I am introduced to wearing a cochlear implant. I throw it out the car window where it gets stuck on a cactus. I am two years old.
I go to a school for the deaf, learn sign language and then how to speak. I make my first best friend. I am four years old.
I have to be in school fifteen minutes early, and leave an hour late because I attend speech therapy. I am eight years old.
I am at science camp, and I cannot touch the plasma ball because it might damage my cochlear implant. I watch all my other classmates touch it. I am ten years old.
I am at the pool, with my implant off, deaf. My friends play around me. I can't hear their voices. I am twelve years old.
I go to the beach, and instead of getting in the water, spend time on the sand with my implant on. There is a noise I’m only now aware of, a bubbling roar and murmur. I am fourteen years old.
I’m walking with my friends, and someone shouts. A skateboarder tumbles into me. My friends ask why I didn’t move out of the way. I didn’t hear where he was. I am sixteen years old.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay to go to college? The classrooms will be big,” my mother says. “Yeah, I’ll just make sure to sit in the front so I can hear,” I reply. I am eighteen years old.
I wake up sick, congested in the nose, with pressure behind my eyes. I see concentric rings of TV static in my far periphery. They seem like they were always there, hidden in plain sight. I chalk it up to being sick. I am nineteen years old.
I am no longer sick, but I still see the radial fuzziness. I schedule an appointment with an optometrist, because I need my prescription updated as well. I mention the fuzziness, and she gives me a black spoon to hold over my eye. She stands some distance away and holds up her arm. “How many fingers am I holding up?” she asks. I can’t see her hand at all.
I am referred to another building, where they take many images of my eye, and make me gaze at lasers and bright green flashes. They test my peripheral vision, and there’s a circle just outside the center of my vision, gone. “It looks like Usher’s syndrome,” the doctor says.
I am referred to another doctor, genetic testing, visits in different cities. There’s no treatment, as of yet, just mitigation of symptoms. I learn that I am going blind. I learn that I have always been going blind, and I am nineteen years old.
My brother drops a figurine behind his bed, and I get on the floor to look. I can’t see through the dark under his bed. I am nine years old.
I am asked to stand on one leg and hold my balance. I can’t. I don’t ride bicycles because I will wobble and fall. I am eleven years old.
I move through a crowd, or turn a hallway, and bump into people. I step to the side and smack my shoulder into a wall. I dent my shin on a low bulky bollard. I am thirteen years old.
I am hiking, and I need to cross a small creek, dry rocks a built bridge. I need to ask my friends to hold my hand to step across. I am fifteen years old.
I am watching a movie with my cousins. The theatre is dark, I move slow, and I lose them in the glare and noise. I sit alone for half the movie. I am seventeen years old.
I am going to the bars with my friends in the city. We’re on the train. My friend yanks me by the back of my shirt and drags me out. I didn’t hear or see them step off. I am twenty years old.
Right now, at twenty one, this is my life. I look up at the night sky, full of stars I can’t see. I walk into a stranger who was always on my left. People call my name and I stand still, because it’s easier if they come to me than it is to look for them. I wanted to be a detective, before I realised being deaf would limit me, and then a crime scene investigator. Now I can be neither, so I will work in an evidence analysis lab. I don’t drive, so I use public transit, and curse the city for not etching its street names into the sidewalk because I can’t read the signs.
I don’t know what the future holds, what’s coming in the next few years, but I want there to be something for me. Something that halts the degeneration, or something that restores my lost rods and cones, or some cybernetic eye to match my cybernetic ear. I don’t want to lose more than I already have.