Eyes That See

A <1000 word short story by Judy Clothier
Honorable Mention in IFW short story contest

Blind since birth, Daryll Jacobs gripped the back of a chair, struggling with the shock of what she saw. A brilliant sky spread partway over the city street and crashed into a wall of darkness that could only be the clouds hiding the sun’s warmth—as if sun and clouds battled for ownership of the sky. Then a disorienting lurch as the focus turned toward the street with its colorful cars and people. Her mind filled in familiar city noises and she could almost smell the roasting meats of a nearby deli as she took in the dizzying scene.

But it wasn’t her eyes that were seeing.

Daryll was home.

Not an hour before, she and her young helper had been cleaning out the old dresser. Bobby had asked about something he’d found.

“Those are my glasses,” she’d said.

She could practically feel his confusion. “Your…glasses? But why would you…? I thought you were…”

She gave an exasperated growl. “They’re not for seeing, foolish boy. They’re for covering up. Covering up my ugly, useless eyes.”

“Oh,” he breathed.

She’d worn them through the tumultuous years of secondary school and her brief attempt at living in the “real world.” She’d worn them for the comfort of others. She’d not been the one aware of blind eyes staring off in random directions, never both in the same direction at once.

She’d hated those glasses.

“…nice eyes.”

She realized Bobby had been talking. She had no idea what “nice eyes” he was referring to, but certainly not hers. “Just toss them with the rest of the junk,” she snapped.

“Yes ma’am, Miss Daryll.”

Shortly after, Bobby left to take the box of dresser junk to a nearby antique store.

That’s when her world went sideways and topsy turvy. Piecing together what she…she saw!…she realized that he must have put her old glasses on. She was seeing through his eyes and her glasses. It had taken several minutes of nauseating, undefined lights, colors, shapes and textures for her brain to begin to sort them into recognizable forms.

After a moment’s pause, Bobby was moving again. The world blurred and Daryll fought off waves of dizziness. She couldn’t wait for him to return so she could demand that he LOOK at the world for her. Then she realized his workday was over; he was supposed to be going home. Fear filled her. He would walk away with her glasses. She’d never see him again. She’d be trapped into seeing only what he happened to be looking at. What if he took the glasses off? Would she be plunged back into the eternal void of her blindness? She had to reach him, tell him, plead with him to help her see the world.

With heart racing like a young girl in love, she hurried to the front door and threw it open. She hadn’t been over that threshold in years, but she’d grown up on these streets and still knew them well. Grabbing an old cane from the umbrella stand but ignoring the bareness of her feet, she stepped out onto her stoop and carefully down the stairs to the sidewalk.

Nausea, excitement, hope, and terror danced within her. She could see—but she could not see what was in front of her. She moved one way—but her vision showed her something different. It was only her desperation to reach Bobby that kept her going through the disorienting turmoil. She thought she knew the direction he’d gone. She could intercept him before he passed her street and headed for his own home.

At an intersection, she paused, hand braced on the crosswalk post, in part to stay oriented properly, in part to keep her balance as mind and body warred with each other over perception.

And then she saw him crossing the street. No…she didn’t see him. He saw her. She saw herself standing on the corner. Bobby stopped the instant he spotted her, obviously astonished to see her out of the house.

She might have called out to him, but she was too caught up in what she saw through his eyes. A woman with pale skin and wavy hair a few shades lighter than the clouds gathering above. A modest cotton dress of no particular color or pattern blew around her slight figure as the wind picked up. But it wasn’t just the physical form his look showed her. She saw herself through his eyes. She saw strength and endurance, loyalty and steadfast integrity. She saw wisdom and compassion and a dry humor that tested his wits and warmed his heart when she dared to let it flash out. Who was this person she was seeing? Surely not bitter, old Daryll Jacobs.

Beside her, the crosswalk post began to chime its warning. She paid it no mind.

Rain began to patter down around her. Cold, wet plops on her shoulders and forehead. She paid it no mind.

Bobby stared at her with alarm, concern, and love. When was the last time anyone had loved her? Almost forty years, since her parents had died. How could she be all that to this pesky young man? It was at least as mysterious and thrilling as the visions of the world now filling her mind.

The crosswalk chime changed tones.

Tires screeched. Someone screamed.

A horrible thudding sound came with the sudden wrenching of her new vision. The world spun around her.

A void of nothingness fell over her eyes once more, but not before she caught one last glimpse…one last vision…of dark, round glasses coming to rest on a rain-slicked street.