July 5, 2012
Aram is getting confused at the sight of the overcrowded truck body-like dwelling-wagon. He looks helpless trying to move and striking against the wooden wall of the wagon. He looks around trying to guess why the voices of these strangers echo. The 11 year-old boy has so strained his ears that cannot find the door of the wagon – something he has long struggled to learn.
‘Aram jan, don’t be afraid, I have only come to visit you,’ I am trying to calm the boy down. Yet, Aram’s fear is flying in the air and penetrating into us as well.
While taking a photo of him I ask him to raise his head, but his mother says he cannot. Sometimes he wails of his headache and cannot keep his head high. I am trying to talk to him and tell him not to be afraid of me. It seems Aram begins to trust me, because the sound of my voice convinces him I will not do him any harm.
‘Most of all in my life I love tales,’ he says. ‘The more I grow the more I believe in them. I am not afraid when reading tales, because I live in different worlds then. I have hopes in those worlds and I feel strong. I wish I were born in a tale.’
The wagon seems to shake over Aram’s parents. Just the way their house shook and got swallowed by the earth at Spitak quake of 1988. Later on this dwelling wagon, No 58 of Leninakan highway of Spitak town, was installed on the same place. After Aram’s each word his father goes out to smoke and his mother is stroking his head wiping the tears from her eyes. Aram Ghazaryan also dreams of recognizing the light and seeing as the other people do. He recognizes people by their voices and little by little gets acquainted with the things surrounding him. The boy hates changes, because if something changes its place, he gets terribly confused and suffers from helplessness.
Sveta, Aram’s mother, informs the boy has been diagnosed to have glaucoma, and that is why he cannot see at all. ‘It turned out he had it inherent. He grew and we realized the problem. We have taken him to various specialists, but they say it’s incurable. We’ll thank God if it doesn’t get worse. His pressure goes high, it’s an ordinary thing and he suffers from terrible headaches,’ says Sveta, 31. She speaks with a tired voice and like an old woman.
Aram’s eye structure is unique. His eyes have no pupils and they look like white balls on the face. Sveta says the doctor prescribed “Trusopt” to balance the pressure, and that Aram must take it for all his life, otherwise… The mother takes out a cellophane bag of medicine and shows it.
‘It’s very expensive. 7.000 drams ($ 18) each pack. We need two for one month. I must drip it in his eyes, to prevent the pressure. Since we had no money, Aram’s grandma bought this on her pension. But this is the substitute. Can you see? I cannot buy the medicine for my child. It’s like dying for me. I can neither relief his headaches nor buy him the medicine. It kills me.’
“Torsopt” that the grandma bought for Aram is a cheaper substitute and doesn’t help. The boy’s suffering from headache and the darkness. The state-paid 10.000 drams ($ 26) monthly life pension isn’t enough for 2 packs of medicine. During the whole conversation, the father, Serob Hovhannisyan, is going out and smoking heavily. I ask him to come in but, with an indifferent face, he doesn’t even answer me. Sveta is going into details what tragedy it is for a parent to have a blind child and be unable to help him. Then she says that her husband, Serob, went mad two years ago. The man, 38, was diagnosed to have schizophrenia. ‘I don’t think there’s a need to look for reasons. In Spitak there are many. Women are stronger, while man cannot stand sufferings. Now you saw Aram, and I know you’re touched and will be thinking of him for a long time. Can you imagine what the parents can feel? Let alone the permanent fear that was left from the earthquake,’ tells Sveta.
She is waiting for her relatives to bring Serob’s psychotropic medicaments. Their relatives undertook her husband’s care, because Aram needs a permanent and daily care of his mother.
‘I don’t know who to look after – my son or my husband. I asked our relatives to bring the medicaments for Serob. He must take them, to be calm, you know, otherwise it is impossible to pacify a mentally ill. He’s a good guy, you know… Misfortune never comes alone…’
Their neighbor Valya had asked me to visit Aram’s family.
‘Once I saw the father holding his blind son’s hand and standing in a queue for the few drams of a pension to buy the medicine. My heart broke. I cannot sleep at nights and am thinking of them all the time. My God, I say, how can I help these people…,’ she says.
Sveta cannot work, because she has to take care of the diseased, thus they live with 26.000 dram ($ 67) allowance and 25.000 ($ 65) disability pension for two. They often prefer not to eat and buy the medicine to relief Aram’s headaches. Sveta is not complaining at all, but one can feel she suffers deep in her heart. Aram, 6th grade, has five certificates of honor. He studies at Yerevan school No 14 for visually impaired. Though he is a high achiever, he hates the school. Why, I ask.
‘Because I am far from my mama and papa for months. They take me to Spitak from Yerevan and leave me there. I want to become a lawyer, but the feeling that my parents are not there… When they take me to Yerevan and leave me there I’m afraid, because I know my parents are far. I don’t know what town Spitak is, I don’t know where Yerevan is, I just know my parents are far from me,’ tears fall down from Aram’s eyes that always gaze at the floor. He meets his parents only on New Year holidays and in summer.
Sometimes Aram regrets he is known as a clever and cute student, because he prefers staying with his family.
‘There is no corresponding school in Spitak,’ Sveta says. ‘I have to take him to Yerevan. The school there is very good, the teachers, too. It’s only about missing.’
Aram’s 9 year-old brother Davit enters the wagon crying bitterly: ‘There is a freak show from Yerevan. Everybody went there but me.’ ‘Calm down. Never mind. You can do without a circus,’ the mother says. ‘No, I can’t. Everybody goes there but me,’ Davit is crying still bitterer and is running out.
‘Hey, Davo, come on! Do you know what the freak show is? Whole our life’s a freak show. There’s nothing special about it,’ calls him back Sveta. Aram seems to try hard and imagine what the freak show is and why his brother is crying for it.
Translated by Narine Aghabekyan