Through the car window, the streets flash by. The houses tower skywards, leaning towards me with menace. They are identical to every other house I’ve ever seen.
In every year I’ve lived, I’ve made this journey twice. Once on my birthday and once six months later. I only see this town twice a year, but it never ever changes.
Today is my eighteenth birthday and it is a special occasion. This trip is unlike all of those before.
I have not changed – I am the same person I was yesterday. I am no wiser, no more mature, no better than the seventeen year old me.
There is only one distinction, and this is not visible. It is law.
As of 7:29 this morning, the exact minute of my birth so many years before, I finished being a child and became an adult.
If I were a Recipient, I would now be old enough to drink alcohol. With permission from the government, I would now be entitled to marry – travel – have children.
But that is not my life: I was not born as Recipient. I was born a Donor.
The car stops at a red light, the momentum pushing me into my seatbelt. My driver snorts, tapping his foot on the accelerator impatiently. I dislike this man. He stinks of greed and nerves. If he was allowed, I know that he would like to drive the car too fast, push it screaming down these grey streets. But he cannot risk my health by dangerous behaviour. I must be kept in perfect condition for the procedure. And he does not like me for this.
I turn my gaze away from his dripping skin and stare out the window. The houses in this street stand shoulder to shoulder, all the same ghastly shade of dead-flesh grey. They all have the same front door, the same curtains, the same windows in the same places. The only way you can tell them apart is the numbers on the doors.
Today is my eighteenth birthday and today I will undergo my first operation.
It’s nothing major; not my heart, lungs, or a whole limb. It’s my eyes.
To be precise, the lenses and corneas from both eyes are needed by a Recipient girl. Her name is Farida. I am the same blood and tissue type as her but more importantly, my eyes are the exact shade of blue that she desires to have.
She is thirteen years old and has decided that she looks unattractive in glasses. She wants to be pretty, and I am here to fulfil this wish.
I have been told, time and time again, how lucky I am. How lucky that I am wanted – how blessed I am, that my eyes are such a beautiful shade that they are desirable. How fortunate I am that I am popular enough to have another procedure scheduled, in six months time, for my kidneys.
I do not feel lucky.
And although this is my purpose in life, I am resentful of a thirteen year old girl called Farida. Why must she have what isn’t hers? Why does she feel the need to have different eyes anyway? Who taught her that taking someone’s vision – just so that you could be more pleased of what you see in the mirror – was morally right?
But blaming her is unfair. It is like shooting a private for a general’s war crimes.
She could not help being born as a Recipient, just as I couldn’t help being born as a Donor. It isn’t her fault that her whole life has revolved around superficial beauty and selfish desires, in the same way that my life has thrashed into me that I am nothing, that I have no self, that I have no worth except as a supply of material for Recipients to use as they wish.
Through the smeared glass of the car window, I watch a vast building as it swells above the endless sea of grey housing. Its massive, like a mountain dropped in the centre of this town. I climb out of the car, staring up. My neck aches at the height – surely it must rise all the way up into the clouds. The driver pushes my back, and we enter the hospital building.
Today is my eighteenth birthday, and today I will lose my eyesight to a thirteen year old girl called Farida.
Happy birthday to me.