“I’m here to see Ms. Lilly,” I told the nurse.
She nodded and walked me down the same hallways to that room at the end, marked only by a small blue pentagonal placard that had “Lilly” scrawled on it – in her own handwriting. But that was so many years ago, when we were still in kindergarten together.
Today, she was in the far right corner of the room, her laptop perched on her wheelchair tray. I waited for awhile, hoping that maybe she would notice me – but of course she wouldn’t.
It had been dubbed “Blossom’s Syndrome,” mostly as a euphemism, and out of hope that maybe the transformation was in fact part of coming of age for the children who underwent it. It was only eleven summers ago when Lilly, the first to succumb to the disease, first started showing symptoms. And now … and now she was deaf, mute, nearly blind beyond two feet’s distance; paralyzed except for internal organs and her arms; constantly sickly.
And yet she retained a vigorous vitality that seemed to churn just below her irregularly-colored, pocked skin. If there was one blessing – or indeed one curse – it was that her brain never stopped developing. All the while, so isolated and trapped, she had probably gone through more thoughts and dreams than any normal person would in a lifetime. When she wasn’t sleeping or being fed, you could count on her to be writing on her laptop.
So here she was, probably beginning another story, allegories so deeply embedded that no one would ever find them.
I approached her from her front, until she could see my blur moving, or feel my breaths. She betrayed no feelings, as always, but simply turned her computer screen to face me.
[Hi, Will. I take it you’ve had a busy month?]
I knelt down in front of the laptop, trying to type a response, but I couldn’t help but just look at her. Aside from her skin, her body was about as captivating as it could be, given its immobile state; her silky sepia bangs were separated from the rest of her hair by a simple pink headband, and the rest of her hairs dangled down, some caught inside her sweater, some laying on her shoulder, some sheltering the back panel of her wheelchair.
Her blank eyes gazed forward, seemingly at nothing and everything all at once; her lips were slightly parted and stationary, a still photograph with the faintest of pink tints. With a wobbly gesture, she tried to lift her fingers to touch me. I grasped her hand with mine, intertwining our fingers. At least those nerves hadn’t gone … not yet, at least.
I read her hands – after all, they were the only part I could read at all, and I had grown accustomed to it. She had a special language just for me that she used when she touched my fingers in this way. She touched my index finger, and then my ring finger, and then made a vertical stroke on my palm.
There were dreams she wanted to share with me.
[Hello, Lilly. Yes, school has been tough. About your dreams?]
She looked intently at the screen.
[There was another child, alone in a field, but it was a beautiful field, filled with daisies and daffodils. I watched him play with these small grey stones that were strewn all over the ground. He was so busy arranging them that he hardly noticed me.
Yes, I was standing. Haha, I always get to stand up in my dreams, as you remember from last time. And I had on a blue-and-white sundress, somewhat tacky I must admit. I walked up to him but he still didn’t pay attention to me. Instead, he just kept on moving the rocks. I wanted to see what he was making, but I just couldn’t. The closer I got, the worse my vision became, until I saw about as well as I do in real life. Isn’t it strange to have such storybook-like dreams?]
[Not strange, but maybe unique. Special.]
She typed quickly, and I glanced at the ceiling. The lone circular fluorescent light was weakly shining, flickering every now and then. Almost everything but the center of the room was cast in a somber blue shadow.
[Oh, cut it out, Will. There are enough people studying me as a ‘special case’ as it is. And enough talk about me. How was your last month of school? Did you finally get yourself a girlfriend?]
I blushed at that comment. She was like one of those nudging sisters who always wanted their brother to bring back a cute gal-friend.
[Bummer. And here I thought the wisdom I had delivered to my disciple would have been foolproof among the ladies. smile.