The Man In Her Eyes

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2.

When Coty was four years old, she had been involved in an accident. She could not remember what had happened but when she asked her parents, they had waited until she was older to recount what they knew. Her parents had strapped her to the back seat of their car one sunny Monday morning, with the intent on taking her to a picnic at the park. Coty was told their house was very far from the city. Her dad had problems with his lungs and carbon dioxide congested air of the city was never too good for him, so he moved them into a forested area at the edge of the town. While it was good for his health, they practically lived in the forest so they drove for miles before they could make it to the city.

According to records, which seemed to be the anthem of her origin, her father was a real-estate agent and her mother was a devote housewife. Both, whether by fate or coincidence, were only children, orphaned when they became adults. That day, they had prepared for the trip to the park with little Coty in the back seat but they never made it. A truck also heading to the city made the horrid decision to overtake them at a bend and things took a turn for the worst. The back of the truck had clipped her parent’s car on the side, sending them into a tailspin that ended with the car lurching down the slope at the side of the road.

Again, by fate or coincidence, ignorant Coty had unhooked her seat belt while her parents were driving. They never noticed because she didn’t make a fuss at the back seat so they rarely looked back. Spinning and unstrapped, her little body that weighed less than forty-five pounds was lurched out of the car when they hit the slope. She had crashed through the windshield and dropped on the ground while the car continued down the nightmarish slope, only to come to a stop and the bottom —wrecked.

The truck driver had planned to escape the scene, to avoid being arrested but after he noticed little Coty, his guilt caused him to call for the police. Singlehandedly, he pulled her parents out of the wreckage but he had been unable to save them so he stayed with Coty until the ambulance arrived.

As they were only children with no next of kin except each other, Coty became an orphan with no family to fall back on. Matters worsened when she woke up in the ICU with no recollection and absolutely no sight. For as long as adult Coty could remember—far back as her memory went—she lived without sight. She didn’t remember what the sun felt like, she had no clue what she looked like but she had always been content. Her family had adopted her four months after her accident and when she was seven, they adopted three more children. Coty always felt whole, loved, and confident.

Twenty-four years after her accident, she sat in an office with two people telling her that they could restore what she had lost so long ago.

“Miss Adesina?”

Coty perked up, turning towards the woman, wondering if she looked as lost as she felt. “Yes.”

“I know this is a strange topic to hear so early in the morning but I promise you I am ot here to cajole you into anything dangerous.” Coty found herself falling into the lullaby of the woman’s voice. That was the one thing she really loved about most doctors, the way they used their words. The way they sounded when they wanted to make you trust them with your life. So lithe and warm. “If you want, I can talk you through what we aim to achieve. It is a trial that needs you to be completely willing.”

Coty shook her head. Aside from swallowing saliva to wet her parched throat and gawking at them, she had not done much since they told her why she was asked to the office. She swallowed again, mentally trying to drag her voice and mind from the trench hole they sunk into. “Wh…Why me?” she turned to face her boss, trying to understand how they had gotten to this point. “Am I not doing well at work? Have I faltered in any way?”

“Never.” He hurriedly answered his voice matter of fact. “You are still one of the best agents we have; nothing you have done contradicts that. I heard about Miss Smith’s trail from a friend and I thought it would be something you would want to be a part of. Her trial, is going to help give sight to millions of people around the world.”

“Mr. Knell would you mind if I take over the explanation.” Coty did not hear his reply but she felt when the woman’s full attention fall on her. The air around the room thickened, which could have been a fragment of her imagination or because no one in the room knew what would happen when the woman spoke. “Miss Adesina.”

“Coty.” She finally corrected the muscle in her cheek ticking as she tried to his her irritation at the use of her last name. She never like it to hear it repeatedly, it gnawed at her. If this woman wanted to speak, she would definitely mention it more times than Coty could handle.

“Okay. Coty. From what your boss tells me, you are very efficient in your job, impeccable. We don’t want this to come across as if we are trying to paint you as incompetent. On the contrary. We are approaching people in different fields to aid us in the trials. Businesspersons, children, teenagers, young adults, musicians, athletes. Our hope is to see how they integrate back into the world when they receive their sight and study, if based on their work, age or sex, the technology functions differently. We want to observe which environments are suitable for the tech and which environments need work. Overall, our plan is to make the technology suitable in all situations so they could be available to anyone, anywhere in the world. As I said, this trail is completely consensual; we are not trying to force anything on you. If you make the choice that you do not want to go through with it then we would not press it any further.”

She would have a chance to see her father’s face, learn her mother’s features far beyond the touch of her fingers. She could see what her family looked like, finally remember the colour of the sky and see it change during sunset. “What if… what if I don’t want to see?”

“That is the beauty of our project. You can help change the world without changing yourself. If you want to help, we will register you into the trial and when your tenure is over, you can decide to go back to your normal life or live a new one. Sighted.”

“It can be reversed?”

“The treatment itself is a choice. Once sight gets overwhelming, you can decide to return to normal. I would like to explain further but I would prefer to do that once I have your consent. For now, I can present you with some literature to read concerning the trial. Everything you need to know.”

Coty blinked, picking at the base of her fingernails. “How long do I have to think about this before giving you my answer?”

“Well, the technology is in limited supply right now. At the moment, we have forty out of the initial fifty still in storage but the numbers are growing. I can give you this week to think about it but longer than that and I am not sure we would still be able to accommodate you. Unless you want us to preserve one for you until you make up your mind?”

“No.” Coty replied smoothly. Straightening her spine and taking in the cool of the room, picking her words carefully. “I would rather use my one week to think then decide if I want the technology or not.”

“Well. That’s good then. This is for your reading and hopefully for better understanding of what we are trying to achieve. I truly hope we can have you aboard this trail.”

Coty tightened her hand around the folder she was giving, offering a small smile in reply. She heard the ruffling of materials as the woman stood from her chair so she stood as well. They shook hands and she said goodbye to Kyle before she left.

Coty stood in place, her head turning to follow the woman as she walked away. The door closed and Coty still fixated at the spot. The entire conversation playing over and over in the front of her brain. Kyle walked around the table, the subtly click of her dress shoes drew Coty’s attention away from the door. He said nothing, only taking her hand and leading her towards the couch.

She sank down, crossing her legs and facing him. “You don’t believe I am incompetent. That’s not what all of this is about?”

“No. It’s not.” Kyle was smiling; she could always hear it in his voice when he was humoured. “Do you remember the day you came in for an interview? You said you wanted to prove that being blind was not a limit to how much you could do, you wanted to push yourself at being the best. Well, there are some people who are not as in tune as you are. Some people who would prefer sight if there was another option. You can help change their life.”

She looked at him, picking at his words trying to see if there was any lie slithering underneath his tone. She sensed nothing. “What made you think I wished to be sighted?”

“The same way I heard about the trial. A friend of mine, his wife is blind and one of Miss Smith’s co-workers approached her. She is just like you, completely in harmony with her environment. Accustomed to her life. She gave birth a month ago. She said she was joining the trial to finally see what colour was blue, what was pale. To learn the colour of her husband’s skin and that of their daughter’s as well. To see the trees and have a look at the 2025 world.”

Coty looked up. “What about my work? If I accept this?”

“You would go on paid leave.” She snapped back to him in shock and he laughed. “This was not your idea, it was mine. If you choose to join I would make sure you don’t take any financial hits while you are at it.”

“No. I am not shocked because of the money. I am confused as to why I need to leave work for the trial. Isn’t the whole point that I continue work?”

He was quiet for a second. “Not for the first month. Look, when you agree, Miss Smith would explain everything. If you want to work, that would be a decision you make after the trial. Look, your spot here would always be secured, don’t think about that.”

“So you just chose me because you wanted to give me the chance to be part of something greater?”

Kyle laughed, patting her knee. “And maybe I just want you to know what I look like when I am scolding you.”

Coty laughed at that, nodding her head as she stood. Kyle stood as well, pulling her in for a quick hug, she retrieved the folder from the desk before Kyle walked to the door. He left her with the subtle message of giving the trial some thought. Coty didn’t think she would be forgetting it anytime soon. In a way, she believed Kyle when he said he did not recommend the trial because he thought she was inept. Working for him for four years she, and everyone under him, had a fair idea of his character. Kyle was too straight forward a personality to take bends when giving his opinion. If he thought an employee was lazy or straggling, he said so. If he thought an employee was hardworking and efficient, he said so as well.

For the rest of the day, Coty found herself more spaced out than usual. After making it through lunch with a movie enthused Maggie, hurling in a few ‘hmms’ and ‘oh wows’ to her friends rants, Coty spent the rest of her work ours in her office. The plan to call her parents pressed at her but she refused the temptation because she wanted to make the decision for herself. Matter of fact, it would probably be what her parents tell her to do anyway. Coty groaned, throwing her head down on the table and closing her eyes.

Maybe she was overthinking the whole process. Yes, it has been a while since she was able to see but joining the trial did not necessarily mean she had a problem being blind. The posh doctor said if she changed her mind she could go back to normal, which sounded weird but again, everything sounded odd to Coty. The ticked by, she went through her work and read up on a few deals to while away time and give her mind something to focus on.

When she dropped her hand to her watch, her fingers tracing the numbers, she realised it was past time to get home. Unlike her house which was run by her AI, her office required manual attention so she took extra time making sure the computer and lights were off before she locked her doors and made her way down to the lot. She tugged at the strap of her bag on her shoulders before digging out her key and unlocking her car.

“Good evening, Coty.” Ava said as she came alive. “It is twenty four degrees outside but it feels like twenty nine. The time is five thirty. Would you like some music on your ride?”

Coty leaned her head against the window, feeling the vibrations of the door against her cheek. “No. Soundproof off.”

“Soundproof off.”

The discordant blaring of car horns and yelling vendors immediately flooded her ears. Coty grew up in Coastbeach, a small town only three hours away from Westbrook. Given its name, one would think there was a beach nearby but the town had been as dry as the dessert and as hot as geysers. The population of the town was less than ten thousand people, or at least that was what they told her. It was rarely noisy and there was barely any traffic. The first week after she moved away from home, Coty thought the city would stifle her with its rowdiness and ever-hectic setting but after four years, she fell in sync with the noise.

Coty wondered, solemnly, if she really wanted to see all the chaos she heard.

Her car rolled to a stop and she got out, grabbing her things and making her way up to her apartment. As she learned to do when she was at an impasse, Coty began to hash out her pros and cons.

“You’d be seeing the world for the first time in years. In a way, that’s got to be a pro, right?” Coty sighed, clicking her door shut and dropping her back down on a chair. She tugged off her jacket, tossing it over the chair as well and pulled her hair out of its ponytail. “The sun could be a problem. It could be too bright for you to handle, the heat alone is about to smother you. On another plus, you can finally see the clothes you wear on a daily basis. Get a favourite colour.”

She sat down to pull of her heels, carefully setting them by the edge of the bedframe then rising to her feet. On the tips of her toes, she padded over to the glass window, reaching out to plaster her palm against the cool glass. One con she could not get over, something ate away at her. She would finally, after all these years…see herself.

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