American Contemporary

I See Through A Glass Darkly—George Davis

  This bizarre tale began three years ago. It was the strangest occurrence one might experience. I could see through another person’s eyes. No longer was I, Alfred Middleton the bright, witty man I’d known for the last forty years. I became a new person. 

  Pardon me for blowing my own horn. I say all this to help you understand what has happened to me. I was a teacher at Bickford High School for fifteen years, graduating from the University of Maine, magna cum laude. A first-time event in my family’s history going back to our arrival in Maine in the late 1600s. 

  The winters in Maine are cold and dark. The sun goes down around five in the afternoon. I have personally witnessed over thirty winters in my memory, and each one was colder than the former. 

  It was on January 18, 1938, in the small town of Bickford, Maine; Alfred Middleton was born. My father worked in the Cumberland Falls paper mill his entire life. My mother was a homemaker, chef, laundry worker, maid, and adept at sewing, darning, and she made the best chop suey in the entire state of Maine. Chop suey was a staple on cold winter evenings, served with homemade bread and freshly churned butter. I drool just thinking of those vegetables, stewed in tomato sauce, a truly New England favorite repast. 

 I remember one winter; I came down with Scarlet Fever and missed a month from school. I was sick at first, but the doctor passed a quarantine notice on our front door. No one was to enter our home. However, my dad had to go in and out to work, and pay the bills. He would sneak in at night, sleep, get up the next morning, and go off to work at the mill. Mother seldom left the house anyway, so quarantine was not a problem for her. She was a homebody until the day she died, over twenty-five years ago. 

  “Brrr, it’s cold out there,” Nellie Concord, the next-door neighbor said, shaking snow off her black and red, woolen jacket and matching hat. “I haven’t seen a winter like this for forty years. I remember when I was a youngster. I walked in freezing weather with three feet of snow on the ground. And, we didn’t have snow plows either.” Where had I heard that before? My dad has often said the same thing, only with a minor substitution: ‘the snow was up to my waist, and the sleet stung my face for the three miles to school.’ This puts me in mind of the mother’s repeat of an old saying by Sir Walter Scott, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” 

  Mother’s favorite saying was, ‘man’s work is from sun to sun. A woman’s work is never done.’ It was true. My mother worked from six in the morning until she slumped in her rocking chair after doing the supper dishes. She never complained about her duties, as she called them. It was what women did back then. I’ve seen my poor mother come in from hanging clothes on the line outside. Her hands chapped and sore from the bitter cold. She was a strong woman with steel in her veins. 

  A month ago, I was driving into Portland on the turnpike, and as I exited a car going, the wrong way hit my car head-on. I was taken to the medical center. When I woke, two days later, I didn’t remember the accident. Worse than having no memory of the crash was I could not see. 

  “What do you think, doctor? Why can’t I see?” 

  “Don’t worry, Mr. Middleton, just get some rest. We will talk this afternoon.”

  Am I going blind? Will I ever see again? This question kept me from a much-needed rest. You must know one gets little sleep in a hospital. The nurse comes in every half-hour to check on the patient. “Time for your vitals, Mr. Middleton.” She took my temp, and then she gave me a shot in the rump. I swear that needle must be twelve inches long. “Ouch.” 

  “Well, Mr. Middleton,” the doctor said, “I’m sorry to have to tell you, sir. Your eyes are damaged beyond repair. I wish I had better news, Mr. Middleton. There are two choices. One, learn to walk around obstacles or receive donated eyes. It so happens, they came available two hours ago.” 

  “Well, what are we waiting for, Doc? Let’s go. I need eyes. My worst fear all my life was I would go blind. In the book of Job, it says, “For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.” Is this why I am blind? I believe it is. 

  That next morning I was wakened at five-thirty. “Time to get you ready for surgery,” the nurse said. The doctor will begin at eight. Would you like to see the instruments he will use?” 

  “No thanks. I’d rather not.” She smiled and helped me shower and dress in one of those open-ended johnnies. 

  The operation was a success, and a few days later he removed the bandages. The doctor asked,  “What do you see, Mr. Middleton?” 

  “Everything is blurry. I can only see shadows. What the?” 

  “It’s okay, Mr. Middleton. Your eyes will adjust in time. Give it a few hours.” My eyes? Not really. Someone had to die for me to receive my sight. 

  The next morning when I woke. I could see. However, something strange happened. I could see alright, but everything looked strange to me. I supposed it was because I hadn’t seen my room or its environs until now. The doctor came in, took my chart, and sat on the edge of my bed. “Well, Mr. Middleton how are we today?” “You tell me, Doc. How am I?” Where do physicians get this, we stuff? 

  “You’re doing fine, Mr. Middleton, just fine. Everything looks good,” he said. “Let me take one more look at your eyes.” He shined a 1000 watt ray of light into each eye. “Yes, you are doing great. You ought to be out of here in a couple of days.” Actually, it was four days. I don’t know how many days I’d been there, and I didn’t ask. It was all a blur. I thank God, I can see. 

  Over the next few months, strange things begin to happen. I would see strangers that would stop and stare at me, and I had no idea why. Could they see these weren’t my own eyes? Did I look like a freak or something? I looked in the mirror at home. It was the same old I, with a new pair of peepers.

  I didn’t discover why they kept looking at me as if they knew me until I found an old newspaper. I hadn’t read much since I got home. I guess I thought I would wear out my eyes. The headlines on this old newsprint read: Sally Trent, movie star died today in a violent auto accident. Her MG hit a telephone pole totaling her small vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene. At her request, she was an organ donor.

  So that’s it. I have a movie star’s eyes. She is—was the most recognizable star in Hollywood. She was everyone’s favorite film personality. How would this affect me? Would people continue to stare? I have turned into an art connoisseur. I spent most of my time at the local art museum. I had no idea why, until I researched my donor’s bio. She was an art collector and an authority on Dutch paintings. That’s not all. I began to have a taste for lobster, something I abhorred before. I couldn’t stand those little sea spiders that looked at you while you ate them. Even so, now I crave the taste. It must be it was one of Sally’s favorite dishes. I eat out three times a week. I usually eat at the Wayfarer Diner; it’s cheaper. However, lately, I have been dining at the Bickford Inn where their specialty is lobster newburg. I can’t seem to get enough of those spiny crustaceans. 

  Also, since my eye transplant, I have become an opera fan. Before, I hated anything but Country Music. Now, I have purchased three CDs featuring Lauritz Melchoir the Danish tenor. 

  If I had to condense my feelings about this new life. I would say, it is a blessing, and I thank Sally Trent for my makeover. 

  Someone once said, ‘Eyes are the mirror to the soul.’

August 03, 2021 12:22

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