aphantasia – a blind mind.
Those born with this condition are said to be without imagination, lacking a mind’s eye in visualising images, texts. People who can neither write nor picture anything within the complex hollowness in their heads.
They never remember experiences, and they live everyday with a strange blend of familiarity and unfamiliarity. They cannot imagine or remember the way it feels losing a loved one, or reading a book for the first time. In other words, some might find themselves lacking some form of empathy for memory, because aphantasia renders them incapable of reliving any feeling/ moment in the past; making it difficult to remember names, or recognise faces.
“Everything has a silver lining.”
They don’t harbour bad emotions for long. No grudges, more forgiveness.
Life has taken away the choice to remember, but gives them a fresh start everyday.
“It is funny,” she said, with a little giggle. Her dimple caved into her right cheek, just above the corner of her lips. The left cheek remains bare – a flaw she has identified for herself. ‘No one likes an asymmetrical face,’ she said, not too long ago.
I asked her what it was that she had found funny. I was prepared to laugh. My gaze shifted up to catch hers, and all I could see was sunshine. That was all I could ever see in her eyes since the time we met on the overcrowded shuttle bus to town.
I had first met her in the Never-ending Woods of our school. It was a rainy morning, and my alarm refused to go off (as if it, too, had a life on its own, wishing to drowse through the rain). Late and feeling short of excuses, my breaths struggled to maintain a peaceful rhythm as I ran down the long corridor. THE long corridor.
Our school was an old colonial building which the students found in need of some major renovations, despite the rich sponsors in the Parents’ Board. They would build a new hockey pitch, a new swimming hall, or a new chapel for the school, yet spent no thought about restoring the conditions of the building itself. The door hinges would give way if you were just slightly careless or forceful, and everyone would look at you knowingly as you enter the room because the sounds of the hinges snapping were loud enough to turn heads. ‘Crack, crack,’ and someone’s allowance was to be cut the next month. The windows were glass tainted with colours, supported by beautiful but extremely unreliable wooden frames. They were not meant to be opened – neither from the inside nor the outside – and as a result, classes were always stuffy and smelled humid, despite the amount of space within the building.
The Never-ending Woods was a nickname the students gave to THE long corridor. There was a really long corridor connecting the entrance of the school to the major block where classrooms were located. On a typical day, all students would have to enter the school gate, walk up an unforgiving slope (the school was built upon a hill, and needless to say, the main building lay on top of it), enter the school building and greet the staff in the general office, head down the Never-ending Woods, before scattering in different directions towards different classrooms.
On some days, I’d found this pattern of movement quite similar to ants scampering messily out of their nests in search of food. But we were not ants, and we were not exiting nests. We were entering them.
It was called the Never-ending Woods because after the release of the Harry Potter books, some of the older students thought that it would do the rest of the student population some good by likening our school to the mysterious, seemingly equally old and colonial(?) Hogwarts. They thought it would be sort of a morale boost for the school. Yes, sure, the wooden floor would creak upon the lightest step, and even during the brightest day, the Sun could never shed enough light upon the corridor – the rays always came in colours due to the windows, as if rendering the Sun impure. So yes, dark, creepy, creaky corridor like the ones in Hogwarts. But why these older students settled with the neither mysterious nor old-sounding ‘Never-ending Woods’ was beyond me, honestly.
Well, still better than THE long corridor, I suppose?
And, I digressed. So, on that rainy, drowsy, late morning when I could hardly keep up with my heartbeat, I ran down the Never-ending Woods, drawing out the floor plans of the classroom block in my mind. ‘Left, up the stairs, up the stairs, second room to the right.’ I had always found it important for people to draft plans in their minds, even if it was as simple as planning a walk. It was more time- and energy-efficient that way.
Your eyes should see where your feet plan to go.
Even if they were in your mind.
What I did not see coming was a girl around the left corner, at the end of the Never-ending Woods.
You see, there was an enormous window, shaped like the arcs of the Colloseum, shedding dim, colourful light into the Woods, built high and well-opposite the entrance of the school. Dim as the light, it would get brighter towards the end of the Woods, where one could see two flights of staircases on either side of the space. This marked the end of the Woods, and the ground floor of the classroom block.
I was preparing to make a left turn when a girl appeared quite abruptly at the corner. I came to a much-needed halt from all the breathlessness, feeling yet confused over her appearance. I had not anticipated for anyone to be around the school (outside of classrooms) because it was twenty minutes into the first period, and I certainly could not have imagined for such an appearance in my running plan.
She had long, black hair, and a quiet, pale face.
This was definitely a strange way of defining beauty – actually, on hindsight, I was too distracted to look at her closely then. On hindsight too, I did not think of her as beautiful by standards of the norm. Her hair was so straight that some strands stuck along her shapely face, giving off a somewhat unkempt impression. Coupled with her pale face, she appeared ghastly at best.
But there was a keen sense of understanding in the quietness of her expressions (which, on further hindsight, would prove this impression wrong) which might come across as interesting to many. Her eyes, shaped like almonds, were deep and curious.
The light from the gigantic windows shone rainbow colors upon the right side of her face, in stark contrast against the paleness on her left, well-hidden from the Sun. I saw a little dimple form, as if taking in the colors, sucking them into a man-made pond. I wondered if it would also collect her tears whenever she cries.
In the midst of these confusion and contemplation, five pale, slender fingers as cold as ice took hold of mine, adding another tick on the list of everything I could have never imagined happening that morning. Any morning.
I could only stare in response. I was certain that from her almond -shaped eyes, I must have looked the part of an awkward mannequin whose plastic skirt was being looked up into by curious five-year-olds. It took probably a mere few seconds, but those were the longest, most confusing seconds I could ever remember.
Until she spoke.
I remembered the rainbow-colored lips moving in slow-motion, mouthing words I could not make out (not a lip-reader!) until a clear voice rang and echoed throughout the Never-ending Woods:
“Wanna come along?”
(to be continued).