the girl who looked at the sun

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She looked at it every chance she got. She was magnetized, mesmerized, eyes glued to that smeared yellow sunball that floated up and over and down every day of her life.

When she was five, her parents pulled her away, told her “No more looking. You’ll go blind.”

But what harm was blindness? Wouldn’t the trade-off be worse?

She followed the sun to the desert, it kissed her cheeks; white-hot, she stared in its face with the deepest of loves. She stood in the yard, face tilted, drinking the rays into her soul.

She climbed mountains and stared as it fell, became orange and yellow and pink and purple, a blur, until her eyes were sunballs themselves, not eyeballs but radiating orbs of gold.

She cracked her curtains and waited for morning, for the sun’s return.

She drove long distances to catch it – west in the evening, east in the morning, a zigzag of country roads winding back and forth, a dance across land that mirrored the sky.

She stepped into shadows once – an accident, a slight misstep. A dense forest of pine trees, maybe. Or a used car lot with salesmen bearing down on her. She was never sure of the details, the things she couldn’t see, except that everything grew dark, cold-dark, and her feet began to slip.

She caught herself and jumped back onto the open trail, looked up again, found her true north (or true west, as it were, being afternoon), and soon was revived.

The day of the eclipse, her friends pulled out special glasses and collanders, watched cutout shadows shine on their posterboard and grass.

But she had developed callouses on her pupils, internal overgrowths of clouds. She watched her sky-held beloved one sidle to the left, getting smaller, then tiny, so small she couldn’t look away for fear of misplacing it, then rotating up until it was her fingernail, then over and growing again, until finally, finally, her eyes were filled with the brew that kept her living, searching, awake.

Her friends tried to maneuver her into position – protecting her with score boards, lampposts, and leaves of trees placed just right. They gave her baseball caps, they pulled the blinds. They held their heads just so, to block the rays.

“We want to preserve your vision,” they said.

“I have all the vision I want,” she said.

She dreamed in color, the leftover bits from her gazing days flashing across her nighttime eyelids, echoes from letting it all in, from a dilation so large it could swallow you whole. A singular focus. Brazen. Committed.

Her last days were pure whiteness, gray, a color called Nothing. She tried to describe it, but all she could say was a sigh.

And sounds – the music, the birds, a whisper in her ear – they held her hand as her eyes kept moving, east to west, east to west, lying in bed as her heartbeat slowed.

Her family and friends wept around her, water flowing from their waterorbs, and she held their hands in hers.

“You say I am blind,” she whispered. “But what is blindness to you, when you’ve never really seen the sun?”

She looked into the light as she left this world, a curiosity, a continuation. She had stared so long that it had all become one. She was blind and she was alive and everything was fire. She slipped easily into the next world, eyes burnt to a crisp, filled and revealed, radiating, shimmering, sliding down behind the mountains, heart open to the furnace, flying and ready, arms flung wide.

Her sunballs closed. The sun shone on.

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