I keep a glass eye with me at all times.
Inside my pocket, it is smooth and cool, even in summer. If I wrap my hand around it, the chill will stream into my veins, through my body. It can be better than air-conditioning. But only in comparison to a rackety window unit in a low-budget hotel.
I found the eye in a room at that sort of hotel. On the nightstand, caught in an ashtray that told me to “See Rock City.” I was so distracted by the eye, I never did make the trip.
At first, I thought it was an odd sort of marble. I almost dropped it when I recognized the iris. Who would leave an eye behind?
The hotel room had two beds. For fun, I rolled the eye across the yellowed chenille spread covering the bed that I’d put my suitcase on. It was like watching one of those cryptic animations from the twenties—in this one, the main character would be a rolling eyeball. Whenever it stopped, it would break through the fourth wall and tell the audience something important. I could never predict when this eye would stop rolling and look right at me. But I liked when it happened. I felt like I was in on something.
I know, I know, I should have gone to the front desk. Turned it in. But I just couldn’t bring myself to ask the clerk if anybody had come in asking about an eye. I worried about how it would look.
Now, when I feel myself become nervous or unstable, I reach for the eye. It’s my anchor, my talisman. Surrounded by my fingers, it’s cold and hard in the nest of my fist. Like brass knuckles, but reversed. I clutch the eye. I breathe. I strengthen. I focus.
It’s possible this was no one’s eye—meant instead for a mannequin or marionette. I’m not sure the eyes they fashion for humans are so perfectly round. But I know it was created to fill a particular space, to settle into an empty socket where something else might have been.
The eye remains hidden, trapped in my darkness. This is what it has come to. This is what works for me.