Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
By Nancy Scott
1. Sandy got her first artificial eyes as an infant. She grew so fast that every few months she'd get new ones in the mail. Imagine hearing your mother say, "Your eyes are here."
2. I was told the woman who lived downtown had several pairs and she liked to wear one each of different colors to see if sighted people noticed.
3. In a chat room, I heard about the Social Services person who needed verification of this guy's blindness. He popped out his eyes and asked, "Will this do?" It did.
4. When I was young, I never knew I looked different. I always wondered how people so quickly knew I was blind if I didn't have a cane or Braille in my hands. It never occurred to me to wear dark glasses. It never occurred to me that my rolling, unfocused, clouded eyes gave my difference away.
5. When I first had severe pain in my left eye in my early thirties, I asked my GP for help. "Your eyes are too weird for me to tell," he said. "I have to send you to an ophthalmologist."
The specialist looked for about a minute and said, "It's not your eyes. It's allergies."
6. "Do my eyes look weirder than they used to?" I asked my brother Mark after reading about an older woman who spent thousands for prosthetic shells to make her RLF/ROP eyes look more normal.
Long pause from Mark. "No," he finally said. "You look about as weird as always. Your eyes are sunken in some; your forehead protrudes. You look sort of, ahh, Cro- Magnon."
7. "It's so bright in here," Terry said when she first visited my new apartment.
Where?" I asked, always energized by sun. "Get on your knees and put your nose against the bottom of the glass door and you'll see it."
And I did, or maybe I just felt it, but it comes to the same thing for me.
8. But if I'm outside I know when cloudy days begin to brighten, even though (according to one ophthalmologist who shined a narrow beam right at my left eye) I have no light perception.
9. "We don't have many pictures of you," Betty explains, "because your eyes are always closed."
I have no clue why this would matter. I do not ask or say that I was probably really bored or trying to concentrate on looking where I was told. Or maybe I remembered being startled by flashbulbs when, as a child, I could see light from the corner of my left eye.
10. I've forgotten again what color my eyes are. Some people have said gray but someone said blue once and I like the sound of that.
11. Tom and I have known each other since second grade. He was nearly fifty when he said, "I don't really have eyes because they didn't form. Maybe that's why sighted people have trouble relating to me."
I really wanted to know what he had instead of eyes and what he looked like and did he wear eye patches, but even I was shocked and afraid to ask.
Nancy Scott's over 650 essays and poems have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. She has published three chapbooks, and won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Stone Voices.