I have been in hospital for a month since the accident that took my sight. It seems important to hold onto the time. To know exactly what day it is, the hour, the minute. A passing second. Everything else is tempestuous and unsure. I can’t do anything for myself anymore. Someone makes me food. Someone helps be bathe. Someone helps me dress. It seems that I am in a perpetual state of this; of needing help. Of reliance. Like a toy that doesn’t work unless the right buttons are pushed, or the correct cogs are turned to full.

           

“Would you like to paint today?” It’s nurse Agnes again. She comes further into the room. I hear the floorboards take on extra pressure, feel the weight shift beneath my feet.

“No.”

“Are you sure? I got you an easel, some fresh brushes. Your mother brought by your equipment.” She is smiling; I can tell this, somehow, by the cadence of her voice, the flirty staccato of her words. “She showed me some of your paintings. They are so beautiful. You are so talented. I had no idea you are an artist.”

            “Was,” I reply.

            “Excuse me?” she asks, confused.

            “Was.” I say. “I was an artist.”          

            She tries to talk to me some more, but I ignore her until she finally leaves. I am so bitter I can taste the acid in the back of my throat. I was an artist. Was,

was,

was.

            Art defined me. Without it I am nothing. A lacking being, a purposeful-less vessel, a puzzle with an integral piece eternally burnt away. I sit in bed, in the perpetual moving darkness, and cry. It’s the only thing I’m good at.

 

I’m not sure what day it is. Nurse Agnes tells me I have a new visitor.

“Hello, Hue.”

            I look up quickly. I had not even heard them come in.

            I try to gauge their position in the room.

            I feel a hand on my hand. She shakes it. My fingers tremble over her papery, thin skin, trace the worn lines like roads on a map leading to nowhere.

            “I’m Viola,” she says. There is a laden-quality to her breath.

            “It’s nice to meet you,” I say. “But why are you here?”

            “I’m a friend of Nurse Agnes’. I’m a painter, and I heard you are a painter, too.”

            I resist the urge to correct the tense of her statement.

            “That’s nice,” I say, turning away. I am tired of all this.

            “You know,” she continues, “I was just like you. Angry. Afraid. Exhausted. But as artists, I like to think we use our troubles in a different way to others. I project mine into my art.” She pauses. I hear the tap-tap-tap of a cane and realize with a sudden clarity that she is blind, too. “And you know,” she continues. “Beauty is beauty. Art is art. It doesn’t matter if you can’t see it. You just know that it’s always there.”

            I sit and think.

            “But how?” I ask. “It’s too different,” I say. Art is no longer the same; it has gained a new-found complexity that rattles shrilly in my brain.

            “It is different,” she says, taking my hands in hers. “But you choose to look at it in your own light. Good-different, or bad-different.”

            I sigh.

            She places something on my lap. I let my hands roam over it. It is a painting. The three-dimensional kind. I feel the hardened paint beneath my thumb, brush it gently with my forefinger and map the density with my fingers. I can trace the stokes of the brush, feel the pressure the painter methodically exerted.

            “Art is also touch,” she says. “Dimensions and texture, silk-harsh protuberances from flat panes, edges, rounded, straight, sharp, soft, coarse ever-changing lines in a multitude of patterns, interlinked, forming tapestry.”

“It’s so confusing,” I say. I can taste my own tears on my lips. “It’s so different.”

“It is,” she says. “But it is also equally as beautiful. It will take time. But you will learn to love it. You will fall in love with it, and it will be just like the first time.”

She leaves me to mull over that. For the rest of the day I run my hands over the painting, smudging the softening paint with my sweaty fingers.

There is a theory, that what is seen is not necessarily all that is there. I understand it, now. That there is more to life than the colours and the landscapes and the visually beautiful things. That because we can no longer do one thing, we aren’t inept at doing everything else. That maybe it makes us celebrate what we have. It’s hard to accept it, still, but I understand. And that’s what counts.

 

Reproduced with kind permission of Kyra Schlachter
Copyright ©Kyra Schlachter
 
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