Awaking one morning from a night of uneasy dreams, Matt found that his eyes had fallen out of his head. The world was strangely distorted and it took him several minutes to recognize the familiar bedroom around him. Feeling around for his phone, Matt’s hand met something cold, metallic, and slightly slimy by his side. He drew back with a start. The bedroom whirled about. Matt shut his eyes tight and was sure he was going to be sick.
When the nausea subsided, Matt hopefully opened his eyes again. No luck. The bed was on the ceiling and the dresser was embedded in one of the walls. That was not at all where they belonged. Objects shifted and blended together as he tried to observe them. And, try as he might, when Matt turned his head, nothing happened. His view remained fixed.
He could feel the pressure of the bed against his body, the weight of the blankets, the soft breeze of the fan. This was no dream. His thoughts were clear. He hadn’t taken anything in at least a week. And yet, something was not right.
Matt reached forward again, cautiously seeking out the strange object that he had bumped before. Could it be related to his current predicament?
Again his hand met the cool, unfamiliar mass. He gingerly ran his fingers across its surface. The right side of his vision quivered and Matt paused, afraid that another whirl of disorientation was imminent. When his vision stabilized again, he continued his examination.
The object at his side was a sphere of perhaps of eight inches in diameter. Its surface was lightly textured although generally smooth, with one or two rough spots. On the far side of the sphere, facing away from him, there was a small aperture. When his hand passed in front of this aperture, one side of his vision dimmed.
The realization hit him all at once. Now he knew what the object was. He slowly raised a hand to his face, afraid to look even though he knew what he would see. Even with his hand just inches away, he could not see it. Oh God, he thought, pulling the covers over his head, it has finally happened!
After years of joking about removing his eyeballs with melon-ballers and countless late-night meditations on externalizing his various sensory organs, Matt’s eyes had fallen out of his head, and now one of them was laying at his side Where his other eye had gotten too was anyone’s guess. To make matters worse, the eye beside him was not the soft, squishy, and comfortably organic eye that had once filled one of his sockets, but a cold, metallic eye of unfortunate proportions. There would be no slipping it back in. Matt could even make out the grid of tiny pixels that now made up his vision. His eyeballs had gone digital.
Again and again, he shut his eyes hoping the world would be normal when he opened them again. Again and again, the same distorted and pixelated view of reality mockingly greeted him. What sort of silly creature can’t even keep its eyes in its own head, Matt moped as he sank deeper into depression, even crabs and snails have eyestalks, but here I am, with one eye loose in my nest and the other who knows where! He pulled the covers tighter.
A soft buzz. His phone. Matt instinctively thrust a hand out from under the covers, groping about blindly like some giant amoeba. More than once he jostled his eye, causing his vision to rock back and forth nauseously, but at last he felt the familiar cool touch of glass, and reeled his prey back in. Only then did he realize that he had no way of seeing the screen. He longingly pawed at his phone and even tried pressing it against where his eyes used to be. No luck.
The urgency of the buzz had shaken Matt out of his funk. In fact, at the moment he wasn’t even concerned that his eyeballs had fallen out of his head, beyond being mildly annoyed at how inconvenient this made seeing his phone. Understand: Matt’s phone was more than just a phone; it stored his memories, connected him with friends, made boxes of stuff materialize at his house, helped him find food, and sometimes even stimulated him sexually. It was a device of many uses, and without it, Matt was as good as dead, or at least that’s what everyone would think if he didn’t respond to that buzz.
Through process of elimination, Matt determined that it was his right eye that was in bed with him. Squinting his left eye closed just so, he could even clearly make out what the right eye was seeing.
After much trial and error, Matt eventually positioned his phone within his eye’s field of view. The low resolution of his eyeball however made it next to impossible to make out much of anything. He moved the phone closer. Still nothing. The screen was shaking too much, and the phone was still a good deal too far away.
Well then, thought Matt after collecting himself, if I can’t bring my phone to my eyes, perhaps I can bring my eyes to my phone.
Matt clutched his eye with both hands and lifted it up to the center of his chest. From this viewpoint, all he could only see was the bedspread, so he reckoned his eye must be facing downwards. Then Matt carefully lay his phone on the bed before him. And now he slowly began lowering his eye towards the screen, until… there it was! A thrill passed through him as he scanned the notifications. The usual smattering of overnight updates and emails, a few love poems from Don, plus a message! He could make out the first part, but what emoji was that? All he could see was a mass of yellow pixels. Was that a wink or a smile? Matt zoomed in and out by raising and lowering his eye, and finally determined that it was indeed a wink. The message read: “how u doing 😉.”
Hey, thought Matt with a laugh, being able to zoom in like this is actually pretty neat. As long as I keep my left eye tightly shut, perhaps having my eyes fall out of my head wasn’t really so bad.
He even managed to lefty out a response: “Good just woke.” As far as his friend would ever know, Matt’s eyes were still squarely in Matt’s skull where they belonged.
Still, while he had gotten a hand on using his right eye, Matt couldn’t help but wonder where his left eyeball had gotten too. He panned his eye over the room but it occurred to Matt that he was unsure what to look for. You see, despite living in close proximity to his eyes and looking through them for almost a quarter century, Matt realized that he had never actually seen them before. And with his right eye so enlarged and transformed, who knew what his eyes currently looked like anyways.
Nothing stood out in the room, but when his vision fell on a brown haired man, it took Matt a moment to realize that he was looking at himself. He stared. The man stared back. Matt turned his head to one side. The man turned his head the opposite way. Matt stuck out his tongue. The man stuck out his.
So this is me, Matt pondered, this is I? It was strange to see himself like this. It wasn’t at all like looking in a mirror.
Matt moved his eye closer to examine his head. Something was off. That was him alright, but where his eye used to be mounted, there was now a large black, boxy protrusion stretching from the tip of his nose to the middle of his forehead. He certainly didn’t remember that being there before. He stared at himself for a few more minutes. Then he had an idea.
Matt opened his left eye and shut his right eye tightly. Now a new scene came into focus. Everything was askew, but there! that must be the light on the bedroom ceiling. And that wooden object… That must be the dresser. From what he could see, Matt guessed that his left eye was somewhere near the closet. Probably left the damn thing over in the hamper, he muttered. The question now was how to get to it.
He placed his right eye face down, securely in the center of the bed, and then with both eyes tightly shut, lowered his body to the floor, groping about for anything vaguely eyeball-like. His hands met nothing. He extended himself further and further, always sure to keep a hand or a foot moored to the bed. Still nothing.
Finally he caught ahold of a plastic lip. The hamper! He pulled it closer.
Squinting open his left eye, Matt found himself looking out from inside the hamper. He could just see the top of his head peaking over the rim. He slowly reached for his eye. His hand got closer and closer to him until he involuntarily blinked.
But in trying to pick up his left eye, Matt lost his balance and landed with his full body weight on the edge of the basket. And now he was flying through the air. Matt threw out his arms to break his fall but nothing happened. He heard the thud but didn’t feel any impact. And now the world turned over, went dark, and then turned over again. Something bumped into his foot. Then everything went dark for good.
He had mostly recovered now. He wasn’t in any pain and, despite all the excitement, as far as he could tell he was uninjured.
It seems that when Matt landed on the edge of the laundry basket, his left eyeball had been catapulted clear across the room. Thankfully the wall put a quick stop to his left eye’s avian ambitions and now Matt had both of his eyes back in his possession.
Back on the bed, he examine his left eye. Remarkably, it was unscathed and he could see out of it just fine.
See, Matt thought, there are advantages to having metal eyes. I very much doubt that my old, organic peepers would be up for such an adventure.
His left eye was nearly identical in construction to his right one, although a few inches smaller in diameter. This made it easy to tell the two apart.
At first, Matt only used one eye at a time, always tightly shutting the other to avoid the disorienting, kaleidoscopic effects that had initially plagued him. But soon, Matt began to experiment with using his eyes in tandem. Having two eyes took time to get used to, and looking through them was a very bizarre experience indeed.
Matt found that his two eyes worked best if he aimed them at precisely the same target. If the alignment of either eye was even slightly off, he was thrown back into the same picasso-esque disorder that had so confused him when he woke up. And while managing two eyes was a lot more trouble than managing one, Matt found there were definite advantages. With two eyes, his view was somewhat wider, almost like a movie film. And Matt could also sense how far away objects were in the world. When he stuck out his hand, he could sense where it was in space and sense when he was about to run into something. The effect reminded him of something he’d once experienced while trying out a fancy VR headset.
Matt’s phone buzzed again. He glanced down with his left eye. Just a Github notification, but it was almost ten o’clock already. It was a workday and with all the excitement of the morning, Matt was behind schedule.
He thought of calling in sick. It would not be untrue either. Having your eyes fall out of your head certainly entitled you to at least one sick day, maybe two. And in Europe, they’d probably give you two weeks off at least! And really, shouldn’t he go see a doctor or something? Matt thought he remembered seeing a similar case on House years ago. Maybe it was lupus?
But then he reconsidered. Maybe this was the sort of problem that would just resolve itself. Why get all worked up over a little thing like this? No, he couldn’t just mope about all day feeling sorry for himself. He was a man after all! Time to set to it!
With a fresh burst of resolve, Matt took an eye under each arm and shuffled off to the bathroom.
Preparing for his morning toilet, Matt faced a rather delicate question: what should he do with his eyes? Did they require any maintenance? What about cleaning? Wouldn’t it make sense to take your eyes into the shower, and get them all sparkly clean and nicely perfumed, just as you do with your body? But, then again, were his eyes waterproof? They were made of metal after all. What if they got all rusty? What if they shorted out?
No, thought Matt, best to play it safe and keep my eyes dry for now. I can always give them a quick spritz if they start to smell after a few days.
Matt was about to step into the shower when he realized that he was still dressed. He’d had been so focused on his eyes, that he’d almost forgotten about his body.
Always one thing or the other, sighed Matt as he began to disrobe.
Now, managing your eyeballs while taking off your clothing is more difficult than you may imagine. Matt found that his eyes were too large to fit through shirtsleeves or collars, and they always seem to be getting in the way or turned around, leaving him effectively blind. The only way he made it through the ordeal was by setting his eyes down on the counter, so that he could watch himself taking his clothing off in the third person. This has got to be the least titillating striptease since Nikita Khrushchev’s infamous 1960 performance, thought Matt as he watched himself flail about and bang into the walls while trying to remove his undergarments. But finally there was nothing more to remove.
He stood there.
He saw himself standing there.
He saw himself seeing himself standing there.
Nakedness was already an unnatural state for Matt and—contrary to what one may expect—Matt found that not having his eyes in his head did not help matters in the least. More than ever, Matt prayed that his digital eyes were not live streaming. For, you see, being seen without clothing was generally considered very impolite, or at least suggested some degree of deviancy, and Matt felt that having his eyeballs fall out of his head was already embarrassment enough for one day.
Matt took his right eye under an arm, leaving his left eye on the counter. Being in such a stark state, he had to be extra careful where he pointed his eye now however. Hoisting his right eye high above his head to keep it out of the water, he boldly stepped into the shower.
The warm water felt good. He closed his eyes. The water vapor made it difficult to see much of anything going on below anyways.
In the warmth he almost forgot about his ocular predicament.
But you can only hold up your eye so long before your arm grows tired; only stand in the shower so long before your skin starts to prune; only avoid reality so long before your phone buzzes. Instantly the water was off and Matt was fumbling around on the counter, dripping all over the floor.
He found his phone over by his left eye. The buzz hadn’t been anything. He thought about turning on the water again but the moment had passed.
Matt held his right eye out at arm’s-length and aimed it back at himself. Who’s that handsome motherfucker, thought Matt as he subconsciously shifted his stance to accentuate his physique. He felt ready to take on the world.
But as he eyed himself, Matt soon began to notice a few tiny physical imperfections: the slight pudge that appeared when he inhaled, the small mole on his shoulder, his general veinyness, his lack of eyeballs…
Matt turned his eye the other way and started look for something on the counter. Even he didn’t know what.
A good day starts with a good breakfast. Matt knew this. Everyone knew this. It had been proven using science by the Kellogg Company. And when you wake up to find that your eyes have fallen out of your head, a good breakfast is only the more essential.
Matt’s preferred workdays breakfast was chocolate granola. It was mostly sugar, but then again, most good breakfasts are. Chocolate granola was also a good choice since it did not involve knifes, stoves, scalding water, blenders, or any other potential kitchen hazards.
Chocolate granola requires three ingredients: chocolate granola, yogurt, and raspberries. The chocolate granola was in the cabinet, the yogurt was in the fridge, and the raspberries were in the freezer. Matt resolved to fix this terribly inefficient storage scheme the next chance he had, but first the raspberries.
Holding an eye in each hand, Matt strode over to the refrigerator and then froze. With both of his hands occupied, he had no way to open the door. He shifted his grip. If I can just get a pinky on the handle… Each time he was sure he had it, but each time it slipped away.
He looked around for a place to set one of his eyes. The countertop was risky for falls, and if he just put his eye on the floor who knows where it might roll off to. He tried a few different holders, eventually settling on resting his eye in the center of a heaped up dish towel. This provided a nice stable nest, so long as he remembered his eye was there and didn’t accidentally step on it or kick it. And with one hand now free, Matt finally was able to open the freezer door.
It was difficult to make out much of anything in the gloom of the freezer. Matt lifted his eye higher to get a better view, and leaned in closer and closer until almost the entire upper half of his body was inside the freezer. His hands were growing cold. Good thing my eye doesn’t seem to have much feeling in it, Matt thought, although he wasn’t sure if exposing it to the cold for very long was such a good idea.
At last he found the carton of raspberries buried in the back. He shifted his eye to his left hand, and grabbed the carton with his right.
One down, two to go.
And soon he had everything needed for his breakfast jumbled on the countertop. The only difficulty had come while retrieving the bowl. As he was shuffling over to the cabinet, one of Matt’s feet had nicked the dishtowel supporting his left eye, and the eye had gone rolling off into the unknown. Thankfully Matt was able to track it down again without too much trouble.
Matt’s right eye was growing tired too, so he took the opportunity to swap it out for the left one.
Grabbing the yogurt container with his free hand, he popped off the lid and took a small scoop with a spoon. His movement was intentionally slow and deliberate, and Matt adjusted his eye several times to make sure he could see what he was doing. He moved the spoon over to the bowl, lined things up, and dumped it over. There was a moist plop. Something didn’t seem right. Matt felt inside the bowl with one of his fingers. Nothing. He shifted his eye around to see what had happened. The yogurt had landed in a heap about an inch to the side of the bowl. Curse this cyclopean eye and its lack of depth perception, Matt muttered.
He was more cautious in his next attempt, carefully checking and rechecking that the spoon was lined up properly. This time the yogurt landed in the bowl. Victory.
At first Matt thought the raspberries would be somewhat easier to handle since they were solid. However his lack of depth perception struck again. While reaching for the carton, Matt extended his arm a few inches too far and instead tipped it over. Half frozen berries went flying everywhere. He cursed again. Making breakfast when your eyes have fallen out of your head was turning out to be very stressful and very messy.
Things did not improve with the chocolate granola. More granola certainly landed outside the bowl than inside of it, and bits of granola crunched under Matt’s feet whenever he shifted his stance. But at last breakfast was made, and while it wasn’t Instagram worthy, it was food and Matt was hungry. This bowl of sugary sustenance would give him the energy he needed to survive another day.
Matt had always had a strained relationship with eating. Sure it kept him alive and made his brain happy, but on the whole, it also struck him as being a rather gross affair. He sometimes even had nightmares about it. In one particularly vivid nightmare, Matt’s eyes had somehow become lodged in the back of his mouth. Oh it had been horrible! He’d been forced to eat bowl after bowl of green jello, and with every spoonful he was sure he was going to choke to death. And to watch the whole fleshy and toothy performance from the front row… Horrible, just horrible!
So it came as a relief that today’s breakfast was actually fairly normal, proving that sometimes it is much better to have your eyes fall out of your head than to have your eyes spontaneously relocate to somewhere else in your body. That’s not to say that things weren’t a tad messy however. Matt found that conveying the spoon to his mouth was more difficult than expected, and more than a few heaps of granola ended up on the table or in his lap.
Between spoonfuls, Matt caught up on emails, scanned through his feeds, and fired off a few messages. He also browsed eclipse glasses on Amazon and ordered a pair, although he wasn’t sure if the ones he selected were certified. He also wasn’t sure if they would fit.
Matt decided to work from home. There really was not much of a choice in the matter. The office was too far away to walk to and driving—a dangerous pursuit even in the best of times—would be downright suicidal in his present condition. Matt’s drivers license did not permit him to operate a vehicle with only one eye, and if he used both eyes, he would have no hands left to grasp the steering wheel.
Being of an engineering mindset, Matt imagined that he might eventually be able to rig up some dashboard eye holsters, but that would require some thought. And say he needed to look behind him? Or to the side? Or at the dashboard? What I really need are a good deal more eyes, thought Matt sardonically.
Then there was the bus. The bus stopped right outside Matt’s apartment and went right to the office. All he had to do was make it down the stairs and onto the bus, and he’d be home free. Presumably the bus driver knew how to operate his own eyes very well. They could do all the driving for Matt!
But alas, other people would probably have the same idea, and Matt did not relish the thought of riding to work in his current state among so many strangers. What if someone noticed that Matt’s eyes were not in his head like everyone else’s eyes were in theirs? What if some cruel youths attempted to take his eyes!? Matt imagined himself clutching his eyeballs tightly as a crowd of gawkers cornered him at the back of the bus. And he imagined yelling, “I am not a snail! I am not a mollusk! I am a human being! I… am… a… man!!!” It would be a very bad commute indeed.
Yes, working from home seemed like the only way to go, at least until Matt grew more comfortable using his eyes and going out in public with them. And, Matt reassured himself, as long as I answer emails and make check-ins and close issues, none of my coworkers will ever have to know that my eyes have fallen out of my head.
Matt was a software developer. This is a good profession if your eyes have fallen out of your head. I should just be able to set my eyes down in front of the computer and be good to go, thought Matt.
Matt setup his laptop at the kitchen table and arranged an eye on either side of the keyboard, adjusting them so that they both looked at the screen.
The result was a confusing mess. No matter how he tilted or positioned his eyes, the screen was always distorted. Even when he tried shutting one eye, he found that the screen was too far away. The resolution of his eyeballs clearly had not kept pace with modern technology. He tried to enlarge the screen but this didn’t help the ghosting or odd distortion of his view.
So Matt set his left eye aside—turning it iris down to blot out that side of his vision—and took up his right eye with his left hand. Perhaps a more central viewpoint closer to the screen would help matters. This arrangement still left him with one hand free to operate the computer too. Working with only one eye and one hand took some getting used to, but generally seemed to work.
Matt opened up Github and scrolled through the list of issues that had been opened overnight. Even with the screen magnified, it was difficult to read text. Thankfully Matt could just move his eye closer to the screen whenever he needed to zoom in, just like he had been able to with his phone earlier in the day.
The bigger complication was typing. Although he had been a competent touch typist, Matt found it very difficult to hit the correct keys unless he aimed his eye down at the keyboard. It was like his brain suddenly didn’t trust the years of typing muscle memory he had built up.
Matt found himself checking and rechecking everything he wrote, and getting lost trying to find anything on the screen. It was going to be a long day.
It was only three o’clock but already Matt was exhausted. His arms ached. His mind was shot. The low level nausea that had been haunting him throughout the day was growing stronger.
It had not been a good workday either. Besides a twenty minute lunch break, Matt had worked continuously, but gotten almost nothing done. Fifteen new bugs had come in, while he had only closed out one. And his lone check-in had included a stray semicolon and broken the build.
The apartment was stuffy too. It was suffocating him. He hadn’t been outside all day, or even interacted with anyone in person. Matt rotated his eyes and gazed out the window. By now he had grown quite adept at handling his eyes. You can get used to many things.
The sky was an orgasmic blue. A flash of pixels on the street below. Someone out walking their dog perhaps? Matt imagined walking down the street with his eyeballs on a leash.
And he had a dull headache too. This was around the time at work that Matt usually grabbed his afternoon coffee. This was usually the third coffee of the day. Today though, Matt hadn’t even had a first coffee of the day. That may explain this headache, he thought, and coffee sounds pretty good right now. But then Matt remember that he did not have a coffee maker. If he wanted coffee, he was going to have to venture outside.
No, that’s impossible, Matt told himself. He returned to the laptop and tried to put the idea of his mind. But he couldn’t focus. He had coffee on the brain. He checked to see if Amazon offered hot coffee delivery. No luck. It was either nothing or going to a coffeeshop. And so he began to concoct a plan.
As Matt saw it, there were two main things that would bring him unwanted attention: the large size of his eyes and that his eyes had fallen out of his head. And while there wasn’t much that could be done on the first account, he might just be able to conceal his unfortunate ocular dislocation.
Over at the workbench, Matt used some gaffers tape to carefully tape his eyes together. He worked entirely by touch since he was unable to see what he was doing after all. He adjusted the alignment of his eyes until he could see a clear, somewhat three dimensional image of the world. Then he added more tape to hold them securely together.
Standing before a mirror, Matt held his new binocular-eyes to his face. The eyes were very large to be sure, but was having large eyes a crime? He practiced holding the eyes in front of his face, trying to look as natural as possible.
He planned out the excursion in minute detail: how he would enter the coffeeshop; how he would smile at the barista while pretending to look over the menu; what he would order (a medium mocha); the motion required to pull out his phone from his left pocket using his right hand, the left one being used to hold up his eyes; how he would stand there while the barista prepared his coffee, glancing around at the other patrons and checking his phone a few times; and finally how he would pick up the coffee and thank his server before making a casual exit.
He had done it countless times before. What could possibly go wrong?
Matt pretended the read the menu on the wall. He already knew what he was going to order and there wasn’t anyone in line. And it’s not like he could make out what the menu said from this distance anyways.
As he stood there, he ran through the plan again and again: the casual smile, the order, the motion required to pull out his phone….
He smiled at the barista.
Step two, check.
Matt was trying hard to look relaxed and yet his heart was racing. She had looked at him oddly, hadn’t she? Should he have said hello when he entered the store? Was it the way he was dressed? Or had she noticed that he was holding onto his eyes, or that they were in fact a good deal too large for his head? It was too late to turn back.
He lurched up to the counter. With every step he saw himself trip and his eye going flying through the air.
He was still pretending to look at the menu and didn’t catch what she said. Then he saw that she was looking at him. What did she want? What now? This wasn’t how it was supposed to go! His plan was falling apart.
“Hey! So… how are you?” stammered Matt, cringing as the words left his mouth. It was a stupid question to ask a barista. It was a stupid question to ask anyone. When people asked Matt this, he usually said he was “fine”, or “ok” if he didn’t want to boast. The barista said that she was, “good.”
Matt stood there thinking about his next move and trying not to make eye contact. Grimes played softly in the background.
He took one hand off his eyes and was just reaching into his pocket when he paused.
No… that wasn’t right. What came next? Menu, casual smile, and then…?
“What can I get started for you?”
She had thrown him a lifebuoy.
It was a coffeeshop, so Matt said the first thing that came to mind.
Another awkward silence.
“So, a regular coffee?”
Matt thought he heard something in her voice.
“Ok. Two dollars. Let me get that for you.”
The barista rotated the tablet his way. Then she turned to start preparing his coffee.
Matt tapped some numbers on the screen and then reached into his left pocket with his right hand to execrate his phone. This he tapped against a small white slab and with that, two dollars and seventy cents or so was transferred from Matt to the coffeeshop.
He stepped back from the counter and right into someone. They gave a muffled grunt. Matt nearly lost his grip on his eyes as he stumbled away. He hadn’t heard them enter. How long had they been standing there? Matt still had his phone out, and put on a show of staring down at it very intently.
As Matt waited for his coffee, he replayed the preceding scene over in his head. Why didn’t he say hello when he came in the store? Why did he try to take his phone out before placing the order? Why didn’t he make better smalltalk? And no one orders just coffee at a coffeeshop. What a fool he’d been. Matt dearly wished that he really were a mollusk so that he might have a shell to crawl into. He continued staring down at his phone very intently.
“Excuse me… Excuse me…”
Matt felt a tap on his shoulder and spun around. It was the man that he had bumped into in line. The man was pointing towards there counter. There was a cup sitting there. The barista was busy preparing something else. In a daze, Matt grabbed the cup from the counter and shuffled off to grab a seat, completely forgetting his originally planned rapid exit.
The coffeeshop was empty except for a few people typing away at their computers and a couple chatting over in the corner. He picked out a seat over by the fake fireplace, just far enough away from the others to avoid seeming creepy but close enough so that it didn’t look like he had anything to hide. He’d tried sipping the coffee but it was too hot. He’d forgotten to get sugar too.
His left arm was getting tire. Two eyes are heavy. There isn’t any good way to hold them. He placed his coffee on the table, glanced around to see if anyone was looking, and then quickly switched to his right arm.
Matt tried to distract himself as he waited for his coffee to cool. He pulled up the news and scrolled through the headlines: Seattle was getting ready to elect a new mayor; North Korea had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile; the eclipse was coming… He scrolled through his timeline: the jokes, the baby photos, the irony, the memes, the barely concealed brags, the self-serving outrage and compassion… And it all seemed so unreal, so distant.
He adjusted his eyes and tried taking another sip. Just as the cup came to his lips, there was an awful ripping sound, a whirl, a sickening thud, and the left side of his vision went black. His hand shot to his face. Where his left eye should had been, there was nothing.
The deception was up! His left eye had fallen out and gone rolling away to who knows where. He lunged forward, feeling about wildly and no longer trying to conceal what was now all too obvious.
Where is it? Where is it!?!
The darkness on the left side of his vision was total. Part of him wanted to get out of this place the very instant, left eye be damned. Why have two eyes after all, if not so that you can lose one? And it wasn’t his good eye anyways…
Finally his hand met the now familiar smooth metal surface. There was a large dent on one side. He scooped his left eye up and tucked it under his arm like a football, stumbling towards the door and holding his right eye with his other hand.
He could feel their stares, hear their snickers. Look! Look at the freak! Look at the silly animal who can’t even keep its eyes in its own head!
He jammed his hand hard against the door. He lacked depth perception. But then he was out and hurrying back towards his apartment. Down the street; around the corner; through the gate.
With just one more turn before home, Matt tripped and fell to the ground. He sprang up uninjured and continued on. But in his hurry, he didn’t notice that his left eye was still in some plants next to the sidewalk.
Back in the coffeeshop, the barista was busy preparing another order, and the other patrons were typing away at their computers, and the couple was chatting over in the corner. And no one had noticed a thing.
It was dark now. Matt hadn’t turned on any lights. A bus roared past on the street below.
The office building across the street was made of glass. The lights were always on. At night you could look across the street and see what was going on inside. The office was mostly empty but there were still a few people typing away silently. Matt’s apartment was made of glass too. He wondered what the view was like from over there.
Matt signed and pulled out his phone. Nothing.
He wanted to be with someone. But who could ever love me like this, he moped.
It was very true. Hollywood, advertising, and social media had established very unrealistic standards of beauty. Yes, all the beautiful people making love in movies and trying to sell him stuff on Instagram always had their eyes in their head. Matt did not. It was all very unfair. Matt longed to have even just his one remaining eye back in his head.
I could wear an eyepatch… Maybe I’d even look like a pirate!
The pirate look was very in.
Or perhaps I should just get it over with and move into an opera house, Matt thought with a small smirk.
He flipped through a few pages of icons and finally tapped on a dating app.
His profile picture was taken a year ago at Canyonlands National Park. In the picture, he was sitting in front of an arch, smiling and holding his camera. His eyes were behind sunglasses.
Matt swiped though pages of beautiful people. Page after page. Some of them were holding dogs, some were on the beach, some were with friends. They smiled back at him. Their eyes were in their heads or behind sunglasses. He wondered how many of these pictures were from a year ago.
Page after page.
He sighed and put away his phone. He didn’t know what he wanted. Not the people on those pages. It was impossible anyways. He thought about her, and slumped deeper into the couch.
Every so often, the left side of his vision flashed. His eye was somewhere out there in the darkness. It was coming back online but was too far away to transmit reliably.
Some motion caught his attention. Matt shut his right eye and strained to make out anything.
What was that shadow?
The image updated and now the shadow was closer. It was a pair of legs. The pair of legs was wearing jeans, slightly rolled up at the base. The pair of legs stood on woolen lounging shoes.
Then the image refreshed again and Matt was face to face at an unfamiliar bearded man. The man seemed to be kneeling down to look into Matt’s eye. The man had a puzzled look.
Another, and now Matt was looking at the front of a phone.
Another, and he was in the air. An arm holding a phone dangled in space before him. The man was taking a selfie with Matt’s eye.
Another, a blur of sidewalk in the night.
Another, the same.
And then the update started coming less frequently.
And soon they stopped all together.
Matt sat there in disbelief. Someone had just kidnapped his eye! He thought of calling the police, but what could he possibly tell them?
The longer he sat there the more he worried. His mind raced. Were eyeballs replaceable? How would you even connect a new eyeball up to your brain? And what about that man? What if he tried to ransom Matt’s eye off, or sell it to the highest bidder on some black market?
What does he want with my eye? Matt asked himself aloud.
And while losing his eye forever was a bad enough prospect, then Matt considered just how much worse things could be. What if the stolen eye started seeing again? Who knows what sort of depravity Matt would be forced to witness. He imagined looking up from the bottom of a deep well, as a shadowy figure slowly lowered a basket of eyedrops towards him. Matt hugged his remaining eye tight and tried not to think such thoughts.
It was all too much. He needed to distract himself. He took out his tablet and slipped on some headphones. He opened up a few video streaming apps but finally just put on Curb Your Enthusiasm. In the episode, Larry David was trying to hire a prostitute so that he could use the carpool lanes to make it to a baseball game. Matt only half paid attention.
He checked his phone again. Nothing. The left side of his vision was still dark.
He didn’t want to watch anymore. He turned off the screen and closed his eyes.
Yesterday losing your eyes was unimaginable, and today you wake up to find that it has happened—and today she is gone—and now you can’t remember anything else. And as he lay there in the darkness clutching his remaining eye, he tried to remember. And in that moment, he had never missed her more.