Sonya pushed the doors of the home open, trying not to be too unsettled by the faint scent of hospital that hovered in the air to assault her nose. She wandered through the reception area, with its pale pastel colors and unadorned furniture, the little tables laden with dull, out-of-date magazines that no one wanted to read, all with large print for those whose sight had dimmed. There was a television, too, but it sat blank and silent. There was no one there. Sonya ignored it all and walked out of the carpet and wallpaper comfort of the lobby and into the hospitalized world beyond. A woman in a white nurse's suit looked up from her computer and lit up with a smile as she saw the teenaged girl's familiar face.
"Sonya! How nice to see you again," she said. "You haven't been here in a while."
"I know, Theresa. Things have been busy. You know how it is," Sonya replied. "How's Grandpa?"
"Doing very well," the nurse answered. "I think he'll be glad to see you."
"I'm sure he would be," answered Sonya. There was a faint bitterness to her words, and the nurse looked concerned.
"Now, Sonya, don't be like that," she said. "Your grandfather is doing so much good here. He's not unhappy, so why should you be?"
"It just doesn't seem fair," Sonya replied. "Ah, well. It'll be good to talk to him, anyway."
"Everyone loves to talk to him," agreed Theresa. "He's such a wise person. Truly a man of vision."
Sonya nodded and continued down the hallway, following the familiar path that would lead her to her grandfather's room. She noted a few changes since she had last been to the home: some caring individual had made construction-paper cutouts of birds and animals and made decorative nametags for all the doors. Out of idle curiosity, Sonya mentally counted them off to herself as she walked: cat, fish, owl, bear, deer, horse, dog. The next door she met was the one she was looking for, the one she had stared at over and over, eyes tracing the patterns of the grains and knots in the simulated wood. There was one pattern that reminded her of a person with a knot for a head and a set of wood-grains that made a body and an upraised hand. It reminded her of someone pleading with her for help, or of someone waving goodbye. The anonymous decorator had covered it up with a paper-cutout hawk. The nametag was written in neat black letters: Adam Park. She opened the door and went in.
The room was sparse, in its way, the colors all so close to white that it was hard to tell if they were meant to be green or pink when the lights were turned out. However, small objects had been added here and there: a basket of flowers, bits of statuary, a ragged old stuffed animal, a computer, a piano synthesizer, a radio. The radio was on, and the room's occupant was sitting very still in a nearby chair, head tilted back, eyes closed, lost in the music.
He was not an old-looking man at all. He wasn't old, not old enough to be there, Sonya thought. His body was still strong, his movements sure, and his sensitive face barely showed signs of aging. Only his hair was showing hints that he was not as young as he looked, slowly reversing the tarnishing process to go from black to silver. His hearing was still sharp, too, as was evidenced when he suddenly turned to face his granddaughter.
"Sonya?" he inquired.
"Hey," she greeted. "Long time no see, huh?" She winced a little at her own choice of phrasing, but he didn't seem to notice.
"Too long," he agreed. "Don't just stand there, come on in. Turn the lights on."
Sonya shrugged and did as she was told. "What difference does it make if the lights are on or off? And why are they off, anyway?"
"I don't need them," answered Adam with a shrug of his own. "My ears work just fine in the dark, but you don't need to ruin your eyes straining through shadows."
"I guess that makes sense," Sonya replied. She took a seat on the corner of his unused bed, and he came to sit next to her. She marveled, as she always had, at how easily he moved, how gracefully. Every step he took was part of a dance, and he moved along with the music that played in and outside of himself.
"So, how have things been in your life, hmm?" he asked her.
"Same old, same old," Sonya replied. "Just school stuff, you know."
"Homework, hanging out, soccer practice, all that?" her grandfather inquired.
"Yeah, that stuff," she agreed.
"You can tell me more than that," he said.
"You always say that," Sonya complained. "How come you've got to have everything explained?"
"To teach you to notice things," said Adam factually. "You're so young, and there's so much going on around you, and I want you to be able to enjoy it. Ha, I'm just an old coot, and I notice more than you!" He grinned at his grandchild, and she giggled a little.
"What do you notice?" she asked him.
"I notice... that you took your time to dress up before you came here. You washed your hair and put on makeup. You changed your clothes, too."
"How do you know that?" she asked, surprised.
"That's easy," Adam replied with a laugh. "I know you too well, that's all. I know you play soccer on Thursdays until five thirty. I also know that it's after six o'clock on a Thursday, and you only smell of makeup and vanilla shampoo, and you're wearing the silk shirt I gave you for your birthday. You wouldn't have worn all that to practice. You forgot to change your shoes, though; there's grass on them."
Sonya couldn't help laughing with surprise and amazement. The nurse was right - her grandfather was truly a man of vision. He saw things with his mind that other people wouldn't have seen with a whole hour of staring with their eyes.
"You're incredible," she said. "Why do you stay here, Grandpa? You could still do so much in the world. You don't have to live in this place."
"I know I don't have to," he replied. "But other people do, and that's why I'm here. So many of these people have given up on life - they've lost all their hopes and dreams, and they just wander through their days with no purpose and nothing to look forward to. I'm trying to change that in my own way. If I can be there for them, offer them companionship, give them something to think about besides everything that's wrong, then that's a reason for me to stay."
"What do you do for them?" asked Sonya.
Adam gave her a smile. "I show them things. Not the things you see with your eyes, but with your mind."
Sonya considered a moment, then brightened. "The music? And your writing?"
"What writing I do," he replied. "Typing makes me self-conscious these days. I mostly just do storytelling. Funny, isn't it, how I can feel more insecure around a computer than I do around a person?"
"Yeah, that's different," Sonya agreed. "You know, you're really something."
"Something? Compared to what?" asked Adam, grinning playfully.
"Compared to other people," she replied. "The selfish ones, anyway. You care so much about everyone that you're willing to make all these sacrifices to help them. It's really amazing."
"I couldn't do any less," he replied. "I know what it feels like to be lonely. I know what darkness is all about, and if I can bring a little more light into the world, that's all I need to be happy. I can think of all this as a blessing, really. It's taught me to see so much more than I used to..."
He trailed off thoughtfully, and turned his eyes to the far wall,
the window that was
spilling evening sunlight onto the floor. His eyes didn't see the wall,
the window, or the light.
They stared, but were sightless, ruined by disease. His sights turned
now, showing him the
creations of his own mind. Sonya watched him and wondered, thinking
would give so
much to see what he was seeing now...