Adult Group - Fine Work (Japan)
A Ray of Light
Tokyo Miyuki Ara [Age 24, university student female]

... Where am I...?

Splitting headache... body tied to tubes...
I know my eyes are open, but all I see is pitch black.
The world is filled with silence. Where am I...?
Yes, I lost my hearing 3 months ago due to brain tumor, and recently my vision, too, is starting to deteriorate. I had just undergone the operation.
Someone abruptly grabs my hand in the darkness, and writes something on the palm.
Through haziness, I try to think. Who is this? Is this person going to tell me, “I’m △△, the nurse.”
No, she’s likely to be “checking the level of consciousness” since I’ve just been operated on. Although this written word is not even followed by a “?,” she must be saying, “Ms. Ara, how are you feeling? Will you let me check to see if you’re alright? Please tell me your name.”
She must be smiling, and talking to me even though I don’t hear her.
“Miyuki Ara”
I replied. Was my speculation right?
There is no answer. There was another writing on the palm of my hand which read, “D-A-T-E-O-F-B-I-R-T-H.”
I had been an able-bodied person all my life. I used to catch bugs in the countryside of Tochigi, and ride a unicycle for fun.
When I was in junior high, I traveled to New Zealand on a homestay. That sheer excitement I felt when even my poor English conversation skills proved helpful in communicating with the locals. That captivating sun setting beyond the green meadows. I saw myself taking on an international career in the future. I went on to college, found myself a long-desired place of my own, joined the student activity club, got myself a part-time job, and relished my freedom.
I’ve always believed that it’s “normal” to be able to see and hear, to go wherever I want, and that dreams will come true if I exert all my efforts.
I know I can open my eyes. I’ve seen all sorts of things in the past 22 years. I’ve read tons of books. I can open my eyes... but all I see is darkness. I was agitated by this.
I had just lost my hearing 3 months ago. I was just about to start pulling myself together to overcome the agony.
There is no God. Exerting efforts has no meaning in this world. I cried day after day. It was like lying at the bottom of the deep sea. A seabed surrounded by soundless and utter darkness I once saw on TV where a deep sea research vessel was slowly making its way forward. I floundered and struggled, but I would never see or hear again. I was terrified. So terrified that I could not let go of my mother’s hand even for a second. Whatever I ate tasted of tears. The salty taste made me think of the pitch dark seawater.
I dreamed again and again of waking up, taking off the sleep mask and ear plugs, and saying, “Okay, nightmare’s over.” No e-mails, no TV, no books. Days went by, by just taking out all the pain on my mother.
Six months had passed. Although I was still hospitalized, I gradually collected myself with the help of people around me. This ordeal hit me so suddenly that every ordinary thing from going to the restroom to taking a bath, eating, and being separated from my mother at nights when I have to sleep in the hospital ward, had become an obstacle to overcome.
Then one day, there was a program on the TV featuring the visually and auditorily handicapped. From what was explained to me, I found out that there are college students, and even university professors who suffer from impaired vision and hearing.
“Maybe I can do it too.”
I saw a ray of hope for the first time since becoming a visual and hearing impaired.
I yearned for more than a monotonous, lonesome conversation requiring a great amount of guessing that starts with a grab of my hand out of the darkness; I wanted to find out about the world, and I wanted to read, all by myself. And I wanted to do e-mails too.
I suffered to the point of suffocating at the bottom of the deep sea, blowing small bubbles, and missed living under the sun. I craved for air, however little, so I could breathe in this soundless, endless darkness.
A machine called Braille Sense is said to enable emailing, as well as reading the news and literatures. For me, it’s a “magic box to connect with the world.” It’s an “oxygen tank.” It was too good to be true! But to use it I must learn “braille.”
My extra-hard training had begun. The feel of braille on the fingers. It was an extremely complicated task for a former able-bodied person to distinguish 6 dots embossed on cells having mere size of 5-6 millimeters. “This is full of protrusions... all 6 dots are there?Me?...” “This is a hard one... is it [Ta?], or [Ha?]” It took minutes to distinguish just one code. Giving up was not an option, no matter what. Braille gave me the power to go on when I was buried deep in solitude, and was the only measure to connect me to the outside world.
I sang my favorite song on the hospital bed while writing the lyrics in braille. The movement of typing characters on Braille Sense and that of finger braille both use the same Perkins method. I was fascinated by the ingenuity of it.
A year has gone by since my readmission to college. I am getting a translation aid extended specially to the visually and auditorily handicapped called “finger braille” for my classes. Mastering braille has opened up my world dramatically. I am now capable of reading whatever book I wish, and send e-mails. I am also capable of going shopping with my translation aid. For me, braille is the ray of light which saved me from great despair and solitude.


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