“Smokey the Bear must have been gay,” I say, rolling her eye around in my palm thoughtfully. She’s asked me to hold onto it, for safekeeping, until we get to the house and she can clean it. Finally, I wedge it into page 119 of The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts so that I won’t lose my place, or her eye, before we leave.
It’s a beautiful day at the river, the water a perfect green crystal nestled between the sandy banks, our bodies like inclusions trailing temporary vortexes of instability and bubbles when we slide in.
I am eating apricots, halving them with one hand and popping the pits out to dessicate beside me on the sand, holding my book with the other hand while the sweet juice runs down my face. The sun is warm on my back and I kick my legs idly in the air while I muster up the will to move and get back into the water.
When she dives in, her eye pops out like a champagne cork and skips twice across the water before slipping below like a sinking ship. I hear a muffled exclamation under the water and she surfaces, water streaming obscenely from the hole in her face.
“Ow,” she says, placidly. “Fuck. Motherfucker.”
“I think it landed over there,” A says, walking wisely along the bank well upstream of where her eye landed and diving beneath to search, hair slicking back across his skull like a seal.
I don’t know why she has a fake eye. For some reason, it never seemed like an appropriate question to ask, although we used it to play pranks at parties sometimes. It’s pretty realistic, for a fake eye, and when she talks to you she casts her face down and slightly to the side so it’s hard to guess. There’s something, still, about the quality of the eye, reflected in the intensity of the other, that makes the truth obvious.
“That’s never happened before,” she says.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
“Do they warn you about that, you know, when they set you up with your glass eye?”
“No,” she says. “I don’t think they went over ‘what happens when my eye pops out while I am swimming’ when they were giving it to me. It doesn’t seem very practical, I mean, to have it popping out like that. Maybe my eye socket is enlarged or something.”
H looks somewhat embarassed to be asking this, but plows on anyway. “Has anyone, uh, you know,” he says, “asked to fuck your socket?”
“Fuck my…oh. No. Not really,” she says, leaving her answer somewhat ambiguous. I glare at H and he has the wits to look shamefaced when A surfaces again.
“Did you find it,” I say.
“No. What color is it,” he asks.
“Green,” she says. “Why?”
“Well I wanted to make sure I had the right one,” A says.
“Are you expecting more than one,” she asks.
“Well no. But I mean it has been in someone’s head. I don’t want to touch something that’s been in someone else’s eye socket.”
“Ew,” H says. “Eye herpes.”
A dives back under while we sun on the bank.
She’s remarkably calm, for someone who has just lost an eye. Maybe once you do it once, you get used to it.
We’re talking about fire prevention when A surfaces again, triumphant, and paddles over to me, perhaps because he knows me best. With the solemnity of a Labrador holding a chew toy, he hands me the eye. It is green, and somehow lifeless outside of her face.
“Will you hold it,” she says, “until we get back to the house? For safekeeping?”
“Sure,” I say, “why not?”
Later on, trudging up the hill on that late summer afternoon, I tuck her eye into my bra so I won’t lose it, and realize I’ve forgotten the page I was on.