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The Eye

by Julie Balloo

It never bothered me, not really, the puddle of greyish goo collecting in the lower lid then weeping, alien-like into the creases of my father’s face.

Psst, my mother would nudge, followed by an aggressive whisper. “Your eye!”

He’d turn away embarrassed and wipe at it with a yellowing oversized hankie, popping the offending mess back into his trouser pocket only to reach for it again many times during the course of the day.

As a child I thought he could see me with both eyes, I didn’t understand that the left one was just for show.

“It used to be glass,” he said once. “But I walked into a door and smashed it to bits, cutting my face, bloody everywhere, it was terrible, they only do them in plastic now, much safer.”

‘”What’s underneath it?” my best friend once asked me.

I shrugged, “Don’t know, just skin I suppose.”

She made a retching sound and pretended to be sick. “Disgusting, ergh.”

I never thought of it like that but there were two definite sides to his face, the smiling, caring side that loved me and looked at me with a thousand promises of safety, and the other side, the store mannequin, the statue, the man who never knew.

No, it wasn’t from the war, I’d say. It was an accident in childhood. He’d climbed up onto his mother’s lap while she was bent double over her old singer sewing machine.

“Can I do it, Mummy?”

“No, get down.”

“Can I sew?”

“No, get back, get away, no!!!”

A mother’s howl of pain, animal-like, her child’s agony worse than anything she could inflict on herself. I know that now, my two boys have drummed that lesson into me. Gashed knees, swollen lips, monstrous lumps on their foreheads, how does a soldier’s mother ever sleep?

His little eye was caught on the bobbin pin, skewered like a picked onion at a cocktail party. Ruined forever and that foolish moment in time brought a legacy rendering him a half-life.

He could drive and read and write and work his manly tools, but for every look forward he had to make the movement once more, leaving him with constant headaches and neck spasms.

After his funeral, when the visitors had gone and my mother sat weeping over her brandy on the sofa, I ventured into their bedroom. As he was being cremated I imagined that plastic eye melting, burning much faster than the rest of him, gone for good now, finally blending him and it into one.

The shock of missing him tore me apart. I opened the drawer on his side of the bed hoping to find an old watch or a ring even a handkerchief just a small piece...

I gasped and slammed the drawer shut.

I see you, it called!

I opened the drawer again, slowly, preparing my heart for the invasion of shock.

I see you!

All those years and I never knew he kept a spare.

Copyright © 2006 by Julie Balloo

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