The Smiling Eyes

By Rungeen Singh

(A Kavita Media Presentation. Please email comments here.)

Anne had been the life of every party she attended. She had been the darling of all who came in contact with her. She had been young, vivacious and full of energy and she had loved speed and life. Alas! She was not the same any more. She was critically ill. She had been diagnosed with a terminal disease and as she was wheeled into the ward, she felt sorry for herself. All her happiness had evaporated as she kept thinking just how many days would she be alive? Her tormented soul questioned divinity, “Why me? I am just twenty one.”
Actually she had no time to be prepared for such a calamity. She had been enjoying life and literally celebrating every moment of it, when suddenly black outs started hounding her. Slowly and gradually, she became a shadow of herself as after a series of tests she had seen the stricken faces of her parents and known that she had cancer. She couldn’t take it.

Now she wrapped herself in an irrevocable quilt of gloom. She would not talk to anyone. How could she? It would be superhuman if she could. Everyone was patient and understood her desire to wade in a sea of misery and pain and they let her wallow in grief at her inevitable end. She tried to brace herself by burrowing into a cocoon of misery which she wouldn’t let anyone permeate but actually she was in agony. Physical aches stabbed her and were added to the trauma faced by her mind because she was angry with life and with death. She was angry with the world for not wanting her and seeming so ready to send her away. She was angry with divinity which seemed to gloat over her tragedy.

She even started fantasizing that she couldn’t have cancer and probably the reports were all wrong but her pain brought her back to reality. And she lost even those flashes of futile hope because they were just whimsical tremors of hope. What was the use of telling herself that she wouldn’t die as some miracle would happen when agony pierced her nerves?

She built up walls around her and would not let anyone penetrate the agony of her torment and she cried. She tried to drown herself in grief so that she could obliterate the pain and the fear, nay, phobia of death. The terrible uncertainties. What would happen after death? Would there be ghosts? She felt panic? Would memory stay with her? Would she remember her loved ones? Then how would she be able to bear being away from them? Terror pierced her soul and she started crying. Slowly she felt spent and her sobs too were too much effort and she became quiet. She tried not to think but the weight on her heart would not go.

“Hi there. I am Rocky. What is your name?” said a cheerful male voice as she was just about to sleep. He had just been brought in and settled in her hospital room which was for two patients. She bristled. How dare this man seem so cheerful? I bet he is hale and hearty and just in the hospital to save himself from going to office. She refused to answer but then her mother had heard the cheerful enquiry as she came in. She acknowledged him by saying, “She is Anne,” and gently reprimanded Anne for not replying to the friendly enquiry.

Then Anne turned around disinterestedly, opened her eyes and saw a young man smiling. He seemed so healthy that it hit her. How dare he be healthy and so handsome? Ofcourse he could afford to be happy. The man said again, “Hi there. How are you?”

She snapped, “Dying of cancer.”

She saw him wince and become sober and felt satisfaction that she had set him right. Then she heard him again and her hackles arose, “What do you look like?”

“Like a ghost. Can’t you see what I look like?” she said rudely.

Rocky said, “Ouch! You are really rude. I wouldn’t have asked you if I could see. When people meet me for the first time they say that I have smiling eyes but I am blind.”

“Yes, you have smiling eyes,” conceded Anne grudgingly.

“Why are you so nasty and embittered with the world and its neighbours?” asked Rocky.

“Wouldn’t you be if you were dying?” asked Anne.

“No. You think that you are the only one suffering. But think of others then you won’t feel so sorry for yourself,” said the young man.

Now Anne felt really, extremely sorry for herself. Here she was suffering and there the young man was giving her a lecture. She glared angrily at the young man then realized that that was futile as he could not see her anger. She then clamped up and would not speak to anyone after that and started crying again. The irrepressible young man started speaking to Anne’s mother. “My name is Rocky. Does your Anne always drown herself like this in tears? The whiff of your perfume, makes me feel that you are a beautiful lady. Would you please become my mother-in-law? I think you need help from someone like me to look after Madam Grouchy, I mean your daughter. She must be really insufferable moaning and groaning like this.”

Rocky’s mother also came and the three of them introduced themselves to each other. Anne gritted her teeth and felt it unbearable that her mother was laughing with them.

Anne rasped, “Ma. I am hungry.”

Rocky said dramatically, “Ouch! She doesn’t like it that we are laughing and smiling. Anne would be happy if we all expressed our pity and sympathy to her. Poor, poor Anne. Poor thing, she can die, so she has to misuse the eyes she has and cry. She has to make everyone miserable because of her misery. Why can’t she think of others and spread joy?”

“Stop it. Don’t lecture me. I can die anyday,” shouted Anne.

“I must be sounding insensitive, but you know Madam Grouchy Anne, there is no reason why you should add to the difficult situation by being so difficult yourself,” said Rocky.

“Do you think it is abnormal of me to be afraid to die?” asked Anne crying.

“No, but it is more normal for you to think about your parent’s helplessness and pain and try to make it bearable for your parents,” said Rocky gently.

“I can’t think beyond this tragedy. Death is the end of life. You don’t know the feeling of terror because you have only the problem of blindness. You are not dying. You would have felt differently if you were dying. I can die in a few days,” shouted Anne.

“And I may beat you to it. I may die because due to some complications, I have been brought here for an operation. Either way it is a no-win situation for me. You will die and be rid of this life while if I survive, I will have to stay back and live in this black dark hell of my blindness. Do you know what it is never to see your parent’s faces? Being blind makes it very difficult to live. Yes you are suffering. But both of us do not have the right to be grouchy and increase the pain of those who are looking after us,” said the young man seriously.

“You are just telling me lies to make me feel bad,” said Anne.

“Our mothers have gone out just now but when they return, you can ask my mother. My operation is scheduled for tomorrow and I might just die tomorrow. So I might win the race and you may be left behind. Don’t worry. I will go up and tell God to send you to Hell or prepare a private room for you because you are so grouchy that no one will be able to tolerate you even in Heaven. Rather you will make a Hell out of Heaven too,” said Rocky.

“Shut up. Aren’t you afraid of death?” asked Anne tersely.

Rocky answered, “I am horribly afraid Anne, specially as I will have to leave my loved ones behind, but then I tell myself that I was born into this world and then I lived here. I must have come from somewhere. Thus my real home is where I came from before birth. So after death may be I will go back to the same place. Why be afraid of going back where you came from? This stint on earth was probably just a journey in which I had to travel and suffer. My loved ones were probably like the travelers we meet in a train or plane. That lessens my fear. But then I am glad I may die because I am the only one who can save the earth by telling God about the dangers in front of the earth like global warming, wars, and terrorism. Human beings are becoming corrupt and may be he will send me as a saviour.”

Somehow Anne could not voice the retort on her tongue as she was amazed how Rocky could joke about something like death. The whole day saw Rocky becoming more and more cheerful just as his parents became more tense. She marveled at the young man and his courage as he never let his parents cry as he made them laugh all the time by his wisecracks.

When his parents had gone outside for a minute to talk to the doctor, Rocky asked Anne’s mother, “Aunty. Are my parents very sad? What do their faces show? I wish I could prevent them from the anxiety and tension they must be feeling.”

Just then his parents came back and Rocky started joking with them again. That night Rocky and his parents did not sleep. Once his mother said, “Rocky why don’t you sleep?”

Rocky replied seriously for the first time, “Mom, after the operation I may go to sleep for ever. So let me feel your presence through this last night atleast.”

His mother started crying and Rocky said, “Oh Mom, have you given up on me? I am a cat. I have nine lives. I will not leave you so soon. I have to trouble you a lot yet. I have to trouble Anne a lot too because she will marry me for sure as she loves me so much that she is tongue tied in my presence. Actually she is yearning for me. Marry me Anne. I am ready.”

All that Anne could say was a blunt, “Shut up.” Finally Anne went to sleep as she had been given medicines that made her sleepy. The next morning when she woke up in the morning, she saw that preparations had been started for Rocky to be taken to the operation theatre.

Just then a nurse came to Anne and said, “Do you want to donate your organs? The official has come with the forms.”

Anne screamed, “How dare you say a thing like this. It seems you want to tell me that I have to die. How insensitive can you be?”

Rocky intervened and said, “Anne, this is a procedure here. Every patient is asked this. I have also given them the authority to them to use my organs in case I die. At least we can help someone even after we die. Nurse, if I die, can you see to it for sure that Anne is given my laughing bone, so that she learns to laugh also. I hope you have a good memory and you don’t forget it. When I meet her again, I want to know that she is smiling and laughing.”

But Anne was in tears and she could not even see Rocky as he was wheeled away for the operation. But she heard him say, “Anne, you have another chance still. Marry me. I will make a very good husband because I will be blind to your faults. Say it now. Marry me.”

Anne kept quiet and then she heard Rocky shouting, “Bye Anne. See you soon.”

Somehow the tension seeped into Anne. What would happen to Rocky? It was a good eight hours before he was wheeled back into the ward. He had survived the operation and was out of danger. But he was still blind. And still groggy as he smiled weakly and said, “Alas! Anne. I am back to trouble you. I have survived. Will you marry me now?”

“But I can’t marry a superman who keeps lecturing me,” she said rudely, but somewhere she felt relief that he had survived the operation.

But then there was some complication again and Rocky was wheeled away to the ICU in the night. But Anne was in the throes of her own pain. Her condition worsened and she too was taken to the ICU the next day. She was in no condition to even think of Rocky, but Rocky came back to the ward after a week. He was well. He was completely out of danger and wonder of wonders he could see. The first thing he asked the nurse was, “Sister. Where is the girl who was in this ward with me?”

The Sister shook her head. “I don’t know. I have joined duty today after a long leave.”

Just then Anne’s mother came in and said, “I am Anne’s mother.”

Rocky said, “I knew you would be beautiful. How is Anne?”

She said, “That is what I have come to see. She is no more, but she remains with you. It is because of her that you can see. She donated her eyes to you.”

Rocky gasped, “But she had become so angry when the nurse had suggested it.”

Anne’s mother said, “Later she called the nurse when you had gone for your first operation and then she pledged her eyes to you.”

Rocky was left speechless for the first time. Anne’s mother said, “Anne said some things which she wanted that I should convey to you. She said, “Tell Rocky that I have misused my eyes a lot by crying, now he must make up for it by keeping them smiling, twinkling and laughing. But once I will make him cry. He will cry, for me when I go away and he comes to know that he has my eyes. Tell him I admired him for being so brave. Tell him that if I had been healthy, I would have married him for sure. He has all the qualities of a perfect human being and companion. I wish I could have stayed alive for him and spent my whole life hearing his cheerful talk and seeing his smiling eyes.”

Rocky felt tears coming into his eyes and Anne’s mother said, “Rocky will you let me come and meet you sometimes? I will feel as if my Anne is still with me.”

Rocky nodded his head and then held Anne’s mother tightly and cried his heart out.

Rungeen Singh has been a writer since 1992 and an English teacher since 1972. She has written English story books and poems for children, short stories, poems and articles for various Magazines & Newspapers. Rungeen is a Life member of Association for Writers and Illustrators for Children. She lives in India. You may write to her at rungeen.singh@gmail.com

 

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