Sometimes it is impossible to ignore your own body. “I think therefore I am” becomes “I am therefore I cannot think”. When you open the car door and feel the slightest brush of metal from a passing truck speed across the outside of your left leg. Or when a cast-iron safe falls nine stories to shatter the concrete not two inches from your toes. These events divide your life distinctly into the before and then there is the after – two different spaces inhabited by two different people who have never met and never will.
Like when the doctor says, “I’m sorry but the test came back positive for downs syndrome,” and you realize that the baby you’ve nicknamed Squirrel and imagined becoming a jazz trumpeter, the same baby that has been running laps inside the wire wheel of your womb for weeks will soon be dead, murdered by permissive words you must deliver to that doctor with her cold hands and a reverend mother’s superiority. The house you leave can never be the same house you will reenter just a few hours later.
So I completely understood when last night at the dinner table you whispered to me that one of your eyes had suddenly shut down like the Mars Explorer did when that dust storm hit. And then you went on a bit frantically, trying to explain to me how the scene had simply shifted. Where the old stone wall had been standing just moments before, you now saw that someone had constructed, as if by magic, a new curvilinear swimming pool. Even farther from our table a pond was now visible, slate gray and silver in the evening light.
Of course, you were amazed to discover that with less sight you could actually now see more. Purple globe thistle and deep red lilies, a twisted arch of willow vines created a rural setting all around you that was suitable for a bride, an innocent. “Who would have thought it?” You almost shouted, “Amazing grace through mere dismemberment!!”
If I close one of my own eye’s I can bring the notch on the mountain top into the same plane as the lead tip of my pencil which forces me to admit that I am no longer sure if I am the subject or the object of my own sentences. My own talent for this shift was discovered one night many years ago when, without warning, I too lost half of my sight but acquired vision.
I was very late, of course. They were all ordering their desserts. The hosts had just introduced me to their guest who was wearing a white linen shirt that he had himself embroidered with an elaborate scene of marsh reeds and tiny birds. He was pale and softly paunched, had an almost boneless face, and was already receding into the background of my consciousness when he asked us to name five plays by Shakespeare that correlated to these clues: three inches, six inches, nine inches, wet and dry. That was when my eyeball went plop into my plate.
While stumbling to come up with the answers to his riddle I was also noticing how with my new 3D, x-ray, Super Girl vision I could look directly through the table-cloth and the thick oak tabletop. My new power penetrated even the brown leather of the guest’s Bostonian boots that he had absurdly coupled with a pair of white athletic socks. And inside them I spied the most miraculously blue feet that I had ever hoped to find.
Hoped, you must understand, because both my mother and my grandmother had explained to me that women of our obscure subspecies always select our mates on the basis of the blueness of their feet. The intensity of this color separated the good from the better and, here at last, from the best.
Then I heard him say, “I love to hike, bike, and run up hills on winter days.”
No! No! No! I thought, since my idea of exercise was rolling over very leisurely in bed.
But this and all my other reservations soon proved irrelevant because genetics and environment trump logic every time.
Naturally I’ve told my daughters (and to date they simply laugh at me, their poor deluded mother) that they should not panic when one eye or the other suddenly drops out of service because that form of blindness always enhances your super powers and, secondly, that for better or worse they’re fated to marry a man or a woman or even a bird with ridiculously blue feet.