From a journal entry dated 5.23.20
I take my eyes out at night before bed.
Not everyone does that.
I don’t like sleeping with the things in. I don’t want them to witness what I dream.
I scoop them out into my hands — a movement that involves staring wide-eyed at the ceiling before thrusting my head sharply down towards the floor — and catch them, smooth and slick, like peeled hard boiled eggs. They’re warm from being inside my head. I place them in the case of cleaning solution on my bathroom counter. My hands have memorized the way to snap the lid closed over the case that contains them.
From there it’s a careful twenty steps before I’m in bed. This blind venture into the darkness is another reason I like taking them out at night. It feels like being invisible. Once I’m in bed I only have to wait a minute or two before my cat, Nea, comes scrabbling on to the bed beside me, summoned by whatever internal clock that keeps her on schedule. She butts her head with aggressive affection into my chin, her tongue scraping audibly on my cheeks. All of these things feel, sound, are, different when I can’t see. They’re somehow more.
I’m asleep within minutes.
When I wake up, the alarm clock is in the same place where it always is. I slam a hand down on the ringing bell and lie there for a moment, taking in the first breaths of the day. Nea is gone, doing whatever she’s scheduled to do in the morning. I want, with all my soul, to stay this way all day.
I stumble back into the bathroom. It’s never as fun being blind in the morning. My hand fumbles with the plastic case that contains my eyes, my thumb catching the lid and popping it open. I replace my eyes one at a time — the left one first, so I can watch my hand reach down for the right one — and stand there staring at myself in the mirror. Short, squat, a pimple at the corner of my mouth. Black hair roosts on top of my head like a tangled bird’s nest.
I think about the dreams I had last night: blind dreams, full of feeling.
I could knock the case over. I could say I lost it. I could scoop my eyes out again, hide them in the back of the bathroom cabinet, in an empty shampoo bottle. It would only work for one day. My mom would order more.
Once I’m downstairs I can see my mom perched in her usual place at the island in the kitchen. She has her work laptop in front of her. She has her back to me, but she has her extra set of eyes on — those hideous, ice-blue, artificial things that she’s had installed in the back of her head. The fixed pupils follow me as I walk past her.
“Morning, hon,” she says, without turning around. Her original set of eyes, set in the usual place in the front, are tuned sharply to the images flying by on her laptop screen. She’s watching for cardiac arrest displayed across sixteen live heart monitors, and will be for the next five hours. She can’t afford to look away for a moment. Should anything happen, she’s supposed to pick up the phone and call emergency services immediately.
“Morning,” I say, going to the pantry. I pull down a box of Cheerios.
The shutter in my left eye clicks. I anticipate it. Mom has been monitoring what I eat since I was a baby.
In front of her computer, Mom makes a soft hum of approval. The image of the Cheerios gets filed away somewhere, wherever Mom stores records of my daily caloric intake.
I pour skim milk in my bowl, pull a chair up to the kitchen island, and sit next to Mom. The eyes in the back of her head can’t follow me there, but her real eyes, murky brown and strained from lack of sleep, stray over to me for a moment. The brief reprieve from her work gives her a flush of happiness. She even smiles.
“How’d you sleep?” she asks.
“Fine,” I say.
She has to take my word for it. There was a time, not long after I started taking my eyes out at night, when she fretted over what she was missing. She lost sleep. Got angry with me for trying to hide things from her. By now she’s seen the sense in it. The only thing she’s missing when I’m asleep are my dreams. They can’t hurt me. Whatever they do to me, they’re my own.
Our elbows touch as she types away at her computer and I take a scoop from the bowl of cereal. Appearing from nowhere like always, Nea jumps up on the counter, stares at me curiously with her large, inquisitive eyes. I offer her a single Cheerio in a spoonful of milk. She licks the milk from my spoon, and Mom and I both chuckle in unison.
“To be a cat,” Mom sighs.
I’m already ready for bed again.