“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I was going to write a post, explaining a situation that happened recently, but then I realised my words weren’t enough. I could tell you the events in detail, how I felt and what I think, but that’s just my word. I’ve already been through it with a few people, and so I’m too exhausted to explain exactly what happened – not least because I’m paranoid it’ll upset someone. Instead, I want to show you.
Whilst you’re reading this, I want you to really try and imagine the feelings. Step into the situation for a second, because it’s the only way that both you and I can understand it.
You came into the, what is to you, huge room with friends. They’re gone now. You don’t know where, but all you know is they’re gone, and it takes you a second to register that.
Oh, you don’t panic first of all. They’ve just lost you for a second – they thought you’d follow them, that you’d hear their voices and come over to them because you’re good at that, right? You didn’t, because it’s so loud. It’s so, so loud. They’ll come back – it’s just momentary – and anyway, someone will find you. Won’t they? You’re not here on your own; there are people, there are.
There’s the light from the window, and the break in between two windows. You can see that, and look – there’s the space where the benches aren’t. Are those shapes tables or people? There’s an open space in front of you, in between what must be benches, and to your left are some indistinct shapes. They must be people, but they’re not the right ones, because they’ve been standing there too long and they don’t speak to you but would they speak to you anyway? Maybe they are your friends, or maybe they aren’t, and you can’t ask them because you don’t know who they are.
It’s okay. You can just listen, listen – listen! If you listen hard enough, you can hear your friends. Are those them? You don’t know at all, and you’re disorientated now, because they could be anywhere. You can’t move, because you might bump into someone who doesn’t know you, and you can’t do that. They think you’re weird, and it’s embarrassing because you can’t do this. You need to grow up – you need to!
You’re taking deep breaths now, to try and calm yourself down – but there’s nothing to panic about! It’s fine; you’ll find them. But oh god, you’re going to be standing here until the end of break, and you’re alone too. You’re alone, and no one is here; they can’t see you. Their eyes aren’t pointing in your direction, and you can’t get their attention because you don’t know where they are. You can’t ask someone random to help, because you don’t have a clue who’s there, and you can’t be a burden on anyone. You’re going to be here, standing, until the bell rings and then what? How will you get out? How can you if the room’s so expansive?
You feel like you’re about to be sick, but it feels almost muted. You’re boiling, shaking, breaths getting shallower and shallower. Maybe if you cause a scene, someone will notice? They’ll find you? But no! If that happens, you’ll look pathetic, they’ll feel guilty when it’s not their fault and everybody will think of you as the helpless blind child. You can’t but you’re also finding it difficult to breathe. Are you doing this on purpose?
You’re turning your head now, because your eyes could be caught by one of your friends. You don’t even know why you’re doing it, because you can’t see and you’ll never see, but you can’t think straight either. Where are they? Where are you? You don’t know any more, and the voices around you are swelling; you don’t know what they’re saying. You have to be putting this on because you weren’t panicking earlier. You were fine! You need to be fine, think, think, think think think!
You are terrified. You are so scared, because they could be anywhere; they could even be right next to you but you’re too paralysed with worry to notice if they are. They don’t understand, but it’s not their fault because they can’t. You’re on your own, the only blind one in the school that feels this way. Alone, and it’s all you can think about, and you’re almost crying because there’s no one here and you feel like a child again. You remember primary school, where sometimes you were just there on the bench and no one else was, when your best friend wasn’t there because she was busy.
Someone’s come up to you, asking if you’re okay. Who are they? Their voice isn’t that familiar, but maybe it’s one of the new people, or maybe it’s someone you’ve never spoken to before. They noticed, but no no no, they want to help you find your friends. How can you let them do that? It would be mortifying, presented to them like a package, and you can’t. You say you’re fine, but your heart’s thumping, and you ask to get out out out. They know how to guide you, as you clutch their arm and gasp – are people looking? Do they want to help you? They must feel so awkward! God, you’re so scared, and where are you?
You found a friend, but you wanted to get out. Your vision feels like it’s blurring, and you absolutely can’t catch your breath. You’re out of the room now, crashing into a door – shit, where are you? You walk, and there are people, but they’re not the right people because the “right” people are together and laughing and seeing and not crying, because they can walk into a big room and go across it to anyone they like. You can’t.
A teacher finds you, someone that’s quite high up in the school, and your tears run faster because you don’t want this. You can’t make a scene, because people will say you’re blowing things out of proportion. You’re still afraid, saying you’re okay to him whilst tears splash down your face. When he leaves, you turn to the wall and sob and sob and sob, fingers pushing at the bricks, hunched over like a wounded animal because you’re alone, alone, alone.
When they find you, you tell one of the teachers that knows you the best what happened. All throughout, you can’t speak because you’re crying too hard, humiliated and miserable because you’re doing what you promised you wouldn’t. You’re telling people how you feel, and people that might tell your parents, and people that will think it’s bigger than it is. But you feel isolated and you can’t take it any more, no matter how pathetic it makes you feel.
Even for that, you’re petrified. You don’t want this any more. You avoid people, shaking, tears sliding down your cheeks when you remember just how fucking lonely you feel.
Your eyes hurt now. They’re widened, blinking sometimes more than usual, and it hurts. It shouldn’t be like this, at the age you are. Will it happen again?
You’re scared. You’re so, so scared, but you can’t do anything. It would be a little thing to anyone else, but you feel cold when you think about the icy fear you felt, and the sheer horror of feeling like an object, or like the anxious 11-year-old you once were, when you were shoved into an unfamiliar surrounding with people you’d never ever met before in your life, and just expected – expected to be okay. To be normal.
That’s just a little of what I’ve felt. I’m not trying to make you feel upset: rather, as I would want people to do to me, I’ve tried to let you understand something different: a little of what it’s like for one person who can’t see much, who’s put into a situation where they feel helpless, but where they’re too scared to do anything about it.
From Elm 🙂