In the hospital, where I issued my apology to the eyes of which I became a vessel, you spoke as though you did not understand or did not see. You treated only the damage done to the two eyes on my face while ignoring what I had gouged out from my arms and legs and abdomen–all the places that the eyes had pushed themselves outside from within. You didn’t understand and you asked me to explain in the form of a narrative instead of an apology, but don’t you see that I cannot speak of it without turning it into an apology? For you see, I made a choice, and I went back on it. I destroyed the very things I said I would keep within me, and for that I must apologize. Or else they destroyed me, and for that, I must still apologize for being weak enough to be broken in such a way.
As I have said, yes, I took them on willingly. I cannot remember to whom I made this promise or who supplied the eyes I accepted, but I know it was of my own will. Yes, I promised I would keep them hidden. I tried to swallow them and hide them inside me, not knowing they would of their own will or necessity push themselves onto the outside. Yes, I said that when the rest of the world passed me by unseeing and unknowing and above all blind to the sight I hid, I would keep quiet and say nothing and accept what I had to accept. That was how I wanted to do it.
You know, it was strange to go about my life and see all the people around me, and not only see their forms and faces but also their lives. You see, those eyes saw many things, and they saw into the minds of people and picked up details that I could not have fathomed on my own. It wasn’t the ability that got me in the end. To see one or two people so intimately would not be so unbearable; they say that a mind is a terrible thing to read, but I could, if I tried hard, avert my eyes to all but the surface details–what a man had for breakfast, what kind of day a woman had had at work, where a family was going for the weekend–these, which would still be invisible to those of regular sight but that hardly constituted the deep knowledge of mankind.
It was not the knowledge itself that drove me off the edge, then, but its abundance. To attend your job, to ride the train to work, to stand in a crowd among so many people and be unable to close your eyes–the sensory input is overwhelming and I could only live with it for so long before they drove me mad.
Or perhaps that was not the eyes’ true purpose. Perhaps the eyes drove me mad in another way and I didn’t realize it. Perhaps I only imagined seeing what I saw and I was simply overwhelmed by the presence of people, independent of what I could see of them. Perhaps what I converted into a fear of seeing people was really a fear of being seen by them. Perhaps I was only trying to instill a meaning to the invisible eyes whose purpose I knew not and still know not now.
As it is, I didn’t understand and I still don’t and I don’t know why I put inside me these eyes that worked their way from the inside out and stared in all directions and blinded me with the fact of sight.
So you see, I had to gouge out these eyes because otherwise I would see everything and nothing at the same time.
When I think of that moment, I can only think of it in the present tense, while still recalling the events that led to it. Hurt, in past and present form, is the word that comes to mind. It hurt when the eyes within pushed their way through my bones and muscle and skin to their place outside. It hurt, in another way, when I knew that no one could see them but me. It hurts now, in both ways plus more I cannot describe, to stab them with pens or knives, dig them out with my fingernails, smash them in with my thumbs, do whatever I can to make them cease. I was in pain, which begat more pain, which begat an act of its own.
This, then, is why you found me in a heap of blood and vitreous humor and tears. Do not forget the tears, for it was these that spurred on the mess in which I was discovered. You saw less than there really was. I know that in your hospital you spoke as though I had only lost two eyes when in fact I had lost many more than that. The doctors and nurses whose eyes failed to see my own said with consolation in their voices that my damage was irreparable. They said I would never see again as though I missed the sensation of receiving light from two and only two sources. While the expected sources are gone, so are their multitude that the doctors did not see and which, despite the stabs and scratches, you refuse to acknowledge were there.
I could not be the vessel I thought I wanted to be. I will see nothing from now on. You do not understand but I cannot expect you to. I am sorry, and I will always be sorry. But I must be clear in my apology; I am only sorry for how I treated those eyes. I am not sorry that I took them on. I’m sorry that I was unworthy of the task, but I’m not sorry that I tried to take it on. If you understand nothing else, then understand this: though I may regret how it ended, I will never regret how it began. Though I do not know the event’s purpose and origin, I do not regret having agreed to take part in it. I do not and cannot regret what I made as my choice. Not after it brought me where I am now.
Jude Conlee is a person who puts words together and makes stories and poems of them. Sometimes these words appear in online and literary venues, such as and/or, The Fast-Forward Festival, and Smashed Cat Magazine. Apart from these, Conlee plays ukulele recreationally, seeks out interesting information only to usually forget it, and likes to make other people’s days more surreal.
Image by Scott Shaffer