The ridiculous morning alarm automatically sounds itself at dawn of what beheld a breathtaking sunrise. There she was in her same old faded pyjamas jumping on my wooden squeaky bed. I gave her the glare that words could never replace as she gradually paced herself back to earth. Not that her incessant screams to wake me up really bothered me in any way, but rather, the fragility of my bed did. The impact of a 20kg girl landing on my bed multiple times a week really put me into deep thinking of how long more my bed frame could really sustain. As she got out of my bed with a rather pitiful and apologetic face, my heart sunk a little. Just a little. I gave her the most reassuring smile i could possibly offer to anyone and stroked her soft oily hair.
“Come on, we are going to miss it” She tugged my hand whilst repeatedly begging me to get out of my cooped up cage.
“But we can see it every other day dear” That was the reply I gave her every single morning and I could almost come off as a broken tape recorder.
What was so special about the sunrise that tomorrow couldn’t wait? Was it not just the sun rising from afar, above the mountains and hills? I pulled a pin into my long braided hair and fastened it tight. Strapping on my rugged muddy boots, I grabbed a slice of bread from the dusty cabinet shelf and took a bite immediately only to realise a queer taste. Momentarily, i took the piece of bread out of my mouth and noticed that mould was all over the bread. I was quite sure I got a new loaf just some days ago. I peered through the gap of the door and saw her squatting on the rocky pavements feeding birds – with the whole new loaf of bread.
She had a particular way of feeding the birds whereby she would tear the piece of bread into several pieces and throw them high up into the sky. As the pieces gravitate in the air, the birds scatter in a certain sort of elegance that she somehow joined in too. She did it over and over again and chuckled to herself after every round. But, I didn’t feel any sort of inclination towards the way the birds scattered because, my bread, my breakfast, my food was fed to them. I marched over to her in fury and grabbed the loaf of bread from her hands. “You feed them clean fresh bread and leave me a mouldy one?” I yelled at her with a burning needle pricking my heart. The birds were too, frightened as they started flapping their wings in hope of escape in fear that I would grab one of them and make them the meat between my fresh new slice of bread. She stammered and gulped down a huge lump of something down her throat before coughing out a few words: “The birds don’t like mouldy ones. They only dance when I give them fresh clean bread.” I heaved out a sigh and shrugged my shoulders in knowing that a child was filled with ignorance.
We proceeded for the hill not too far away to catch the sunrise she had been longing for the whole morning. I prayed so hard every day that it would be the last time I caught the sunrise because my sleep or books were worth so much more. What could a new sunrise each day really bring? Was it really worth climbing up a hill for? But she did it every day, rain or shine. She would lug me out of bed to catch the sunrise with her. Up on the hill, she would cross her legs by the grass and admire the exuberance of the sunrise. At first, I was curious at how a 7 year old girl could be so amazed by nothing but the sun rising. But after a few times, I got used to it. I got used to the way she would grin from ear to ear as though the sun each day spoke a different joke to her.
Kayla never seemed to want anything else apart from dancing with the birds and catching the sunrise every morning. She was simply ordinary in school; the girl with two pigtails who paid extra obedience to anything the teachers said. However, she never joined the rest of the girls during break. The girls would be gathered around the slides trying on different ribbon pins on their hair. But Kayla, she would tear her slice of bread into half. A piece for herself, and the other – to feed the birds and watch them dance. My parents tried getting her involved by going out of their way to buy her pretty ribbon pins which sold for quite a bit down in town. She would wear the pins as she was told to do so but she never once found any interest in trading the pins with the other girls.
One day, I made my way home from school. Just like any other day. But today was different. My parents were both seated by the ragged sofas in the living room. Their faces wrote a depressing story of solemness. “Mum? Dad?” I softly spoke, unsure if i should break the silence up.
“Kayla has Ischemic Optic Neuropathy. She is in the worst stage of it because she had prolonged the symptoms for too long. The doctors say it might be too late to carry out a surgery for it” My dad teared up whilst trying to grasp hold of his manliness and stability.
“It is very rare for children her age to develop such a disease”.
Kayla was blind.
Why didn’t she mention it to me that her visual sight was deteriorating? Had i been too harsh on her that she could barely confide in me?
The next morning, I awaited for the alarm. Some part of me knew that Kayla would no longer be jumping on my fragile bed and tugging me out. But i was wrong. She was shouting from the living for me to get out of my cooped up room. This time, I got up without any tiredness or reluctancy whatsoever and made my way out of bed. I grabbed a new loaf of bread before holding her small palms in my hand and walking her out of the house in a certain sort of calamity.
“Could I please feed the birds” She requested, knowing that we had walked past the same exact spot she would squat every past mornings. I teared the slice of bread into several pieces and placed it in her hands. The birds all loved Kayla. This was their routine to get breakfast and a time of dance. I chuckled at the way the birds danced in uniformity as though it was rehearsed for eternity.
“Do you see the way the birds dance? Its beautiful isn’t it?” She commented as though she could see.
We made our way up to the hill and there, the ever most breathtaking sunrise.
I seized the intimacy of that moment to question Kayla why she never wanted to tell me about her vision deteriorating.
“Oh sissy, listen to me. I never thought that one day, I’d wake up to a blank piece of blackness. Every day, I woke up only to see the sunrise slowly fading away. To see the dance of the birds gradually change. To feel you slowly walking away. That’s why I kept wanting to seize each moment of every day enjoying and appreciating what I loved most. The sunrise, the birds, and you.”
I hugged her so tightly against my chest.
“Sissy, can you promise me that you will still watch the birds dance and climb up this hill to catch the beauty of the sunrise every day? Love what you see because one day, you may wake up and realise that you can’t see the thing itself ever again. And maybe all you see, will be memories of it.” She squeezed my palm a little harder.
And that day, and the days after, the dance of the birds had a certain sort of inclination towards me. The sunrise every morning became more than just the sun rising above the mountains and hills. There was so much more to it. There was a sense of hope, vibrancy and love radiating from it.
“Oh Kayla, you have taught me so much. I love you too”