Issue 53

I Only Have Eyes For You


                Anxiety fills the house: this morning Rebecca goes in for her operation.

                I don’t know why my palms are so sweaty.  Women, I have recently learned, have been undergoing this procedure for thousands of generations.

                “I remember when they put mine in,” says Rebecca’s mother, her face aglow with pride.  She has driven down special to be with Rebecca when they put her under.  “Although in my day we didn’t get to pick the color.”  She turns her head and pulls back her hair.  I still can’t believe what I see: two bright eyes staring at me from the back of her head.  “The idiot doctor,” she adds.  “He gave me one blue eye and one green eye.”

                It all started a month ago during Skylar’s 12-month visit with his pediatrician, Dr. Boynton.  She asked Rebecca if she had scheduled her operation yet.

                “What operation?” I asked.

                Dr. Boynton smiled gently, as if she had had to break this news to hundreds of fathers before me.

                “For her extra eyes,” the good doctor said tenderly.  “Every mother needs eyes in the back of her head.  How else do you think you survived your childhood?”

                Her revelation held a mixture of shock, terror, and satisfaction for me.  I can remember the eyes in the back of my own mother’s head quite clearly, although I always had a doubt as to whether I truly saw them or not.  Mother’s aren’t supposed to let their children see the eyes for more than a disconcerting moment. I remember the first time I saw them.  My mother had made me really mad.  As she turned away, I stuck my tongue out at her.

                “Put your tongue back in your mouth,” she said.

                In shock, I obeyed her.  But then I stayed up all night trying to figure out how she knew.  I took to spying on my mother.  I’d play in the same room with her and then become very quiet, which always made her nervous.  I’d sit motionless, staring at the back of her head.  And then I’d see them open, briefly, as she checked on me.  Then they’d be gone again, so fast I had to wonder if I’d really seen them or not.  Now I knew that I’d been right all along.

                “We usually recommend mothers graft on the extra eyes around the first year, when you really start to need them,” Dr. Boynton had advised us.  She held Skylar up in the air, and he squirmed, arching his back.  She smiled, proud of this little man whose health she monitors.  “He’s going to be a handful.  You might want to consider getting extrasensory ear implants while you’re at it.  Insurance covers the eyes but you’ll have to pay for the ears yourself.  It doesn’t cost all that much more if you have it done while they’ve already got you down for the eyes.”

                Dr. Boynton handed us a glossy brochure.  I flipped through several pages filled with colorful eye options, everything from an eerie “Beguiling Blue” to terrifying “Wrathful Red.”  There was even a whole page of animal pupils to really freak out children.  I quickly skipped past the section describing how mothers could elongate their arms or add extra fingers “for when you really need another hand.”  I finally reached the part that described the various “Super-Directional Hearing” enhancements available.  This explained a lot to me, like how my mother knew when I would sneak off to the other side of the house to get into trouble.  Somehow she would always be right there as I was about to set the house on fire or turn the hose on in my bedroom.  Of course.  She heard me.  She heard everything.

                Another one of life’s mysteries, solved.

                I study Rebecca’s face as we sit in the pre-op room.  She is calm, ready.  It’s as if she knew instinctually that this day would come.  I look around the waiting room.  Two other couples are with us.  And, like me, the other fathers are nervous.

                An orderly steps into the room and calls out, “Rebecca?”

                “I’ve got to go,” Rebecca says, standing.  She kisses me tenderly on the cheek and Skylar on the forehead. “I’ll be all right,” she says, noticing how edgy I am.

                I watch as she and her mother follow the orderly through the swinging doors.  In a sudden panic I call out.

                “Do you promise you won’t use them on me?” I ask her, finally voicing my greatest fear.

                Rebecca smiles.  She answers but the doors swing closed and I can’t hear her.  Then she is gone.

                I hug Skylar a little tighter as we begin what already seems like an endless wait.  He has no idea how our lives are about to change.


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