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Kim Vrij Prose THE BODY AS A PRISON - November 2018

Blind Spot

Photo by Lucas Ludwig

Written by Kim Vrij

Living with a visual impairment is like living between two worlds.

The first world – the visual world – is where we want our eyes to be the main source of truth. I often hear people say “I’ve seen it with my own eyes” just to convince someone that something actually happened; there is also the more contemporary phrase: “Instagram or it didn’t happen.” If we didn’t see it, and mainly if others didn’t see it, it didn’t take place.

The second world is the world of the blind. Where hearing is one of the most important senses, I can hear the way someone feels, whether it’s angry, happy or sad, even when they don’t want to share these feelings. I can hear conversations of the couple sitting on the other side of the restaurant even when they think no one else can hear them.

I was born with a visual impairment. I can see about 20%, what that actually means seems difficult to understand, for myself, but also for people around me. “What is it that you can’t see?”, “Can you see what I look like?” or even “OMG now you can’t see how handsome I am!” are the usual responses to this topic. Maybe it’s easier to understand that I am 80% blind. Nonetheless, I do see what people look like and my job is more visual than one might expect. Some people are surprised that I have a job at all! I work in advertising, writing and managing communities on social platforms.

The Turn-Around

Having a lot of friends and starting in school at a public school were the best and worst things that ever happened to me. This seems to have shaped my early years and made me feel like I wasn’t different from anyone else, at least that’s what I told myself. It worked out perfectly, until I went to university and realized that I had been listening and (not looking) all these years.

Now I had to actually look at my books, screens and presentations. I didn’t see any of it, and, what’s even worse, it was difficult for me to travel there. In a city of a million bicycles, I rely on Uber. Even though I’d like to think I’d do the same if I would’ve had 100% vision, that’s a white lie, because when I told myself otherwise I felt like a light version of the person I could have been. I’d rather be a lazy brat in a taxi than visually handicapped and therefore immobile.

It took a lot of courage and caused some painful situations, but I asked for help. For the first time in my life, I accepted that I can’t be “normal” (Why would anyone want to be “normal” anyway?). I became friends with some inspiring visually impaired people (Who I am sure will listen to this article!) and was finally able to share what I couldn’t with anyone else. This shaped the “new” me, who accepted that I am living between two worlds, enjoying the best of both.

It took me a long time to get where I wanted to, regarding my career and accepting that I won’t be able to do everything I would like to. Who knows, it might even take me longer to make it to the next milestone, but since I decided I am not doing it to prove that I am like everyone else, things got a lot easier. I do everything my own way, and that is absolutely fine. In the world of seeing people I might be perceived as a prisoner behind my own eyes, but it doesn’t stop me from achieving my goals.

After all, in the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Jonas Guigonnat Prose THE BODY AS A PRISON - November 2018

The Failed Human’s Burden

Written by Jonas Guigonnat

What is this noise? Why is it torturing my ears like a constant beeping from inside my head? The light coming from outside is exacerbating the pain. My eyes are water drops ready to explode under the pressure of the air. My head, oh my head. It doesn’t hurt, it shreds my existence into pieces. Am I sick? Am I going crazy? What time is it? Two in the afternoon already. My day has not begun yet, but my whole being refuses to make something out of it.

The pain I woke up with is disappearing as if it didn’t happen, but my heart is still beating and the sweat hasn’t completely quit my forehead. I need something and it is already clear to my mind what it is. A cigaret, rolling paper, the little bag. Let’s try to forget the body for the rest of the day. As long as the narcotic flows through my mind, pain feels almost like an illusion. It’s this game I have to play with THC in my blood and a blown mind. What time is it by the way? Four already? That’s the problem with doing nothing to forget my own existence – it makes time fly.

Take a shower, then a joint, eat something and get out of this house where the ghosts of my failures keep hanging around. I need the city to feel alive, even if its grey depressing atmosphere may intoxicate my mind even more. And the ghosts are there too. Still, outside seems safer than inside. It is quite cold, but I don’t mind, I even enjoy it. Paris becomes almost respirable when it is freezing.

Walking makes my body exist, but the view of those concrete giants all around me is oppressing my mind. I need space, as much as I can have. I know where I need to go. Why do I always seem to avoid this place already? Oh yes, now I remember. That’s not far from where he lies. Gone for 16 years already but it feels like yesterday still. Am I an orphan if I lost only one parent? What an inappropriate thought. Too stoned already.

My head is burning again. My vision is tortured by the highway on the right, with its interminable flow of immobility, and the railway on the left, where painted letters on the walls are the only things giving a faint semblance of life. The beeping is teasing my ears again and the cold feels very real now. Melancholia reigns my mind, heaviness – my body. Regrets? As far as the eye can see. The nearer I get to the place, the stronger the feeling of emptiness. Not total emptiness. Only the present and the future feel empty. The past is where things have substance, where life means more than a monotonous repetition of nothingness.

But here I am, in the vain reality of the present, trying to endure the idea of a future I don’t trust. My stomach is burning. A growing feeling of weakness is seizing my legs. Now it is the time to smoke the joint I prepared at home. I need an escape route, an alternative for the cage of reality. The trees are appearing on the horizon. No green, but a hypnotic orange-yellow color that my eyes understand. Still walking in the civilized world, but I already belong to the loneliness of that fake piece of urban nature. Lonely I am anyway. Lonely I can only be, that’s the only way.

Almost there, just a few meters and the dream will begin. Not for long, just a few hours. Walking without any goal, just keep forgetting reality. Once tired, I’ll go back to the prison that my body always brings me back to. The place where nothing can be done, where tears cannot be shed anymore. Ghosts of lost pasts and of impossible futures are the worst watchmen you can imagine. They follow you almost everywhere. But wait, is the prison in the physical or in the abstract world? Which one of the body and the mind is the prison? Let’s hope it is not both, but I am afraid it is.