“You know Max,I want to hear again.” Those were the sad words of my dear friend, the late Well Vision Deng Diing. How the thing came about,I don't know but it could have been the noise that the students always made that caused it. Or maybe somebody had put juju in his ears as his mother used to say.
It was terrifying to see the eloquent and confident man suddenly shrink into something shy. It was as if he had carried his confidence in his ears. I witnessed his grades drop,from topping the class,now he as an average performer. His God fearing qualities suddenly disappeared and the only prayer he ever said,
“Lord,why only me?"
I thought the prayer very cynical then, who on earth would Well Vision have wanted to suffer instead of him? Nevertheless, I understood him and later thought that I could have said the same prayer if I had been him. Some students started calling him deaf man,I must confess that once upon a time I was one of them which is why I felt somewhat responsible when he finally took his life.
During lessons, Well Vision virtually disappeared. Not that he dodged the lessons,no he sat right there but made no eye contact with any teacher. At some embarrassing moments, a teacher would suddenly point at him to give an answer. Of course he couldn't answer because he hadn't heard the question,so he just stood there. Other times teacher Innocent, our science teacher shouted at him,
“Too much wax in the ear, too much wax in the ear!" and tears would be seen dripping down his cheeks and these were often greeted with a thunderous laughter from the class. It was really wicked but I credit myself with not laughing at such times.
Sometimes Well Vision cried and said God had given him the test of Job and that he unlike Job had failed for that matter. He cried himself and called for miracles but no miracle happened. Other times he busied himself reading the Bible to find a way to talk to God in person. He used to ask me who I thought he was and when I answered that he was Well Vision Deng the son of Diing, he would shake his head violently and say no. He said he was the deaf man.
“Well Vision is dead,do you hear.Dead." he would say with an honest face and I began to think he was getting mad.
At times he called me,said he wanted to know what career I thought best for him. I thought about it for days and my conscience told me that a man who wanted to hear again would do well as a doctor. Well Vision couldn't hear of it,a doctor? Did I want him to embarrass himself for the rest of his life? He said that a patient might have headache. He demonstrated what would happen,
“How are you feeling? "
“Doctor,I have headache. "
I could visualize the patient shouting at him. I agreed it was futile so I suggested he became a journalist because he wrote and spoke good English. Properly speaking, Well Vision was neither deaf nor properly hearing. He had something like mild hearing impairment. Sometimes he heard so well,other times he seemed oblivious to his surroundings. Again he said he could not be a journalist as he didn't hear so well,said he was entirely good for nothing. Usually,Well Vision muttered to himself rather loud enough for me to hear.The things he said made me feel sure that life no longer carried any light for Well Vision. He read books, that's what he was really good at. Sometimes he would enter the library and bury his head in a long novel or an autobiography for hours. One time he read the Hellen Keller's autobiography and said he now felt sure he could also succeed like anybody else. That he could at least still hear and see so well unlike Hellen Keller. Such inspiration did not last long though, it evaporated whenever he heard someone shout,
“Too much wax in the ear,too much wax in the ear!" Or whenever he saw people whispering and looking at him. He later told me he had some weird feeling whenever someone was talking about him,that he knew and could tell a face that is apt to gossip about him.
Whenever we were on holidays, I visited Well Vision almost daily for I felt sure that I was his only morale booster. His mum and dad had told him that the hearing impairment would disappear as he grew older. Well Visionary took a lot of time researching about hearing impairment but no where did an expert ever hold the same position about hearing impairment as his parents. He felt completely alienated from his parents and that left only me to rely on. His siblings too thought he was deaf and worst of all,they thought he was mad. Sometimes one of them would say,
“Well Vision, how is school?" Well Vision would try to read their lips but having never learnt lip reading would automatically fail and answer an unasked question,
“ I'm fine, thanks" they would nod their heads in approval. Well Vision is mad. Only mad men mix conversations.
Those were the times when Well Vision wished he couldn't hear completely. On every first page of his classwork book,he wrote down his wish to be completely deaf or fully hearing in a verse,
Oh make it full I pray
Or take it away
Give me a normal defect
With full effect .
I'm not sure whether any teacher understood the verse,ours were ignorant teachers indeed. A soul was perishing in the midst of the country's most educated men. While a deaf man walkes oblivious of the surrounding sounds,Well Vision heard, only that he didn't hear enough. At times,he sat down in a conversation with someone and heard little or nothing at all.People began to ignore him even when he had a point to put across. They said,
“What have you heard, deaf man?" Most of those times I came to his defence but I must not praise myself so much as I did nothing much to stop the eventual tragedy. Whenever I spoke to him,I used to raise my voice but not so much as to make him feel I was shouting at him. Having a friend like Well Vision required art to maintain the relationship. People called me a weirdo. Why did I waste my time shouting to a deaf,possibly half witted man,they would ask. I did not answer them but inwardly,I knew that I was on a life saving expedition. Sadly,I couldn't save Well Vision.
Well Vision had no other friends except me. People would like him for a week or two before they realized he was hearing impaired and withdrew. Whenever I walked with Well Vision and happened to come upon one of our old girls or old boys who took particular interest in him,Well Vision suddenly became alert. I didn't know how to interpret that but he later told me he just couldn't believe anyone would still recall him after so many years and why would they be interested in him anyway. If I met some of my friends and began to converse with them, Well Vision virtually disappeared. He just stood there, quiet as a tree whether funny things were said or not. He could only laugh occasionally which is,I suppose,when he had heard a bit of what we said. He was a witty though,cracked nice jokes and was called the narrator who never listens. Only my jokes were loud enough for him to listen to and laugh,he was a good friend,Well Vision was. The saying goes that God is not fair but just and I still wonder to date how just God was to my friend. One thing was true though, Well Vision was more intelligent than the average man. One time we took an IQ test. Mine was average intelligence, the examiner purposefully withheld Well Vision's results which was saying something. So justice was done to the average men and Well Vision reduced to a miserable man,if that is properly called justice. Few people believed that Well Vision had changed. His parents still had the same expectations from him as when he was properly hearing. Sometimes Well Vision wrote a long letter addressed to his father telling him how the hearing impairment had dehumanized him,then tore it.No,he would fight like a man,He would tell me. Baba need not be bothered. At such times,inspiration would return to him again and he suddenly wanted to prove himself, that he was still alive and a man.But the trouble was,the inspiration was always short lived. Whenever he had chance to forget about his problems, Well Vision talked about his dreams; how he wanted to build the first mansion in Yei town or how he wanted to write the next best novel of our time.I felt good at such times and thought he was finally getting used to his new self after years but it never happened, he never got used. He went back to misery every time.
Well Vision loved a lot of girls,he did but the end result was the same-sometimes he got a yell from the girl he intended to hook,
“Leave me alone, deaf man" Or other times,"An handsome face with blocked ears don't constitute handsomeness" Such times were really hard times and he would start asking himself, who he was and why he was living. He would start scratching his head and moving up and down and sometimes crying. When a girl did finally accept him,she would always be someone living a few miles from Well Vision's residence. As with modern courtship, the normal thing is to exchange phone numbers. Early at the start of the defect,Well Vision had found out that he couldn't communicate by phone even though he managed to communicate to people one on one and face to face.That being the case,he would automatically forget about the girl and in that manner remained lovelorn for all his short life. Whenever I communicated to my girl friends on phone, he watched me eagerly, obviously full of administration. Later, he told me he admired how coolly I communicated with people on phone. I merely shrugged but I knew he was being honest.Dejected offspring of Adam. I took time telling him to listen carefully and concentrate while listening to anything but he assured me that researchers don't jot down ideas unproven, hearing impaired people don't hear over the phone. I could have told Well Vision about hearing aids but I only got to know about those after his death. One time,some girl about whom Well Vision knew nothing about confided to me how much she loved him. Upon being told,he shook his head said the girl didn't know anything about him. It is not a man's place to say whether another man is handsome or ugly but I must confess that my friend Well Vision was indeed handsome,got gifts from horny female teachers, sometimes invitations to parties but he paid no attention to those. Much as he was miserable and felt he was a failure atleast he respected himself until the last year of his life when he began to act abnormally. Getting no love from anyone, (He considered my love negligible) Well Vision began to harbour something like hatred towards everyone. If you called him and he made out that you were shouting at him,he would simply jeer and move away. If he saw you laughing, he looked at you resentfully. He had apparently come to believe that there was no other reason why anybody would laugh in his presence except to mock him. This estranged me from my friend one year before the ultimate tragedy. He punched me on the cheek one time while I joked and laughed with another guy in his presence, said I had stabbed him in the back.
Lovelorn people or those who believe they are lovelorn are most dangerous,vulnerable and unpredictable. The annoyance of getting no love back from their efforts collects itself and becomes hard and solid hatred. Irresponsibility results and this is exactly what became of my friend. After accusing me of betrayal, Well Vision turned to drugs in search of another good friend. For sometime, drugs became his good friends indeed as he would be seen sleeping peacefully under a palm tree near his father's house. I felt good then,at least he was oblivious of his misery. He chewed great quantities of Marijuana, drunk gallons of locally brewed alcohol an smoked packets of cigarettes. His parents said such drugs were good for a madman's health; they had come to believe Well Vision was mad. In the second month of our separation, a passerby informed me that my mad friend as he was now widely known had began to show true signs and symptoms of madness. That he, Well Vision had started moving fully naked along the streets, I received this news with a great sense of loss and decided to see it with my own eyes. I went to Allah Kareem market and settled in front of one of the shops as it was said to be the side he frequented. In a minute or two,my friend arrived completely naked and chasing people,his long thing swaying from thigh to thigh. The shock of that moment did not prevent me from from recalling the fact that at school,we had nicknamed him ‘Long Dick' Someone whispered to me that he thought Well Vision was not mad,
“Life has just been unfair with him," he said to which I nodded my head in approval. I made to stand up and walk to Well Vision to reason things out with him but immediately changed my mind. Maybe he was mad. And so for the last time,I saw my friend in motion and never again until he was motionless and cold. Over the months that followed, I only heard reports about him. People told me that Well Vision had become troublesome. He beat up whoever did not excuse him while he moved along the road,he wanted the road left to him alone. The other time and last time I heard about my friend was in an article in the Juba Monitor. The article said that a mad lunatic identified as Well Vision Deng Diing had set fire to a bigger part of Konyokonyo market. It was a shock indeed. Ten days layer,I was informed of the untimely death of my friend, at first I thought the businessmen whose shops had been burnt were responsible but it was soon clear,he had taken his own life. They said that Well Vision had dressed up in his best attire,prepared juice in a glass and sat in the sitting room like any normal man. Whereupon, he drunk the juice, winced for a few moments and fell into deep sleep,never to wake. That marked the end of my friend, the late Well Vision Deng Diing.
When I was called to give a speech at my friends funeral, I merely stood up and called upon the artist,Mr Angelo Dut to engrave the following words onto my friend's grave,
‘I WANT TO HEAR AGAIN ’
© A. K. Lino