‘Open your eyes.’
Ever since she first learnt to speak — did she ever really learn? — that was all she could say: open your eyes. At first, we thought it was just the babble of a child learning to speak, but later… later, when the words became clearer and she repeated and repeated and repeated and repeated them until we felt like pounding our hands against our skulls like frustrated chimps, we began to get worried.
We took her to a specialist. We took her to dozens of specialists who specialised in everything from child psychology to gymnastics but none of them could explain her fixation. No one could fix it.
Slowly, however, we began to hear nuances. Perhaps it was from desperation and degradation, but when we waved her off to her first day of school, her ‘open your eyes’ sounded like a refusal to say goodbye; when she got her gcse results and called us to tell us about it, her ‘open your eyes’ sounded relieved and ecstatic. We learnt to listen for the emotion behind her words instead of the words themselves, or to get her to write down what she wanted to say if we had to. But she never stopped using those words, ‘open your eyes’.
Not until her father died.
It was Christmas day, and, like every other in the twenty years of her life, she ran into our room, shouting ‘open your eyes’ joyfully, because, for once, she was using her words in the correct context.
‘Open your eyes!’
I nudged my husband.
‘Open your eyes?’
I nudged him again. Our daughter sat on the edge of the bed.
‘Open your eyes.’ She nudged him, and I repeated her phrase. ‘Open your eyes, open your eyes, open your eyes!’
But he was gone.
After that, Gelareh never spoke one word again.