It’s been a long and difficult six months, Shige thinks as he arrives at the office on Monday morning, dreading the pile of work that’s inevitably awaiting him at his desk. He sighs was he grasps the heavy metal door handle and pulls the door open, the warmth of publication office building’s central heating a welcome change from the chill of the morning on his face as he slowly makes his way to the elevator. He’s been working here for more than five years now, and he’s fairly certain that most of his fellow employees at least recognize him by sight, but a publishing house is a busy place, and the last thing he wants to do is ruin someone’s morning by colliding into them. He reaches the elevator without event, however, pressing the familiar button and waiting for the gentle chime to alert him that the elevator has arrived.
After choosing the seventh floor (the writing and editing headquarters of the monthly fashion magazine for which Shige has worked since he graduated from university) every day for the past five and a half years or so, it’s easy to find the button without looking, and then it’s a short elevator ride up, each passing floor counting down the seconds until Shige’s work week will begin. And sure enough, seventh floor, the automated voice informs him far too soon, necessitating him to excuse his way through the crowd of people waiting for higher floors and step off the elevator before the doors close on him, unless someone has been kind enough to press the open doors button until he disembarks.
Shige has always been an awkward person, but he feels more cumbersome than ever as he apologizes to the crowd of company employees he has to elbow past to get out onto his floor, but once the elevator doors close behind him, it’s just a short walk down the hall to the magazine office. He takes a deep breath, reaches for the handle, and lets himself in, calling out a “Good morning” to his coworkers before folding up his white cane and tucking it into his briefcase, just as he has for the past three and a half months, ever since he went totally blind.
He doesn’t need any help maneuvering around the office; his desk had been moved off to the side of the room as an accommodation to his disability when his boss had learned of Shige’s diagnosis several months ago, to avoid him tripping on the ever changing piles of papers and arrangement of bags around his coworkers desks in the regular rows that stretch the length of the room. He’d felt guilty and embarrassed at first, but as he walks down the aisle that his coworkers have the kindness to keep devoid of obstacles for him, the chorus of “good morning”s that greet him in reply bring a smile to his face, and he’s reminded that, as much as he feels like a burden, the amount of support he’s received since he’d lost his sight is only proof of how much everyone at his job values him. It had been hard to see at first, wrapped up in the emotion and fear surrounding losing his good eye after he’d gone blind in the other during university, but his friends and his boss and his coworkers had been so unrelentingly kind and helpful and reassuring that even Shige, about as negative a person as they come, had been forced to realize that no one was judging him and the people around him wanted to do what they could for him. In that way, he thinks to himself as he gets situated at his desk, booting up his computer (for which the company had supplied and paid for a braille keyboard and software specifically made to aid the visually impaired), perhaps going blind had been, at least in some small part, a blessing in disguise.
He works through the morning— while he still isn’t quite back up to the rate of productivity that he’d had before he’d totally lost his vision, between his adjusted computer, a braille printer, and a filing system that he’d carefully devised while he still had some sight left, he’s getting close— and in fact, is so absorbed in his work that when his computer informs him that it’s already one, he’s surprised at how fast the time had flown by. But now it’s time for him to meet his friends in the lunchroom on the next floor up, and so he gathers his willpower and excuses himself for lunch, more or less gracefully making it out of the office without bumping into anything.
It takes way more mental energy than it used to to go anywhere, even just out into the hallway, into the elevator, up one floor, and out to the little break room down the hall where he meets his friends almost every day for lunch, but after his productive morning, Shige feels ready to face the world with his cane in one hand and his lunch in the other.
In the time that it had taken him to wrap up and get his things together between when he’d stopped to break for lunch and when he’d gotten to the elevator, it seems that the majority of the people on his floor who take lunch at one had already dispersed; there are, Shige supposes, a few advantages to everything taking way longer than it used to these days. It’s good to try to look on the bright side as much as possible, he’s learned over the past few months, and now that the transition is almost done and he’s crested the learning curve, it’s getting easier with each day. And besides, right now, it’s time to indulge in one of the few aspects of his life that’s almost entirely unchanged: eating lunch and chatting with his friends.
His friends, Shige thinks, are practically saints for all that they’ve done and continue to do for him; not only had they held his hand through all the tears and the screaming and the depression when he’d first started to lose his vision, but they’d done everything from support him in speaking to his boss to researching the best resources for training to live while blind, and even now, they come to his apartment twice a month to help him with chores that he can’t really do properly without sight. Masuda, a fashion consultant for the magazine who’d joined the company at the same time as Shige had, and Koyama, who worked for HR and had helped with Masuda and Shige’s orientation when they’d first started, were really the best friends that Shige could ever have asked for, and he felt indebted to them for all they’d done for him.
But they’d told him time and time again not to feel as if he owed them anything, because they wanted to help because they cared about him, and so Shige does his best just to be the best friend he could possibly be in return, and right now, he’s looking forward to relaxing with them for the next hour.
He’s so lost in his thoughts about what they’re going to talk about that, while he’s usually attuned to the sounds of things around him now that hearing is the strongest sense he has to rely on, he’s very surprised when he opens the door to the break room and is met with the sound of crackers popping. “E-eh?” he manages to get out, but then he’s greeted by Koyama and Masuda’s voices calling out “congratulations!” and he’s totally perplexed.
“It’s not my birthday…?” is the first thing that tumbles out of Shige’s mouth, and while that’s super socially awkward and ungrateful sounding, he doesn’t have any idea whatsoever what he could have possibly done that’s worth congratulating. But he can hear the laughter in Koyama and Masuda’s voices as they usher him into the room, informing him that there’s cake and Shige’s favorite Japanese-style snacks waiting for him on the table before finally explaining, “We have to celebrate the six-month anniversary of you coming back to work after your training!”
And while Shige is pretty sure that they’re at least slightly off on the date, he also can’t help the tears that come to his eyes as he smiles back at them and thanks them profusely, because while the past six months have been long and difficult, they’ve also proved to Shige just how blessed he is to have such wonderful people in his life.
Your turn, aleena_mokoia!