Her stomach recoiled as she wretched into the toilet, holding her hair back. She was squatting in front of a porcelain toilet in one of the hospital bathrooms, trying to catch her breath and regain the composure she thought she had when she walked in ten minutes ago—thirty minutes earlier than her appointment. The blue tiles looked clean enough to eat off of, but even with the temptation to sit, she was scared to crumple her trousers.
She was tempted to stick her middle finger up at him, but years for her mother’s upbringings made her swallow the urge, and she resigned herself to rolling her eyes. She braced her hands against the sides of the toilet, preparing to haul out more contents of her stomach, which she didn’t think was even possible seeing as she could barely eat breakfast. Time ticked by and nothing, she waited a little more then decided she had given all she possibly could.
She flushed the toilet, reaching into her purse for a rubber band to use and tie her loose hair up. She dropped her purse on the counter, lifting the handle of the tap and cupping her hand beneath the spout. She washed her mouth out first, then her face, using the paper towels to dry off. She allowed herself a minute to catch her breath, hands propped against the counter. She had nothing to be afraid of, Eight had drilled that into her all morning, but her mind and heart both made a deal to not understand.
“You just go in, and talk.” She repeated to herself, pulling the band from her hair and quickly running a brush through it.
“Talk not lie.” Eight corrected, and she lifted her eyes to look at his image in the mirror. “Yes, I know. I am annoying, but it’s the truth. You go in there scared, you are bound to lie, and he might pick up on it. When you go in there, tell the truth, minus me but the truth all the same. If you are feeling fear, let it rhyme with your face and words.”
“Talk.” She repeated, nodding to the mirror, “not lie.”
“Back straight, chin up. You look gorgeous.”
She laughed, tucking a strand of hair behind her hair. Gorgeous. She was a cheaply trained spy, that was the best he had for her at this moment. She straightened her spine and rolled her shoulders back, consciously reminding herself not to breathe too fast. There was no guarantee that her therapist was involved in anything, so she didn’t have any reason to be edgy. If anything happened, she could trust that Eight would find a way to help.
She left the bathroom, slinging the arm of her purse over her shoulder, the clicking of her heels keeping her in check as it gave her something to focus on. The receptionist desk was on the next bend she took. It was a high table, reaching a few inches over her hip, with a polished white surface and large desktop sitting on top of it. The nurse behind it was smartly dressed in a knee-length blue and white uniform, the standard for the hospital and her hair was pinned high on her head.
“Good morning.” She called with a friendly smile when she finally noticed Coty. “How may I help you?”
Coty coughed to clear her throat, smiling apologetically, but the nurse was unfazed. “I have an appointment with Doctor Summers.”
The nurse quickly looked through the files on her desktop. “Of course, Miss Adesina. You are early, about a few minutes. He is with another patient right now so you will have to wait. First time?”
She looked down on the counter, the nurse reached for a piece of paper from a small tray and began to write over it.
The nurse smiled. She handed Coty the paper which read Patient’s Pass at the top and her name at the bottom. “You pin it on your shirt, this way you won’t have people stopping you all the time to ask what you are doing here. Okay, Doctor Summers’ room is down the hall to the left, room 403. Belinda, please come here. Yes, this nurse will take you.”
Coty thanked her, she followed the other nurse quietly.
Coty had never disliked the hospital; she had practically grown up in it. When she was in high school, she knew people who hated stepping foot in hospitals, she found their fears strange just as they saw her comfortability strange. It was hard to have an aversion towards a place where everyone had been so kind to her. Nurses checked in from time to time, some kept her company when they didn’t have much to do and the doctors, oh the doctors had been exemplary. One, in particular, Doctor Park always brought her inflated hand gloves with a one-worded message that made her day.
Granted all those days were before she became a teenager. The older she grew, the less she needed the hospital. Now, at twenty-eight, she was nervous because she didn’t want to become one of those people who feared the establishment.
“You are breathing too fast.”
“Shut. Up.” She whispered with clenched teeth that flashed into a smile when the nurse turned around.
“Are you okay?”
“Well, here you go.” Coty thanked the nurse and dropped into one of the chairs lining the wall. “You see the glowing section of the door when it turns blue, that means you can go in.”
“Okay. Thanks a lot.”
Coty looked around, shaking her hair out, it fell over the side of her face. She whispered softly, her lips barely moving. “If you want me to act normal, don’t talk. It’s already hard to quell the urge of replying to you on impulse, don’t add the urge to slap you to that list.”
The colour on the door changed, and she jumped to her feet, shaking her hand through her hair. She smoothened it over the front of her blouse. The doctor smiled up at her when she walked in, standing from his desk. He started walking towards her with his hand stretched. She shook it confidently, thanking him softly when he walked her to the couch.
Coty tried not to look obvious as she cased the room, taking in every object. Aside from the recorder in his hand, she didn’t see another digital device in the room. There was no computer at his desk, no telephone that she noticed. If there was no laptop, did that mean there was nothing for Eight to look through.
“It is nice to finally meet you in person.” He began, piling the files he had in his hands over each other and placing his recorder beside them. “Sorry for how monochromatic the place looks.”
Coty nodded; she wasn’t bothered, but it was a bit unsettling. The tiles, walls, sofa, cabinets, curtains, everything was white. Thankfully, the therapist himself, who looked a few inches taller than her, was dressed in informal but formal looking clothes. He had a warm smile, not toothy or wide but welcoming and comforting.
“It’s not a problem, it looks quite nice actually.”
“Says the lady who will only see it an hour, once every week.” She smiled in response, and he reached forward to turn the recorder on. “So, let’s start with a name. Yes, I know your name already, call it an ice breaker.”
Coty nodded, untangling her fingers and adjusting herself back on the seat. “I am Coty Adesina.”
“Doctor Mathew Summers, a pleasure to meet you. Is it okay to call you Coty?” She nodded, and he sat back as well, crossing his legs. “You work in…”
“Real estate. I have been for a few years now.”
“That’s great. You haven’t been to work for a while now, especially now. Are you nervous, in any way?”
“A bit.” She took a moment to arrange her words, looking out the window, entranced by the gentle sway of the curtains under the influence of the passing breeze. “I should be, right? I will be seeing my co-workers for the first, my boss, the building. I have a fair idea of how everything looks like, being working there for what feels like a lifetime, but still, I feel a bit tense.”
“This is a big step you have taken in your life. You have basically changed the environment you are comfortable with to one that is new to you. It is almost, or maybe exactly like a sighted person losing their sight. A lot of adjustment is needed, that’s why we always advise taking things slow.”
“One day at a time. Go through your day normally at first, not doing anything you wouldn’t ordinarily do. That way, the eyes adjust to the normal then when you are ready, go a step further, maybe take a driving class, or go jogging.”
“What if the eyes are not what I thought they would be.”
Eight snapped away from the wall at her question, walking to stand behind Summers’ chair with his eyes widened. Her question made the doctor perk up as well, “What do you mean.”
“A friend of mine, from work, said somethings to me before I came for the implant.” She began, subtly ignoring Eight’s warning tone. “She mentioned that the world is not a pretty place. Sometimes seeing was not always easy, because somethings you see make you fear the world that we live in.”
Summers nodded in understanding, interlocking his fingers and resting his elbow on his thighs. “The world is a big place, there is no denying that there are some things that are ugly about it. Humans have made it that way, but not everyone in the world is affected by it. Some people go through life only hearing about it, and actually never experience it themselves.”
Eight scoffed, and Coty lifted her eyes to him before looking back at Summers. She was never the best at reading people. Maggie had made her watch a series years ago, Daredevil, about a blind man who fought crime. He could pick up heartbeats, breathing, and hear things from a considerable distance away; all his sense heightened. Coty wished she had that. She would like to hear if his heart was racing right now, if his breath was choppy and short, to sense the adrenaline run in his blood.
“What if I am not part of the people? Seeing ugliness is just as bad as experiencing it. What if I am not able to shut it out and move on, or it changes me past the point of going back to normal when this trial is done?”
“Change is inevitable in life Coty. How you process it is entirely up to you. For example, you lost your sight due to no fault of yours, you worked out of it. Grew, got yourself a job, live in your own apartment. According to Lina, she only saw you use a cane when you first came into this hospital, at the workplace you move and act as comfortably as a sighted person.”
“Please don’t tell me ‘You are a fighter’.”
Summer chuckled, finally reclining back into his seat. “I don’t think I have ever said that to anyone, but it does fit the bill to the point I am trying to make. The world would always have some darkness in it, humans have very ugly sides, caused by ambition, greed, pride, so many things. It shouldn’t stop you from trying to live your life to the fullest.”
Coty looked away, wringing her fingers together once again as she nodded. Thankfully her hair was loose, so it fell over her face when she tilted her head, covering her expression and giving her a moment to collect herself. Summers gave more consoling words, and she tried to listen, she did, but her accelerating heartbeat was a gigantic distraction.
By the time she stepped out of the hospital and into the city, she was nearly out of breath. Her legs shook, she grabbed hold of a railing, using it to keep herself standing as she tried to collect herself. She took in deep breaths, timing her inhales and exhales. The world seemed to go out from under her, she wasn’t falling, but she couldn’t feel the floor, she couldn’t feel much of anything but the blood rushing through her ears.
“Tell me you got something.” She whispered roughly, trying not to draw too much attention to herself. “Tell me.”
Eight stooped to her height, looking her in the eye with a kind smile as he placed a hand on her shoulder. “You need to breathe, okay. Breathe. I got something, there was another room, with a computer, I downloaded everything off it. It would take some time to go through, but I got something. Okay.”
A small vibration went through her leg, and she looked down, distracted for a second. It felt like a muscle spasm at first, but she soon realised it was the vibration from her silenced phone stashed inside her purse.
The sound of cruising cars came through the phone, followed by a little static. “Hey. Yeah. You called? Mentioned something about wanting to join my self-defence classes? Are you serious?”
Coty swallowed, turning to look back at the hospital. It was paranoia, she knew it because she couldn’t even remember what floor the office had been on or where exactly it was located, but she could see blinds pull away, from every window. It was like everyone she had met during and after her implants were watching her, calculating, conspiring.
“Yeah. I am.”