the girl with one sad eye
by j peter roth
Then there was the girl with one sad eye.
She came into the coffee shop one day a while ago and smiled at me. So I smiled back. She was wearing sunglasses then. She seemed nice, sweet and safe but not too attractive. The kind I was comfortable with during a coffee shop transaction. When she took her shades off, I noticed the one sad eye. The lower corner of her right eye was tugged down a little. A little patch of skin there was disrupted, then smoothed over.
I donâ€™t think I really looked directly at it. I only felt her awareness of it.
She ordered a medium coffee. I turned, and then I saw myself softly kissing her eyesâ€”the sad one, then the other. I knew this would hurt her, and I felt ashamed that this image wedged its way into my brain.
I remember the sun hanging in the sky low and orange that afternoon. It felt like early fall, but it was late April.
Her eyes would not hold steady. They floated aimlessly about. This troubled our exchange. I said, â€œThank you,â€ that was all.
Afterwards, I went over to Sissy. â€œWhat if I had an eye injury and I looked like this?â€ I tugged at the corner. â€œWould you have talked to me ever?â€ I was half joking.
â€œHm,â€ she said, looking askance.
â€œShe felt me sensing her eye. And I couldnâ€™t say anything.â€
â€œI donâ€™t get it. Who.â€
â€œThat girl had one sad eye. Didnâ€™t you see it? Whyâ€™d I have to let it be weird like that?â€
Sissy sighed, â€œWhat. You want me to chase her down, so you can hug her and hold her and tell her itâ€™s all right? Is that it?â€
. . .
A few days later, and there she was, the girl with one sad eye, shopping for apples at the grocery. She was putting the best ones gently into a plastic bag. I watched her for a little while as she made her decisions. We both knew we shouldnâ€™t speak, not after the coffee shop, not without her sunglasses on.
I told Sissy about this when I got to my apartment. Sissy was sweet and said nothing until I finished, only nodded while she balanced her checkbook. She said finally, â€œItâ€™s no accident she wonâ€™t hide herself. She gets your immediate sympathy.â€ I couldnâ€™t tell how she intended this to be taken.
I hoped to see the girl the next day. But I wouldnâ€™t. I wouldnâ€™t see her for almost two more weeks. When she came into the coffee shop again, I noticed her face was wet with rain. â€œI didnâ€™t notice it started to rain,â€ I said.
She was very content with this. â€œIt started a few minutes ago.â€ As she got her money I looked at her damp cheeks and her light freckles. She felt this. I sensed it. I kept looking as she put the change in my hand. She said, â€œThank you,â€ looked up and smiled.
I walked to the back, to the restroom. I stood in front of the mirror and stared into my own eyes. They had dark circles around them. I looked at them longer until I saw an asymmetry to my eyebrows, my jagged eyelashes, until I saw the tiny lines already forming in the corners and underneath. Then standing there a few seconds longer, this all blurred together. I noticed for the first time my eyes were ugly.
the girl with one sad eye