I wanted to see.
Should blindness be borne with religious resignation and patience? Perhaps, but I could not bear it thus. At the very least, as I sometimes thought, it ought eventually to become natural to me—a thing as unremarkable as the night which follows day, which always has, which always will. But it could not, it would not. From the day darkness began its slow creep over my eyes I knew myself a victim of an awful death. Blindness was my cage: and though I beat myself against its bars, they would not break.
They called him the Messiah, and he could heal the blind.
I sat by the side of the road to wait for him to come. The sun I could not see burned down. On every side of me the passing crowds stirred the dust till it choked the air, and added the closeness of their bodies to the stifling heat. Suddenly there came a change in the crowd; his name ran from tongue to tongue—he was coming!
I called out to him. “Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!”
I did not know if my cry could be heard above the press. I feared that the crowd would smother my voice as the darkness had entombed my eyes. In an instant the darkness loomed up in my soul as an eternal horror. I felt it clenching its fingers around my throat. Nearly frantic with fear, I called out again—”Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
A hush. The crowd quieted with anticipation as a man’s shadow fell across my face, cooling my skin and settling the panic in my soul so that it lay just below the surface, waiting…
“What do you want me to do for you?”
I turned my face up to him. “Lord, I want to receive my sight.”
Even as he spoke the words, light began to filter in through the darkness. My eyes filled with tears, and as I blinked them away I found myself looking into his face.
He did not speak. Nor did I. He stood above me and looked into my eyes, watching my face come alive–I could feel it coming alive—as my sight strengthened. Just before he turned away, I saw a smile tug at the corners of his mouth.
He moved away and the crowd closed in after him. I remained where I was, transfixed by the light. Blue sky—the gnarled limbs and dull green leaves of a tree—even the yellow dust of the road was beautiful. My heart rejoiced at the sight of the crowd: bent backs and straight, flowing cloaks and patched clothes, sandals and the dust-covered miracle of feet. Even from behind, humanity was to me the sight of all sights.
Then I felt it: a feeling like darkness.
It started to gather in around my heart, and fear pushed me to my feet. Frantically I scanned the crowd for a sight of the Healer.
There—about to be lost around a bend in the road. There he was. He turned for a moment to speak to someone beside him and I caught a glimpse of his face.
I knew then. I knew that if ever I lost sight of him, all the light would go out of my world again.
I knew that I would not hold on to wonder unless he was there. I would see without seeing. I would feel—until the fires in my heart went out, as they must. I knew in that moment that without him even the sun would cease to burn.
The death of my soul was in standing still; only if I followed would I have life. Panic died away; resolution fueled my feet. I plunged into the crowd and followed him.
I had to pursue the Light.
(The short story “The Light” will be included in the upcoming compilation PIECES OF GRACE, a collection of short stories, poems, and narrative pieces by Rachel Starr Thomson.)