Heart

Ryn is morbidly pessimistic, blaming the world for his problems. He would probably see past the anger if he could still... well, see.

Asher sees the good in everyone, probably best since she blocks out what everyone says about her. Not by choice, but she does it.

The pair are forced to form a bond after becoming partners in group therapy as a desperate attempt to bring some light into their lives, starting with writing letters to each other. No one expected a third letter to arrive.

// Cover by ireumeun.chloe

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2. One ∞ Identities

There are over seven hundred songs on Ryn’s iPod, yet he can’t find one that fits his mood. From the bench at the peak of the cliff, wind tears at his jacket while pop singers croon love in his ear or rockers disguise their anger with contagious guitar riffs that he will never learn to play. Out of seven hundred songs, not one of them manages to portray the overwhelming numbness that he feels. Not one song can replicate the feeling of being empty.

           

Eventually, Ryn opens Siri and commands it to shuffle all of the songs, turning the volume down until the music sounds like backing vocals to the powerful voice of the wind. He allows the weather to serenade him as he tries to conjure up the image of his location inside of his head.

           

When he was younger, Ryn came here often, just to admire the way the peak of the cliff was in the centre of a reversed V shape. If anyone stood near the edge, they could have been able to see how the beach curved back behind them, or how there was nothing but water in front. It felt as if they were at the edge of the world. Ryn could remember feeling as he was infinite back then, back when his biggest concern was if his mother would be late home that night.

           

Now, when he stands near the edge and looks around, he sees an infinite blackness that taunts him even when his eyes are open. He hasn’t seen anything else for the past two years.

           

Ryn will still try anyway. He tries every single time he makes his way up the weatherworn cliff path, rain or shine. He unfolds his came from where he abandons it on the ground, stands up, and tentatively begins to feel his way to a spot a few feet back from the edge. The distant sound of waves, a couple of hundred feet or so below, replace the music as they pound relentlessly at the base of the cliff and Ryn attempts to convince himself that the tears dripping down his cheeks are caused only by the force of the wind. It’s been too long to fall back into the pit of self-misery that served as his home after he lost the ability to see. After he could barely cater for his basic needs. After he became blind.

           

When he was fourteen years old, a condition with his sight that Ryn had developed as a child became something else, something that could not be cured with prescription after prescription. His eyes had to be taken out of his head before his entire body became infected with the spread of a once harmless illness. He was told there was no other option. Now, two years later, Ryn always wears sunglasses to cover the scar tissue that guards his eye sockets without the eyes and his mother convinced him to use a cane to help him go to places he could navigate in his sleep.

           

On the plus side, he can still cry. Well, the tear ducts in his left eye are still intact so he can shed the occasional tear.

           

After a few minutes, his phone rings, the sound taunting him as he fumbles for where it is stored in the inside pocket of his jacket, zipped up safe. The sound mutes itself before he can answer, even though the process only involves pressing random buttons until one of them does the job intended. The phone stays quiet so Ryn decides that it was only an alarm. If it was his mother, she would keep calling him until she got through.

           

He sloppily clicks the Home button twice, opening up Siri again. He decides to begin questioning it about his day as he guides himself down the path to the car park at the bottom of the cliff.

           

“Siri, what time is it?”

           

“It is one thirty pm, Ryn.” Siri – set to be an Australian woman – pronounces his name as ‘Rhine’, exactly like the river. It is difficult to hear the voice over the sound of the wind but the blind boy will always notice when his name isn’t pronounced correctly. It never fails to bring back memories of temporary teachers at school, ticking names off of the printed register, pausing when they get half way down the list and taking several attempts to read it out, only concluding in a pronunciation that is far from correct.

           

His name is only three letters long. It’s pronounced like ‘win’ but with an ‘r’. How much easier can it be?

           

“Is therapy today?” he asks when he’s finished the flashback, making sure the alarm was for what he originally thought.

           

There is a slight pause before the electronic voice replies. “You have eighteen events this month, Ryn. That’s a lot.”

           

He lets out a frustrated sigh, not caring that someone could be around to witness it. “Read the events, please.”

           

“I don’t understand, Ryn.”

           

Sighing again, he locks the phone and wedges it into the front pocket of his jeans. It’s time for him to go.

 

***

 

On the other side of town, Asher sits in the car beside her mother, waiting for the older woman to finally pull out of the driveway. She opens her music, pausing the song that was playing on mute, and scrolls down to reveal the lyrics.

 

Her mother sits in silence and users her freshly manicured nails to tap furiously at her shattered phone screen. She mouths words in a fashion that appears to be angry, mostly likely directed at her most recent boyfriend through a text message, this one barely older than her own daughter. Asher doesn’t know what the exact words are that are being said: she hasn’t heard any sound come out of her mother’s mouth since was ten.

 

The fifteen-year-old sinks down into the seat with her feet tucked beneath until her body is close to resembling the shape of an ‘S’. She stops reading for a few moments to examine the world outside of the second-hand Volvo.

 

In this late summer, the weather had been unpredictable. Earlier in the week, Asher could leave the house under a blue sky, broken only by a spatter of picture-book clouds, barely moving in the feeble breeze. Today, the warmth became cold and last month’s frigid rain returned, cumulus blocking out the sun.

 

After the lyrics of one song has been read through, one that was topping the charts a few decades ago, Asher lifts her gaze to the numbers at the top of her screen. It’s gone half past one. Accompanied by an eye roll, she switches to the next song, instantly pauses it, and reads through the lyrics along to the tune she makes up in her head.

 

“Mum, I’m going to be late to therapy.”

 

The time is twenty minutes to two and group therapy, beginning at ten minutes to two, is a fifteen-minute drive across town. The older woman’s head snaps up and she begins mouthing profanities repeatedly as her eyes land on the time shown upon the little screen of the car radio. Frantically, she buckles her seatbelt, takes off the handbrake, and sends the car screeching into the road, narrowing missing the recycling bins set out in front of the houses across the street.

 

Asher sighs silently and rubs her temples between her forefingers. Maybe, one day, her mother will put her only child before her barely legal boyfriend.

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