Ten Thousand Joys, Ten Thousand Sorrows

By Jody Callahan

On the third day after going blind, Rita felt relief. For years her sight would return only to be lost again. This time the doctor confirmed it would not be coming back.

It wasn’t her faith which kept her upright, not her god or her religion but something inside her, she knew, made her wake each morning expecting joy. Every life has ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows as the Buddhist saying goes but each joy, each sadness, is not equal. The fear of complete, irreversible blindness had been a constant and now without it there was this, unmistakable relief that the worst thing that could happen to her had, and yet here she still was, breathing, looking forward to her morning cup of coffee.

Now nearing fifty and finally legally blind, Rita went at the state’s expense to a center to learn how to adapt to her new life. She learned how to cook blind, something she had rarely done sighted, and received mobility instruction on how to get around independently with the use of a white-banded cane.

At the center she met other blind adults in group classes and therapy and found herself falling in love, an emotion she hadn’t realized had been missing all of these years. Perhaps the fear of going blind had dulled her sense of losing herself in someone else but now it was back.

Gerard was another who tended to look at the bright side of things. “Did you know,” he asked her the first time they met, “that the blind don’t have to pay for stamps? That’s right! The blind get to mail, for free.”

He had Matilda, a sweet German Shepherd as a guide dog. “Did you know,” he asked Rita, “that I don’t have to pick up Matilda’s poop? The blind are given a special exemption. Yup it’s good to be blind!” he roared. “Easy street!”

The morning after Gerard first slept over, he took Matilda for a walk and to buy them bagels for breakfast. Mrs. Conti from upstairs knocked on Rita’s door immediately. She had always been nosy but with Rita’s newly blind status had felt it her duty to double her intrusiveness.

“That man!” Mrs. Conti said.

“My boyfriend?” Rita asked.

“Oh!” Mrs. Conti said, grabbing one of Rita’s hands and holding it prisoner with her left as she stroked it annoyingly with her right. “He’s black you know.”

“He is?” Rita asked with a mock horror that failed to register with Mrs. Conti.

Mrs. Conti gasped. “He didn’t tell you, did he!”

“Maybe he doesn’t know,” Rita suggested.

“But he should! Someone should tell him!”

“I’m afraid it can’t be me,” Rita said. “I’m color blind, Gerard will never believe me.”

Mrs. Conti paused in her patting of Rita’s hand for a moment and almost, just almost, accepted the sarcasm in Rita’s voice.

“Don’t let this being blind change you,” Mrs. Conti said.

Now that, Rita knew, she never would.

"flashfictionjcallahan"Jody Callahan’s writing has appeared in the online literary journals Liars’ League London, Liars’ League Hong Kong, Gemini Magazine and Story Shack and in the anthology Foreign & Far Away, and Writer’s Digest. She lives in Northampton and is currently at work on a satirical novel tentatively titled POINTLESS PRAYER.


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