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The Optician.

Fortnightly Fiction.

By CECILIA EUDAVE.

Translated by Toshiya Kamei

YEARS AGO, I became passionate about being stared at. Early in my career, I had a private practice. One day I received a peculiar patient, whom I will call B to protect his anonymity. His enormous, clear eyes glared at me. I will also refrain from specifying his eye color to keep him anonymous.

“Something’s wrong with my eyes,” he said, his voice trailing off. He remained silent for a few seconds, gazing at me as if he didn’t want to continue.

“What’s wrong with your eyes?” I asked, breaking free of his gaze and prompting him out of that state.

“I see one thing with my right eye and another with my left eye,” he replied gloomily.

“Mmm. Tell me more.”

“My right eye sees what you’re doing right now—consulting with me. But my left eye follows someone else who is many kilometers from here.”

I was speechless. How can an eye observe another person without being physically there? No doubt, my patient was mentally disturbed. But with the open-mindedness afforded by my youth and my desire to keep my first clientele, I hid my disbelief.

“Don’t worry, sir,” I managed to assure him with amazing confidence. “We’ll get to the bottom of your problem.”

Bewildered, I held my penlight and examined his eyes. B’s irises showed various visual functions. In his right eye, the accurate images accumulated, along with the images B selected from all that universe of vision. His right eye saw the present, the normal, everyday actions. It allowed him to move around the world, to see others as they looked at him and ignored him, feared and desired him, approached and moved away, analyzed and discerned him. With his right eye, B led his daily life. He could close it and draw the memories of the immediate images, the ones his optic nerve had just recycled in his brain.

But his left eye! There problems intensified. That eye was a rebel, an anarchist of vision. A deserter of good habits, normality. That eye was a son of madness. There I didn’t see my reflection, the light of the penlight, or the surroundings of my office. There, that eye flashed other images.

“Why?” I asked with a sigh after examining him with great care. “Why doesn’t it look at what it should look at, like any other eye?”

“Because it’s in love with a woman.”

You might have expected a more disturbing or less ordinary response, more aligned with a national security project. Perhaps you even imagined demonic possession or sorcery. Perhaps the emergence of a new virus, or the onset of madness. A mutation? Or a genetic advance that awaits us all. But no, his left eye was simply in love.

“Tell me,” I said, fighting to suppress the slight tremor in my voice.

As B talked, I took out a small tape recorder from my desk drawer and held it before him. That peculiarity piqued my scientific interest.

My left eye could no longer be separated from her. If I looked one way, my left eye looked the other way. My eye followed her like a sunflower follows the sun…

“I wish I’d never met her, but I did. The thing is, cruel fate befalls all of us. She was there as if she belonged there, without my knowing why. As you know, sentimental ignorance is the worst form of ignorance. I didn’t immediately notice that chain of affection. My left eye could no longer be separated from her. If I looked one way, my left eye looked the other way. My eye followed her like a sunflower follows the sun. Thus, she monopolized my visual field, distorting the contours of my surroundings. Strabismus, I thought. I’m cross-eyed. I went straight to an eye doctor. The first one found nothing wrong with me. He prescribed artificial tear drops for dry eyes and sent me home.

“With that brief reassurance, I lay down on the bed. I tried to close my eyes, but only my right eye obeyed. No matter how hard I tried to lower my left eyelid, it didn’t budge. A burning sensation ran through my pupils, and she appeared in my vision. She looked so real. She approached me menacingly. Her image penetrated my left eye violently and troubled my nerves, strength, and equilibrium. Then a painful fever seized me, a fever of thought. I only thought about her. I only saw her. My left eye suffered a severe inflammation. It turned blood-red. My vision became increasingly blurry. Then the images became clearer and my right eye returned to normal, but my left one retained an image: that of the woman. She was there, pale and deserted like a rolling dune in my dilated pupil, wearing high-heeled shoes. I saw a second eye doctor

‘Avoid any activity that may strain your eyes,’ he advised me, and completely ignored my story. He paid attention only when I told him I felt as if I had a pebble in my tear duct.

‘Something got into my eye. It hurts,’ I said. He grabbed his penlight and explored my eye.

‘Yes, I do see something,’ he said, and reached for a pair of small tweezers. With much difficulty, he pulled out a tiny high-heeled shoe from my tear duct. He gazed at it under his magnifying glass. Still confused, he added, ‘They now make them so tiny. There isn’t much risk for your eyes.’ I asked him to hand it to me and left the clinic, dismayed.

B paused and scratched his left eye. Then he brought his handkerchief to his tear duct and squeezed it tightly. He looked at it and showed me the contents.

“Well, this time it’s an ashtray. She smokes like a chimney.”

Stunned, I squinted and placed the miniature ashtray in my palm to give it a closer look. B continued the story while I was almost out of breath.

“But shedding little objects wasn’t a problem. At first, yes. The inflammation bothered me a lot, but I learned to remove them in time and the pain was brief. What really bothers me is that my left eye only sees her. It follows her everywhere, as if it were stalking her everywhere. From here to there my eye watches her. From the moment she gets up until she goes to bed. We, my eye and I, know her habits, her tours of the city, her weaknesses, her preferences, her afflictions, her perversions, her hates and her predilections. Everything appears before my left eye as I stare at the ceiling of my room. I am a voyeur and I am ashamed to observe someone’s life as if I were in front of a screen. I tried to close my eye, to draw a veil over that reality that was not mine. However, my left eye ignores anything I do and still looks. She’s also a fetishist, which is why she cries over small objects, steals them. Don’t look at me like that, I think she looks at them so intently that she draws them to herself and then cries. I don’t know how she does it. It’s her secret. So far, I’ve fished out shoes, rings, earrings, stockings, blouses, feathers, plates, spoons, sheets, photographs, lingerie. My left eye cries for her and for me. Because I too have fallen for her. After following her for so long, I lost my heart to her.

B fell back into silence, his gaze lost in a corner of the room while I examined those strange and crystalline eyes. He sighed and continued his story.

“After much thought, I decided to get closer to her, because I would lose my mind if I didn’t hold her in my arms. I bumped into her at a party. There she was. For the first time both eyes saw the same thing, except when she disappeared from my field of vision. Then my left eye tagged along with her like a bodyguard. She spotted me among the crowd, met my gaze, and flashed a smile of recognition at me. She greeted me from afar like I was an old acquaintance, someone she met every day. I felt as if I were so present in her life that she was no longer excited to see me, that she didn’t miss me in the way I missed her. I longed to be with her so much that I didn’t know how to behave in her vicinity. I was sad. My feelings wavered as my damn left eye kept seeing her everywhere. After several drinks, I mustered the courage to face her. I needed to chat with her. I wanted her to hear me out. I knew her voice, her smile, her movements, but she knew nothing about me.”

B’s left eye reddened and moistened, betraying his serene face, the fortitude of his will, and his desire to continue his story. He asked me to close the blinds a little as the light was hurting him.

“At last a chance combination of circumstances threw us alone together.” He swallowed his saliva and continued. “She flashed me that smile I knew by heart.

‘I know you better than anybody,’ I said.

‘I know,’ she answered. ‘You can take whatever objects you want. You can ogle me whenever you want. But you will never be able to touch me. That’s how your eye and I want it. Besides, you’re not the only one.’ She turned around, grabbed her purse, and left. My left eye followed her. Anxious sensations filled my body.

B leapt up. “I want my eye removed,” he said with great determination.

He said he took many detours before coming to me. Every doctor refused to remove his healthy eye, suggesting that B needed a different kind of treatment.

“But you’ve seen how I shed objects from my eye. That’s the only thing I can touch in this torturous relationship.”

I agreed to remove his eye. Admittedly, I wanted to keep it, dissect it, and study it to find the cause of the phenomenon. B agreed to donate his eye to me if I operated on it right away. The procedure went smoothly. The eye didn’t put up a fight. It came out of his eye socket without any resistance. I kept it and studied it to exhaustion. I didn’t find anything remarkable about it. It was just an ordinary eye, organically perfect. I swallowed my disappointment because science is like this—dead accurate when faced with facts.

I kept seeing B until his wound healed. He was calm. His spirits gradually grew stronger. He had fully recovered from his operation.

“Are you sure removing the eye was the best solution?” I asked when I last saw him, before he left for good. “Don’t you sometimes miss those images, the unusual peculiarity of your nature?”

“Yes, but there’s more to life than meets the eye . . .”


Cecilia Eudave is a Mexican fiction writer, essayist, and scholar based in Guadalajara. She has authored numerous books, most recently the short story collection Microcolapsos (2017). Her work has been widely anthologized and translated into English, Japanese, and Korean.

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His recent translations have appeared in Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Samovar.

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adolfo weber
adolfo weber
9 days ago

Really love her work! its a pleasure to read you in english and see that it doesn’t lose the humor!

silvia rielo botella
silvia rielo botella
11 days ago

Cecilia Eudave shares the true gift of storytelling with all the masters of the Unexpected and the Unsual. Witty and with a sense of lighthearted humour too. Good tale and good translation. It flows smoothly, without a hitch. . It brought Borges and Wells to mind somehow.

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