Coming Out of the Dark by James Tooley Jr.

Coming Out of the Dark by James Tooley Jr. (McCrimmon Winner)

A sunrise has the power to free us from the dull shade of night. Like clockwork,
the sun rises every morning bringing golden rays of light that illuminate the
world around us. It provides life to objects that surround us everywhere. The
deep green needles of a pine, the crystal blue sky, or even the rich black surface
of pavement all owe their color to the trillions of tiny rays that pour down
from the sun everyday. Many people go about their everyday lives without even
looking at the world around them. Everyday people take for granted what they
are able to see. People don’t think about what it would be like if they
woke up one morning and the sunrise wasn’t there. What would it be like
if all the light from the world was taken away and all that was left was cold
lonely darkness? Most people couldn’t answer this question, but I can.

When I was in ninth grade, my top concerns in life were things like whom I
was going to ask to the dance, making the varsity wrestling team, and hanging
out with my buds. I had no real conception of the world around me, except that
I was in it. From the second I woke up until the second I went to sleep, I took
everything I saw as a given routine. My mother’s emerald green eyes, a
fresh red apple, and even the eye-catching sparkle of Nikki Melousky’s
braces were some the little things I took for granted every time I saw them.
On a chilly January day, one wrestling practice would change my life.

The ground was blanketed with a thick sheet of white snow, and it was so cold
your fingers went numb after five seconds in the chilly air. I was at wrestling
practice and everything was running as usual, except we were sweating bullets.
See, the object of a wrestling practice is to sweat weight off, and that’s
difficult to do when it is below zero outside. My coach’s solution was
to make it hot: ninety-nine degrees hot! When it’s that hot, you sweat
so much it makes a puddle. This puddle of sweat would open the window that let
me see our world in a different light or, better yet, no light at all.

I was a hard worker, but my friend Devon liked to push my buttons when we wrestled.
We were doing double-leg drills, where you lift your opponent up off the ground
by his legs and bring him down to the mat, but Devon wasn’t letting me
do the move.

“What’s the matter, can’t take me down?” he said.

“Well if you stopped trying to be such a tough guy I could do the move!”
I said.

“Come on I’m ten pounds lighter than you, I guess I’m better
than you!” he said.
Now I just couldn’t stand for that! When it was my turn I was going to
slam him hard, but I slipped on a puddle of sweat. When I fell, I twisted and
Devon fell on my head. We hit so hard the boom rumbled the whole room. I blacked
out, but when I came I could smell the horrible smelling salt being waved in
front of my nose. Everything was spinning and it felt like I was Charlie Brown
listening to the teacher going, “Wha, wha… wha!” I couldn’t
understand a word anybody was saying; it was like a clan of cave men was trying
to talk to me. My eyes were kind of blurry, but I just figured it clear up.
I iced my head, but my eyes never became any clearer.
Practiced ended, and I stumbled outside into the icy cold to look for my white
Chevy Lumina. The only problem was I could only make out the rough outline and
color of the blurred cars. With my beer goggle vision, I sat there looking at
the four white cars that could possibly be my mom until a horn startled me.
I walked over to the car, hoping that my mom’s voice would assure me I
was getting into the right car.
I opened the car door and said, “Mom is that you?”
With a sarcastic voice she said, “No it’s Big Bird, who do you think
it is?”

I told her about the accident and that my eyes weren’t focusing. Being
a veteran sports mom of four active boys, she immediately recognized that I
had a concussion. She rushed me to the hospital, and we began another mother-son
bonding experience.

My mom is a husky short woman with a lot of patience, but when it comes to
her kids’ health she can be pretty forceful. We had been waiting for two
hours and my head wasn’t getting any better. It felt like my head was
in a vice and it just kept getting tighter. My eyeballs were popping out of
my skull and my brain was the ball in a furious game of tennis between the Williams
sisters. My biggest problem was my vision. What were once outlines and colors
turned to blurred shades of gray and black. It just kept getting worse until
it finally happened.

I managed to choke out, “Mom?” despite the horrible chill that
was wrenching up my entire body.

“What’s wrong sweetheart?” asked my mother as see grasped
my hand that was franticly searching for hers.

“Mom, I can’t see anything!” I said.

Suddenly, I felt my mother’s hand release mine and I heard her heavy
footsteps moving further and further away. I heard some aggressive conversation,
but my mom’s last statement was the only thing I heard clearly.

“My son just lost all of his vision, you better get someone out here
right now or you’ll need to see a doctor!” mom said. I can only
imagine how that woman felt, but whatever my mom did it worked. The doctor came
two minutes after my mom’s death threat had been laid down.

I could not see a thing, and I was scared to death. As I was lying in my hospital
bed, I thought about the beautiful things, like my family or the stars, I might
not ever see again. It was terrifying to think that I might be alone in this
jet-black darkness forever. Everything that I took for granted might be lost
forever and replaced only by this cold emptiness. I felt so alone! I was hoping
the doctor might have something good to say.

The doctor’s voice was very deep and booming. He had very cold hands
and breath that reeked of coffee. I imagine he had been there for a while, and
was probably getting ready for a long night. While very thorough, the man could
not understand a simple statement. He kept shining a light in front of my face,
as if I could see it, and asked the same question over and over.

“Can you see the light?” he would ask me repeatedly as if my answer
would change after two seconds. I kept telling him no, but he just wouldn’t
take no for an answer. He decided to run me through some tests because he was
worried about my condition. My head was still swelling and my headache was getting
worse. The doctor was afraid the pressure from the swelling might cause a cerebral
hemorrhage in my brain that could kill me. They told my mother that they might
have to drill holes in the back of my skull to relieve the pressure.

Luckily for my sake, the swelling sustained itself and leveled off. My mom
and the doctors were relieved because holes in my skull were no longer necessary.
I didn’t even know about the planned hole-in-headoscopy, so I didn’t
quite share their enthusiasm. If I would have known they were planning to take
a drill to my head I might have been more of a happy camper at the time.

Even though the pressure had sustained itself, the local doctors still wanted
an expert opinion. I was sent by ambulance to an expert head trauma specialist
in Pittsburgh. I had never been in an ambulance before and in the state I was
in I didn’t particularly want to be either. The sirens were cutting through
my head like a hot knife through butter, and the bumps were making it even worse.

Even in the hands of a specialist, no cause could be pinpointed for my blindness.
The doctors kept telling me that my blindness may be temporary, but the shakiness
in their voices did not give me much hope. I feared that the light of my world
was forever lost, and I was doomed to live in darkness for the rest of my life.

I was taken to my room after my last exam at about one in the morning, and
the nurse dared to tell me to get some rest. How could I sleep while thoughts
of being permenantly blind were constantly running through my head? How can
you go from millions of colors and sights each day to pitch black after just
a little bump on the head? How can you function if you can’t read, write,
dial the numbers on a phone, or even see the toilet bowl? Thoughts like these
plagued my mind for about an hour, while I tried to “sleep”. After
two hours, I asked my mom to get something to knock me out because I was going
nuts from thinking about the emptiness inside my head. I took some pills that
put me to sleep, and I was freed from darkness by my dreams.

I dreamed about a family reunion the summer before my accident. It destroyed
me to think the faces of my loved ones would slowly wear away, like the once
beautifully chiseled Greek statues that are now ruins because of the wear of
time. I never wanted to wake from my dream, but awoke, much to my delight, to
American Gladiators on the TV! My vision had returned and the spandex warriors
were the most beautiful sight I had seen in a while, but it was still relatively
dark in my room.

It was still early in the morning, but the sun was beginning to rise. I grabbed
a chair and pulled it up to the window in my room. My mom hadn’t woken
yet, and I decided not to wake her. I sat in front of the window and watched
the sun come up. I had never actually sat and watched the sun unveil the splendors
of the world from the dull grip night before. It was the most beautiful sight
I had ever seen in my entire life. The sunlight danced across the blankets of
shimmering snow and the streets were full of people running here and there.
The sky was a rich blue, spotted with puffy white clouds. It was a beautiful
day to look at the world with a new appreciation for sight.

My mother arose just before the sun had risen completely and walked over to
my chair. She put her arm on my shoulder and said, “ Oh son, I wish I
could give you my eyes because it is a beautiful day outside.”

I put my hand over hers and said, “ It is a beautiful day isn’t