I remember his voice being quite deep, not rough but just sounding like it came from a place much further down his body than his throat. He asked about what had happened to my eyes and I told him all about it and they ran some tests and examined the place my eyes used to be and he said that he’d be able to help me. Me and Heather were so happy! I couldn’t wait to see all the things I remembered seeing before, to see if they’d changed or stayed exactly the same, even whether I’d remembered all the colours right, because it’s easy to forget exactly what red and blue look like when you’ve only seen them in your head for ten years. I was so excited at having eyes again, to be able to live a normal life, maybe get a job, talk to people again without them being all sympathetic and awkward with their breathing, and see if the picture I had of Heather was like how she was in real life, whether her eyes were the same colour as they were in my head. We got told I’d have to wait for a donor before I could get new eyes, so we flew back to England, and we waited.
Those days of waiting were really hard. Like I say, I’d managed to get used to not being able to see, but that was because there was no chance I’d ever be able to see again, other than in my own head; but now I was going to be able to, not with my own eyes exactly but I’d be able to see all the things I hadn’t seen for ten years. I was going to be able to see Heather and my friends and my mum and my dog and myself, see the sky and the trees and the sun... We were both so excited, and scared a little, because no-one likes having an operation, and I was scared things wouldn’t look like I remembered them looking, scared that I had forgotten some of the things I’d seen. But I was so excited, I could barely sleep, I just kept hoping for a donor to come along, even though I knew this was basically saying I wanted someone to die so I could have their eyes; but I really did, once or twice, really did wish for someone to die so I could see again...
I didn’t have to wait all that long, really, even if every day I had to wait seemed to last four hours more than it should, long drawn-out hours that seemed to stretch me tight and stop me from breathing properly. The call came; a young man had been killed in a car crash, he’d been speeding and had smashed his car into a tree, apparently, and so... I had my eyes. And me and Heather went to the hospital and they put me in one of those open gowns and sent me to sleep on a cold steel table; and when I woke up, it was done. I couldn’t open my new eyes at first because of the bandage round my face but i could feel them there, feel them filling up what had been empty for so long.
I remember how I felt when the bandage first came off. I could barely open my eyes, they were still swollen and sore from the operation, but I remember the light, the first light I’d seen for more than ten years. It was brighter than I’d remember light being, but then I had been in darkness for a long time, so I guess that was to be expected. I remember the wonder I felt, the kind of simple childish delight in being able to make out shapes, blurred dark ones against the backdrop of white for now, but I’d been told my vision would get better once my body got used to the new eyes. I remember the relief I felt, relief that I could live my life now on my own terms, not needing a dog to guide me round but just my own eyes, my new eyes, the sense of power and independence that surged through me. I remember the pain too, like the nail was being driven through my eyes all over again, pressing agains thte back of my new eyeballs where they’d joined them up to my brain. And I remember the fear, the fear of the new, the fear I wouldn’t like what I could see, the fear that everything would have changed so much in ten years that I wouldn’t know my own world any more. Yeah, the fear, rising up in me, making it so I almost didn’t want to open my eyes any more.
But I did, I did open them and look out at the world again after ten years, and it was amazing. I saw my mum again, for the first time since before I went blind, even; she looked older, her hair was greyer, there were far more lines on her face than I remembered... but I could see her face again, that face I’d seen looking down on me so many times before. That was a beautiful moment, the first time I saw her face again. We both cried, joy I think, relief, yeah, that too, and amazement, because I never thought I’d see again and now I could.
Now I come to think of it, I remember her looking a bit puzzled, a bit put off by my new eyes, but I guess I just put that down to surprise, because my old eyes had been brown and these were green. I know that because I looked in the mirror as soon as I had the chance and my eyes were green, a kind of pale pastel colour, quite light and a bit chalky, I guess you could say. It felt pretty odd, seeing someone else’s eyes on your face. Hell, it felt quite odd to see your face ten years older than when you’d last seen it. But it felt good, too.
It was strange, seeing light where before there’d only been darkness. It was painful at first, while my body healed from the operation and accepted the new eyes. But eventually that pain stopped, and I got used to seeing things again, used to the way everything seemed a little darker than when I was 18; I put it down to age, and to the way hospitals always seem to suck the whiteness out of everything and make every surface seem somehow grey... It felt strange, as well, that the images were coming from a different place now, from a few inches of my head rather than from points all over my body, from outside rather than in, so that whilst I could see everything, it all seemed shallower than it had been before, like pictures painted on canvas rather than pictures painted in my mind. I expected it would be a little strange, though, seeing again, and so I didn’t get too worried, just put it down to my body needing to adjust and work out what it was doing with this new sense it had been given.
Even more than my mum, the person I wanted to see most was Heather. I was so scared to see her, it was like a fist had clenched inside my chest, and I was so excited at the same time, knowing that I’d finally know if the picture I’d built of her from her smell and her touch and her taste was how she looked to my sight...I remember exactly the moment that I first saw her, first laid my new eyes on her. She wasn’t exactly like the picture in my head. Her hair was a bit lighter, her eyes a bit darker, not like leaves but like stagnant water in an old forgotten pool, and her face didn’t seem as round s I’d thought, didn’t seem so smooth… But if I looked hesitant, surprised, I don’t think she noticed, because she threw her arms around me and said she was so happy I was back and did it hurt and was I OK and we both cried a bit, which felt strange because I hadn’t cried for a long time, hadn’t been able to, and the hotness and the wetness hurt my new eyes a little; and seeing her cry meant all the other stuff didn’t matter because it was the worst thing I’d ever seen and I wanted it to stop and it had to stop and I was so, so glad when she buried her head in my chest and I couldn’t see the tears any more. And I looked down at her hair instead, the hair on the top of her head, and saw that it went a bit darker as it neared her skull and that made me feel odd, kind of disjointed, because I’d always imagined it to be one colour and now it looked like two and neither of them were like I thought her hair should be.
It was OK, though, because I knew that not everything would be exactly right and anyway it wasn’t as if I could complain about seeing my girlfriend for the first time in my life and it wasn’t like she’d changed, you know? Except… Except that, after we’d gone back home and started life again, and I started looking for a job and watching the television and I didn’t need my dog to lead me anymore because I could do it myself… Things didn’t seem right any more. I tried to read but the letters didn’t seem right, black against white not blue against black; and none of the colours I saw were quite how I remembered them, greens were always a bit darker and reds deeper and blues were always light and weak-looking, somehow, as if blue wasn’t a colour itself but a draining away of colour, the last stage before a colour faded into black… And Heather was different as well. She didn’t look how I’d imagined and she stopped sounding like I remembered, she stopped being kind in her voice and she started to feel more rough and started to feel less soft…
I started to hate seeing her, started to hate the way that I kept seeing new things about her that I hadn’t been able to see before, to see the tired lines around her eyes and the scorn that sometimes appeared on her face and the tiny blemishes on her skin, the brown marks on the white, reminders that she wasn’t stainless or pure and that when I saw her every time she changed as I noticed someone different until she wasn’t even really Heather any more, she was someone else, someone completely different to the Heather I’d known and seen in my head, because now I could see her outside my head and it was all wrong, all of it.
I started to think that the operation had gone wrong somehow, because surely sight should be something wonderful, something magical, something that you gain because otherwise they wouldn’t describe blindness as “lack” of sight but as an escape from it. And this sight felt terrible, like I was looking at everything through dark green glass, and it was only getting worse as time went on, as I saw more things and each thing I saw tore away the image I had of it and replaced it with this dark, flat drawing, just a shadow of what it used to be to me...
So I called the doctor in New York, the one who’d perfected the eye transplant, but I couldn’t get hold of him, not even his office or his secretary; the number just didn’t work at all. This didn’t make me feel much better, I’ll admit; and after I searched round on the Internet and in a couple of magazines, forcing the letters into my brain however wrong they looked, I found out that the doctor had disappeared off the face of the earth, just vanished like he had never been there in the first place, nobody knew where he was. And almost all of the people who’d had this transplant had started going mad, done things like throw themselves off bridges or run onto train tracks. One man in Houston had even killed his girlfriend three months after he’d had the operation, just taken a knife and stabbed her and then, more horrible, cut off her face and burnt it... And he’d told the police, when they came to him with his hands still covered in blood, that he’d done it because “She looked wrong”, that was the phrase he kept repeating, “she looked wrong”, and he’d thought she wasn’t his girlfriend but some kind of shapeshifter who’d taken on the appearance of her face and got it slightly wrong, that’s why he’d taken off her face, so he could see the shapeshifter underneath... And just after I’d read this, tears still wet on my cheeks, Heather came in and I looked at her and I realised that she looked wrong, she didn’t look like the Heather I knew before I had my new eyes and she was still changing, she was still getting darker every day...
I couldn’t let it get to that stage, I just couldn’t. To think I might end up killing Heather because my new eyes had made me see her differently, or maybe see her how she really was... I couldn’t do that, I just couldn’t, and even thinking about it made the tears flow again, crying so hard that my still-healing eyes started to bleed a little and the tears came out pink-red instead of clear... I didn’t tell her what was wrong, just told her I was finding being able to see again was overwhelming, which wasn’t a lie, but I knew I had to do something.
I didn’t sleep that night. I left Heather sleeping in our bed while I went downstairs and sat in the dark silence, thinking about what I should do, how I should stop myself doing anything stupid. I couldn’t understand why anyone would hurt someone they loved, why that man had stabbed his girlfriend; the only thing he’d been able to say that was coherent was that she looked wrong... And the others, that had committed suicide or gone mad, all of them... The only thing they had in common was this operation, was that they had been blind and now they saw... And they’d all decided they didn’t want to see any more, and I realised that nor did I, I didn’t want to see any more because everything I saw looked wrong and was wrong, as if by the very act of looking at something was making it warp and change and become something flatter and darker than it really was, than it had been behind my eyes... And that was the answer. The eyes. Everything had gone wrong since I’d had these new eyes, these eyes that weren’t my own, these eyes that should have been left closed on the body of that young man in the car crash and never opened again.
I could make sure they never opened again. I could make sure I never had to see again, even if as I thought that the darkness around me started to turn green as if someone had turned on night-vision goggles and I was looking through them now. I realised, now, that I was far happier being blind, far happier lacing vision than having the sight of so much that was wrong in the world displayed before me and knowing that looking at it and doing nothing to change it was making it worse.
So I went into the kitchen and I opened a draw and took out a knife, and I placed it against my left eye and I pushed so that I felt the blade penetrate, and flicked my hand and felt my eyeball detach and fall onto the floor, and then I did the same with my other eye and now I was weeping blood, pure red blood that pooled around me on the floor and felt thick and sticky on my hands as I knelt in the middle of it. And I didn’t make a sound, I just knelt there, still gripping the kitchen knife, with the pool spreading around me and the liquid pouring slowly down my face and dripping from my mouth and chin. And in the morning Heather came downstairs and found me and I heard her scream and felt her arm around me and heard her ragged breath and sobs as she saw what I’d done to myself and I smiled, because I couldn’t see her anymore and that meant that her image, the deeper image of her touch and sound and smell... that image would last forever, unsullied by the time that can only be glimpsed by prying eyes.