I think I was 5 when I realized that I had a slightly major defect in vision. You see, normal people, when they look at a rainbow, they see the magic of language break apart into a slippery slope of indistinguishable contradictions, as for me, colors are like words in a dictionary, messed up and different: I cannot understand why red and pink are more similar than red and blue. And because of that I grew up knowing that the way I see the world is very different.
When I was 16, my brother, who was 18 at the time, walked with me all the 25 km from the top of the mountain where we lived, to the closest town, where I was supposed to find a job. It was my first time out into the world, so my brother poured on me, as we walked, all the conventional wisdom. “There are four gods in the world”, he said, “and every day, only one of them is true. We could not find him, unless he wanted us to”. My brother went on ranting: “science is what we know, philosophy is what we don’t, and magic is how we turn one into another. But magic is hard work. And of all spells, the most difficult is a curse. You see, a curse is a spell so long that it can fill a hundred volumes, and takes decades to utter. Unless you take every word of the spell and split it between people in a large crowd, then, you can destroy a life in a matter of minutes.”
As my brother went on … “to avoid a spell you have to” … all I could think was – what a bunch of nonsense! So I let him talk by himself, and wondered at the large stone buildings raising up downhill, and the metal cars moving in perfect line with the edge of the town.
We went to the city market, and there I saw people walking hurried north-east-south-west, supposedly searching amongst the 4 gods to find the right one. The moment we entered the market – my brother confident, and me, with eyes scattered – the crowd suddenly stopped from their running. They could tell that I was different, and that if I haven’t been cursed yet, I had to be cursed. As if they’ve been expecting me all along, they all came in a circle around me, chanting. In a matter of minutes, the spell was uttered. By the time we arrived home, I could see only 10 meters around me. Beyond that, the world was filled with a thick foam of darkness. I tried to move through the night cloud but it was filled with scary thoughts and filthy smells.
That day, I told my brother – “I will shake off this darkness!” but he yelled with despair “It can’t be done. No one has ever undone a curse like that. I told you to look straight. I told you not to show any fear. They saw you were weak and now … you’re lost to the world!”
“No, I have a plan. I will shake off the darkness, I will go into the darkness every day and I will write a story about it. Day after day until I will shake it off completely and finish my book.”.
“You’re crazy!” he said, and then went away. Every day he would come to my 10 meters circle of light, and bring flowers and sweets and magazines. And every day I grew more bitter because I could find none of those things in my darkness. And when I asked him to stop coming he brought me books and news of his new job. And when I asked him to stop coming he brought me a TV and talked about his friends and parties. And then I got really angry because he wouldn’t stop and I pushed him against the stone.
There was blood. I looked up at the sky and for some reason, none of the four gods was watching. I couldn’t stay home anymore… But I’ve never before spent more than a day in the darkness!
I don’t remember the first month. It was mostly fear. Finally, I started writing again in my book stories of what I saw. You see, my darkness was not like the darkness of a blind person. It had corners. It had texture. In between the thick fog there were bubbles of fresh air. It was like watching the moon appear and disappear between the clouds except my moon moved like a balloon spitting out air. Now I’d see in front of me an autumn leaf pop out and then disappear, and later on a mustache suspended in a jiff in the empty air, or a pair of high heels rushing. Or a dog cuddling at my feet, who would go out in the river to swim, and then come back to shake the water off my feet. We walked together for days: the dog was homeless , so was I. One day, as we were walking around, I realized that I could see the grass, I could see the roots of trees, I could see the legs of people, and small children playing. But every time when the dog went away I was surrounded again by darkness. And when the dog would come back, I could see everything up, but only up to my waist – I could see the world through the eyes of the dog. As we walked together, one day I saw a woman who was beating her hands gently against a row of white little boxes that were sitting on the top of a sort of big black board. A most beautiful sound came out of it, and the music touched the ceilings of the building, reached to the sky, caressed the faces of people, and through the eyes of the music I could see everywhere. When the music stopped, the darkness would envelop me again. So I did what everyone of you would do: I went to places where music was everywhere.
45 years passed from that time. I’m sure none of you will believe me. No one ever believes me when I tell them about my age. Most people give me 25 years, unless I’m sad. Then only they can see my true age. The truth is, I’m 70 now. And if it weren’t for something that happened 2 weeks ago, I wouldn’t have dared to tell this story.
I went back to the mountain I grew up in, to the church where the preacher was telling the same old story ‘There are four gods in the world and every day, only one of them is true… “. At the end of the service, the preacher came to me, an energetic man of 72, who talked with lots of joy and enthusiasm. His wife, who was sitting next to him, couldn’t take her eyes off him. I could tell they were still in love. And he told me about his kids and grandkids and grandgrandkids and how the two of them have met… But there was something strangely familiar about him. And then he told me how when he was 18, his younger brother fled far away home, with only a notebook in his hand. I felt a jolt in my heart, and wanted to run, he was my brother! “This is not possible – I killed you!” I said. His eyes became large, he hugged me and said – “none of the 4 gods was watching us that day – when the gods don’t see something, it doesn’t happen!” “I have something for you”, I said. And from my bag I drew out a book. “You remember the day I was cursed? I told you I will shake off the darkness, and write a book about it, and you said I was crazy. This is the book!”. He opened it up. He read story after story, his eyes gaping. After a long time, he stopped and asked me “what is this?”, pointing to a squibble drawn at the end of every story, a word that looked like a rainbow where all the colors were messed up and different . “Do you remember what you told me?” I said. “There are four gods in the world and every day, only one of them is true, we could not find him, unless he wanted us to”. That squibble, that is the name of the true god, I found her. Her name is ‘hope’.