Six Years Black **Spoilers** Part 1: Syble Present We didn't always live in the big city. It’s nice but I’d rather spend my time in the past- when memories were real. My imagination so full, I gave birth to new life. Imaginary friends and more. The grass was definitely greener. But it's scary now. Unbearable in fact.
“Syble. Get up, your teacher is arriving soon. Get yourself ready and eat breakfast.” Her deafening voice is part of the routine. I hear the door slam. Huh, where are my glasses? I reach around for it. “Gotcha.” I put my glasses on. Right now it should be twelve minutes until the widow Bitho comes. Just like her name. She smells and sounds old. I put on clothes and head to the kitchen. “Mom describe to me what you're wearing.” Where is she? “Mom. Mom. Mommy.” I finally hear her high heels clicking. I didn't realize she had left the kitchen. “What’s the matter honey, you barely touched your cereal.” The greasy sound of the cupboard closing irritates my ears. I memorize each action she takes. Right now I can tell she’s opening the bottom cabinet. And cue the sound of gushing water from the sink. “Syble, do you want a bagel? We have cream but you have to smear it yourself.” The toaster is across from the refrigerator on my right. Why did she not walk towards the toaster? “Mom, my bagel needs to be toasted.” “Oh, Syble I’m sorry I moved it last night. I was cleaning the counters.” I hear the toaster, a bagel pops out forty seconds later. “Do you need help off the high chair?” she asks, then pauses. “Okay, by that expression I'll back off,” she says. I want to know the look I give her. I can tell Mom begins to move faster with each step she takes like a swift woodpecker. I bet she has on her purple heels. “Good morning Ms. Green.” Did everyone decide to wear heels today? I wonder what my slippers really look like. Mom says it’s a bunny and that it has a big red nose. I do feel a round puffy ball at the tip. "Good morning, Syble.” I wonder if the widow Bitho thinks I am stupid because I still wear glasses. My glasses are a tether to the past. When memories were real. I hold on to my glasses because they are the only thing that I know that hasn't changed over time. “Good evening,” I tease her. I bet she is angry. I bet her face is scrounging up right now. “Let's begin,” she says. The widow Bitho takes the lead and I follow. “Syble,” she says. “It has come to my attention that you have bagel crumbs around your mouth.” Why did she say all that? Wipe your mouth or something shorter would have sufficed. "Uhh." I use my hands like napkins and wipe my mouth. "Is it gone?" I ask. Since I am closed off to the world in a unique way, I wonder what chair my teacher will choose. She took off her shoes so I cannot hear her footsteps as easily. That myth about our hearing being heightened is completely farfetched. “Syble, pay attention.” I can tell you one thing about the room. There is an annoying clock. I hear it’s incessant ticking for the next hour. “Can we take a break?” I ask politely. “No. You will finish learning your combination.” So we continue. Braille alphabet is nothing like learning the English alphabet.
I take off my glasses. I hear a zipper getting unzipped. “Zzzzzzpt.” It has to be a long bag because the zipper kept going, like trains on a track. The widow Bitho is rummaging through whatever bag that's on the ground. “Window Bitho.” She stops rummaging, like a raccoon spotted in the trash. Every so often I make it my job to say her name incorrectly. A distinct noise makes my heart plummets as it slams on the table. A hardcover textbook specifically designed for the visually impaired. Learning Braille alphabet is like crafting a new language. Let me be honest it's not easy, I’d rather just quit. The year of my accident Mom pushed for me to learn Braille right away but I just couldn't. My life was filled with many more cons than pros. Braille is a tactile reading and writing system, using raised dots to represent letters of the print alphabet. “You see how the V feels?” widow Bitho says. It's taking a lot for me not to laugh after she says that. I think she notices me chuckling because she stops instructing me. I hear fleeting laughter from her. Then she coughs, correcting her behavior. She might have a sense of humor after all. The widow Bitho usually stays for couple hours then leaves. I cannot wait till Mom comes home. She's bringing Chinese food with her. She knows I love Chinese. The remainder of the day is a blur till dinnertime. "Pass me the chow mein box, Syble.” I glide my hand along the table. I hear and feel the Chinese bags ruffling like opening chips. “To the right or…” I say. Mom does not help me out. “What happened to the girl who used to find her way home?” I dislike when she tells me that. When she brings up words that are etched within my heart because of him. The conversation at the table becomes heavy. “Syble, I’m nervous about that important case coming up. If I win he is behind bars but if I lose another killer, rapist, just an evil man is on the loose all because of a flawed justice system.” “I know, Mom. You will win, don’t get worked up about it.” I twirl the chow mein so much that my fork grew golden hair. I hope she wins.
Truth is Pops used to show me survival skills before we moved to the big city. He taught me how to pick the right berries, know which plants are safe to eat, and above all how to track anything that helps me find my way home. “Mom, can you hand me the sweet and sour sauce.” I reach for sauce packets. With food in my mouth, I open the first packet. “Wait, sweetie that’s hot sauce!” I'm more upset that I added three packets before she said anything. “Mom! You know I like sweet and sour,” I pout. Mom snorts like a pig when she laughs. “Sorry Syble, I was curious to know if hot sauce tastes good with our noodles. Oh Syble cheer up. I didn't give you any hot sauce. I handed you the right packets.” She truly is evil. “That's a knee slapper,” she says while slapping her knee. She snorts some more. I cannot help but smile. I have the most compassionate mom around. After our heavy meal mom turns on the television until the day surrenders itself for night to take over.
“Goodnight,” I say. She says goodnight back to me. Her footsteps are mute while walking on the carpet. “Mom, Mom, Mom!” The door squeaks halts. “Is the night light on?” I wait a second hear her response. I breathe out. “I know, I know, I'll get a new joke.” She doesn't answer right away. “Mom, you still there?” She responds with a mh-hmm. I hear the lights flick. “Thanks Mom.” “Hold on, was flipping the switch up to turn your night light on, or was it down?” she says through the creaks of the door. “That's just mean, Mom!” I love how we can tease one another. We went through a bleak moment. Some of our jokes may appear dark. Pun is heavily intended. I lie in the dark for a while. I assume it’s dark. It’s been Mom and me for years. I would have learned Braille sooner but I couldn't concentrate. There were way too much struggles to cope with before I could put time into studying. My blanket feels like a hot towel pressed on my body. My pillow smells nice. When did she find the time to wash my cover? I lie on my stomach. I always look forward to dreaming. I may be alive but why do I feel like I’m just floating? I turn to my side, my sleep position. I like to bend both my knees on top of each other and place my arm in the middle like a sandwich. I tilt my head and I feel that his glasses are still on me. I take them off. Dad? I miss you so much. I grip my pillow with a loving hug.
“How’d you sleep, Syble?” Mom asks. “Well actually, I feel rested.” My bed shakes when she bumps into it. I try to remember her smile, it was the brightest smile I had ever seen. “Get up and we can have breakfast,” Mom says. “Can you get me orange juice since you’re opening the fridge?” The fridge makes a soft swoosh when it opens then clicks. Mom leaves the kitchen. I hear the TV on. She starts flicking through the channels. “Mom this is not pulp free. Why do you hate your blind child?!” She shows no attention to me. I pinch a small chunk of pulp from my tongue. “Mom, do you think you can win this case? Also you mention you received threatening emails right?” I hear her flick through the channels five more times. “I have to, what if another girl...I just have to win. I get those all the time remember. I can handle it.” she says over the television. She must be carrying a weighted vest around with all that stress wrap around her voice. “Let's not worry too much about that. I have a week until then.” “Hey, Mom what are you wearing today?” I sit on the couch next to her. I like to imagine that she’s more than something that produces sounds. “Remember those red flowers you and Dad picked for me at our old house?” I nod. “That's kinda like my top. The flower petals are on my right shoulder and the stem comes to my chest. I have on a plain gray skirt. I just hope it doesn't make me look fat.” “Mom, you are a stunning woman. Your eyes sparkle brown. Mom, you are a goddess.” “And how would you know that missy?” She teases me. “Well, you tell me I’m pretty. And you're my mother so I know you're gorgeous.” “Hey Mom, did you add anything new to the house?” That's how I figure out my surroundings. "No Syble, you know I would have told you. Hey Syble, I know by next year you will be eighteen but you don't have to worry about life as an adult until you feel comfortable, you are still my little girl." Sometimes I miss the simple things like telling day from night. In my world it’s an eternity without sunlight. My life is like those dreams when I’m falling and can’t wake up. That's how every day feels.
Part 5: Gone The widow Bitho leaves after homeschooling. “Syble don't forget to lock the door. Oh, and excellent job today.” She stops walking. “You have made tremendous progress.”
I’m more than capable of staying home alone. I have to be on my own someday.
Did Mom move the Easy Mac? Not this cupboard either. I ignore the Mac and cheese to check the fridge for milk. First I touch the top shelf for easy placement, then trace my fingers around. I can feel the smooth cold touch of eggs that fits nicely in my palm. Here it is. I pull the milk from the fridge. Frustrated, I make cereal because it's simple. It's quick and efficient, plus I don't have to worry about burning anything. Chef Syble, I should whip up some eggs.
Sometimes I cannot imagine living on my own but as I grow older I will have to learn to cope with different struggles. I was taught on how to pour water for myself. I keep my finger at the top and whenever water makes contact I stop pouring.
The TV is on. I sit on the sofa and watch. Yeah right, more like listen. The show that is on right now is unknown to me. But they sure are using a lot of vulgar language. The cereal is so crunchy I cannot hear my inner thoughts. I alternate between eating and sipping the milk like soup. The combination of sipping and eating has to be just right, otherwise, there will be no milk left for the cereal.
“Fuck no, Jack, if we go in there we might not come out alive!” The television blurts out. Where is this character Jack going? Maybe a mafia building? A police precinct? Even better, is he the hero or villain? “If you have swollen glands or irritated rash please contact your doctor immediately. GlanX is not for the weak of heart or if your family suffers from…” Where is the remote? I cannot stand these commercials. Why would I take something with a side effect that can possibly do more harm? Damn, this cereal is scrumptious. Jack you son of a bitch now you have me swearing. In front of me is a small table. I put down my empty bowl. Then lie back down.
I feel around for the remote. All I feel are papers, and the ripped edges of envelopes. I knock over something. I crouch reaching around, feeling for it. An unwanted sensation soaks my big toe. I follow the mess upstream to find the culprit. Mom’s glass. Geez mom. I just won't clean it. I leave the glass on the floor.
I take off my sock and sit back down giving up on locating the stupid remote. I’m a little upset now. Mom said our couch is brown and fine just like your mama.
Finally, the commercials are over. I was beginning to wonder if these commercial knew how to terminate themselves. “Jack put down the sword!” I take my dry sock off. If her cup is out maybe she still has a blanket lying on the couch. The leather is cool on my fingers, like figure skating. I begin to feel softness then I yank the small blanket. A unanimous amount of people will lie sideways facing the television. So, I lie how I usually do. I lie facing the TV.
There’s not a day I don't pray to have sight, be normal. But there’s not a second that passes that I don't want life to be back when I could peer through his eyes- they held truth, promise, compassion, anger, sadness. He laughed, he cried, he was sympathetic, he was fun, funny, silly, he was so silly. Above all, he was my father!
“Jack you almost stabbed me?!” I forgot the television was on. The man sounds angry. I’m beginning to think Jack is not this fella's ally. I lie down and listen to this random movie. I think about the epic gun fights. I arrive too late to completely understand what is transpiring. “If we go in. One of us will not make it. You ready brother?” Brother? Whoa, this just got interesting.
I begin to feel drowsy, exhausted. I doze off and turn away from the television. I take off his glasses. It takes me a while to fall asleep but strange enough napping is a heck of a lot quicker. I imagine nonsense like butterflies with blue wings. Maybe I'm a pilot. “Syble.” his voice trails off. Now I’m hearing Dad. I roll over and pull the blanket to my chin. “Dad?!” At our old home, Dad and I explore. It was getting late and we were out in a heavy storm. I trusted him and followed behind. I slipped and he quickly ran and picked me up. The rain and wind are both heavyweights throwing all punches. His voice is soft. He pushes me to walk closer behind him. “You know what sounds good, warm soup.” The rain’s not attacking me as before. “Maybe soft toasted bread, Syble we can dip it in the piping hot soup.” We continue walking. “Dad maybe add bacon bits?” I continue behind him. “Potatoes!” We both say at the same time. I laugh a second before him.
Dad and I finally made it home, drenched. I remember Dad picked up the phone. He is funny and lied, ‘no of course we were not out in the storm. We got back way before.’ He sticks his overly pink tongue out, I remember I laughed so hard. I taste the soup. “I think we did an excellent job with this soup.” He winks at me, "the bacon is an excellent choicessss..." His voice fades like a hiss.
I wake up. My head jumbles with random thoughts. I yawn after that blissful nap. I check if I had wings on my back. I go to my room carrying my socks like smelly gym socks. I have acquired a photographic memory. I do not bump into the walls or chairs. My motto is the faster you learn something without cutting corners so to speak, then you learn to avoid challenging obstacles. I learn when it comes to electronic always start from its cord then guide my fingers up. If I should iron my shirts, I know not to grab the iron but instead start at the cord. I am grateful for the group that helped blind people learn techniques to cope with our daily lives.
My toes feel nice like walking on cotton candy because of my carpet. I rummage through my dresser. I feel my bra, I buy soft ones because the hard bra’s wire can become loose. It could poke me in the eye or something. I would hate to lose my eyes.
There are no socks in here. I check my basket around my bed. I get frustrated because I couldn't find any on top of the bucket. I dump the bucket of clothes on my bed. A shirt nope don't need that, nor am I looking for sweatpants. I think I'm more frustrated because I was taught how to mark my clothes but I don't follow the strategy as often as I should. The most important knowledge I take to heart from my association is to have confidence. Confidence leads to a better life. Having faith in myself is a must.
I put on socks. What's this? I’m trying to figure out what this item is in my hands. It has to be Mom’s green hat. The same pattern of octagons are array on the sides, it’s soft.
Even though I cannot tell I just know these socks are mismatched, I get this feeling of embarrassment. I should just put on my shoes. I put on the first pair I touch. Wait what if this is mixed match? It's enough to make me screech. Sometimes I play it off as a joke but not knowing simple life skills like that massacres my ego.
I stand in front of my big mirror. It’s as tall as me. I pose for a moment then do a silly little jive. I faintly hear the front door shut. Mom’s home! I continue dancing and mute singing. I flip my hair with excitement. I like to believe I’m an exceptional dancer. The TV goes off. I wonder why she turns it off so I begin to step out. I feel my soul pulling back the words ‘mom is that you?’ She would have called for me by now, she would have scream my name over whatever show is on. I stop myself at my door and wait for her call.
I hear the floor squeak coming from the kitchen. I wonder if it is one of my family members stopping by. Again, they would have also called my name. We have a system. This feeling that is swelling... My heart dives with worry and floats with fear. The tips of my fingers are wet. I hear movement around the apartment. The steps are tentative but determined. I cannot tell if it’s male or female. The clatter of dishes chokes me with a petrifying thought, IT'S DEFINITELY NOT MOM!
The footsteps grow farther away. I cannot calm myself. My heart’s pounding. Calm down. Calm down. The person that broke in hasn't said anything. My bedroom door is partially open. Do I close it or leave it like it is? If I should make a mistake they might overhear.
Since I cannot hear the stranger’s footsteps that means they are walking on the carpet, which only means one thing they are getting closer to my room. I forget about the door and crawl under my bed. God, please, please help me. My bed sheets hang off the sides like bangs so I’m concealed. I hear mom’s door closing after they spent some time in there. My door squeaks like a trapped rodent. I bite my lips.
Where are they? I cannot inhale through my nose correctly, I jerk my head to the right after hearing the squeaky toy go off. I didn't hear a thing I thought they stood still the whole time. Knowing my room, I can visualize where they are standing. I scrape to my left. I gulp with utter despair. “Bzz, Bzzz, Bzzz” Now or never...my heart pounds. Now or never? If I stay under here maybe they will leave.
I experience an asthma-like attack. I scoot to the back like my life depended on it. The atmosphere is indescribable. His phone goes off again. After the third ring, he answers this time. “Do you have her?” The person in the room does not talk back. The defeating sound is close to me. My stomach drops and I hide my face inside Mom hat. There is a swelling in the back of my throat.
I freeze in glacier-like fear, contemplating on running. I'm a lot closer to my door than he is. I can make it.
What's that, my heart pounding? NO. It’s breathing, I can't just stay. I push through. Immovable objects meet my unstoppable force. Stupidly I decide to run. The stranger is silent.
For a brief second I could make a life-altering decision. Head for the outside door would be the safest bet. I see the table in my head. Wait, is this smart? What if I hide in Mom’s room? I could lock the doors, that would be faster; maybe safer? I have plenty of time. Or should I run for the door! I could go outside and yell for help. But will I be fast enough?
This decision is impossible. I...I… I should lock myself in Mom’s room, my chest is breathing. I...I...I should run for the door and call for help. Her room is a lot closer. What if he just breaks down her door? Door...Her room. Door….door...no lock myself in. Run...lock, call for help, Mom’s room. Door, door? No wait
“Run! Syble” I hear this powerful whisper in my head, one that was not my own. I grab something then I dart for the door. The strangers breathing is ferocious. "Come here" he knocks me over. I get up. I kick in his direction with all my might. I run again. He shoves me this time causing me to fall.
I start to scoot for the door. His shoes are between my legs. His fingers are touching my left arm crawling up both shoulders. He squeezes with intent of not letting go. I break my right arm free. I'm just about pulling my left out its socket. I pull closer to the center of the couch. His fingers then grab me by the chin "Stop" is all he said. I stop for a second and he eases up. I smash the glass cup on his head. His painful grunts are my proof as he releases my other arm. It falls out my hand. I couldn't pick myself up so I crawl towards the noise. A sharp pain strikes my palm while crawling. "Ahhh" I dust off fear and pick myself up. The door. I crack it open.
Rooks of the Raven
Sample chapters coming soon...
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