Imagine a world in which removing your lover’s eye is normal.
You don’t come from this world, but at a house party in New Jersey, in an apartment across the street from an A & P, you meet someone who does. You’re sitting on someone’s bed, half-drunk and navigating a potential threesome, when they walk in, sunglasses on indoors at 11pm, holding a bottle of beer in a way that judges you.
You get up from the bed and follow them as they snicker their way down the hall, laughing at the idiots you laugh at, and all their idiot ways. You’re already connected in the story you’re telling yourself.
At 3am, you’re eating chicken fingers and fries at a local diner. This is New Jersey, where diners are actually diners and are open all night. Diners are the settings for reunions, for planning crimes, and for falling in love. They require all 24 hours.
You’re beyond playing coy, and you share that slice of cheesecake while you each sip at burnt coffee. They tell you about the world they come from. The gods they believe in. The music they dance to. How they love.
You want to live together.
They move in with you, into a small garden apartment on a border town that feels like it is always somehow existing half in the present and half in your childhood. They drink beer each night. You pretend to like it, but always switch back to whiskey after the first lager.
You laugh at the same jokes.
You cry together when the cat dies.
You have an episode and try to kill yourself, but they stay by your side.
They cheat and lie about it. They never come clean, but you forgive them anyway.
Your first love shows up and you spend a day feeling things you haven’t since your youth. You come clean and they hit you.
You work through it.
Your lease will be up for the third time soon, and you drink too much blackberry brandy to celebrate. On the sofa, a movie plays that reminds you of that first love, but they don’t know it and try to quote lines with you. You don’t “act” tired, but you certainly embrace it. They cradle your head and they think of the years to come, of loving you, and your adventures. They tilt your head back and brush your hair behind your ear. “Give me your eye,” they say. But you refuse. Its late, and you’re nauseous from that sugary brandy. You kiss their head, stumble down the hall, and topple into bed.
You wake up to pressure above your cheekbone. They say, “I love you,” as they press deeper into your orbital socket. You’re still drunk. You’re not entirely sure this is real. You want it to stop. But they’ve taken your eye before, and you’ve always been able to see in the morning. They finish, kissing the goo near your optic nerve. You fall back asleep.
In the morning, your head hurts and your vision is blurry, but as usual, you can technically see. They’ve made breakfast. They smile. They took some bacon off early because, though they like it crispy, they know you love it a little chewy.
A few days go by, and your vision doesn’t fully restore. It never will. They’re talking about a vacation to Paris, but you can’t concentrate. They don’t understand.
You become cold in their narrative, though they can’t be certain why. They just know you’re selfish. You call your old love, though you promised you never would again, and give them your eye, but it doesn’t fix anything. It’s starting to go color blind now.
The pain becomes rain inside of you. Quietly. Not like a storm over Miami, but like a dull mist within San Francisco that never lets up. Give it long enough, and it’ll flood the fucking city.
You never, ever say anything, even on the last day as they angrily carry boxes to their mother’s car. You read on the sofa and pretend this is just the way of things. Before they slam the door behind them, on you, on the potential life together, on the truth, they say, “I hope you go blind.”
Years later, you’re drunk at a bar in Wichita and the bartender touches you in an assuming way. It happens here, from time to time, but this time was different. You consider murder, knowing you’d get away with it. Instead, you stumble home and think about calling them, after all this time, to tell them what they did to you.
“Aren’t I responsible,” you wonder, “for teaching them that what they did was wrong?” You dial every digit but the last, then throw your phone against a wall. You pour yourself a whiskey and put on a movie that reminds you of simpler times. You watch with both eyes, though it doesn’t look the same as you remember.
Robin Sinclair (they/them) is a queer, trans writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Their work can be found in various journals, including Trampset, Luna Luna Magazine, and Across The Margin. Find Robin at RobinSinclairBooks.com