Her eyes were in the back of her head.
Shame, people said, she could have been really pretty. Soft jet-black hair, rosy lips, porcelain skin. Shame, they whispered, staring at her with their eyes placed just above their noses, in the front of their bodies, the way it’s supposed to be.
How could they not stare? Her delicate, perfectly shaped features—chin, lips, nose, ears—were completely eclipsed by the bizarre absence of eyes. The space above her nose was a stretch of smooth, blank skin. Her hair was long in front but very short in the back so she could see. She liked to call this a reverse mullet, but no one laughed at this. Maybe you had to have your eyes in the back of your head to see the humor.
She worked as an assistant for her ophthalmologist mother. Every time she greeted a patient, she could see their shock at the irony: what’s this eye-freak working for an ophthalmologist? She would see the relief on their faces: they only had to come in for a case of conjunctivitis, whereas she needed to walk backwards to see where she was headed.
The patients always gave her an especially wide smile before leaving, which she supposed was their way of thanking the karmic gods that the worst they had to deal with was early onset of glaucoma. Her relationships with patients were based on the mutual feeling that one had it better than the other: they thought they were lucky to have their eyes in front; meanwhile, she felt luckier that her eyes, while having an abnormal place on her body, were healthy and disease-free.
She didn’t mind this at all. On the contrary, she reveled in it; she thought that if her condition made somebody feel better about himself, then having her eyes at the back of her head wasn’t too bad.
People often asked her silly questions. Could she read minds? No, she couldn’t. Could she see through walls? Into the future? Can you please close your eyes and try to find my nephew? He ran away, you see. Really, miss, the Lord would not have cursed you with such a horrendous condition if He had not intended for you to use it for the good of others, a cantankerous sexagenarian said disapprovingly when she explained for the nth time, I can’t do that, nope, sorry.
Frustration began to creep into her voice as she said repeatedly, my eyes are nothing special. They’re just like your normal eyes, only they’re in the back of my head.
And all she got were weird, sympathetic stares, dejected shakes of the head, and a pat on the back, all of which she took with good grace even though she was baffled by the attention. Despite what everyone says,she found nothing special or remarkable in herself.
An ex-boyfriend came into the clinic one day. She pretended not to see him, but he saw right through her like he always did and headed straight for her. Often, she thought his eyes were more unusual and special than hers.
Eye drops, please, he stammered.
As she rang up his drops at the register, she remembered how he well loved her, how he explored every inch of her body, how he worshiped every pore of her skin. How he loved her eyes the most. Like everyone else, he stared at her, but in a different way: so intense with love and near-reverence,it burned and overwhelmed her. He kept telling her how special, beautiful, magical she was and she never trusted his wonderful words.
She broke up with him only a few weeks ago and the tension in the clinic was palpable.
She broke the silence tentatively.
So. What happened to your eyes?
Tired eyes. I haven’t been sleeping too well. You’re looking great, though, pumpkin, he said, still using the nickname he gave her when they were together. Out of habit, it seemed, he leaned over to pick a stray lash off her eyelid, and she was silently thankful that she had to face him backwards so he couldn’t see her mouth twitch into half a smile. One thing she remembered quite clearly was how she never had to close her eyes every time they kissed.She kept them wide open, seeing what her lover couldn’t.
She resisted the urge to ask him to stop calling her pumpkin; she figured she didn’t need to remind him that they were broken up. Instead, she handed over the bag and his change, and bade him a good day. He was halfway to the door when he turned around and said, You want me to stopc alling you pumpkin, don’t you?
Her eyes widened in surprise. What? She hated her eyes right then, hated that despite all the mystery that people shroud it in, she felt as transparent as glass when he gave her one of his blazing looks.
He shook his head sadly. I wish you could see what I could. He waved and hurried out of the shop, slouching slightly.
As she stood frozen on the spot, watching him disappear from her sight, she found herself, for the first time, wondering if there was something wrong with her eyes than what she first thought.