Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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986 words
SHJ Issue 3
Spring 2011

The Bleeding Eye

Robin Parks

The sheet is cool and silky. Beneath it, my beautiful husband, Sean, slides his legs against mine like a languorous cricket. It’s his favorite way to cuddle, spooned, me against his back, legs sliding against each other. The bedroom is warm and lit with early summer sunrise. It’s a Sunday, no need to get up for work. I could lie here forever.

Sean is waking up, so I prop myself up on one elbow. As I whisper the standard greeting—“you all right?”—I see that he is not.

A trickle of blood flows from his right eye. It slips over the bridge of his nose and pools into the lashes of his closed left eye. He yawns as the valves of my heart snap shut.

“Sean,” I say, forcefully and without kindness because I want to vomit from the adrenalin surge. I throw off the bedclothes as he groans, “What, what’s wrong?” I stop jogging about, steady myself, steady steady, “Sean. It’s your eye. It’s bleeding.”

He sighs, an old man sigh. He is 40, diabetic since age two, poked with needles his entire existence, kidneys blown out. Blind. We have been together for three years.

He sits up and blood dribbles down his cheek. I am pulling on clothes, chanting to myself “don’t cry don’t cry” while Sean wanders into his office. For one brief moment I sit on the bed and think, “I can’t do this.”

I pick up the phone. They are interminable in answering. Sean picks up the other phone. “What are you doing?” He’s mad. He hates the ER. I hang up and go into his office. I am dancing on one leg.

I try to explain the situation. This includes explaining how the entire contents of his head are oozing out of his right eye in great gobs down his cheek. As he swipes at the blood, he asks me why this is an emergency.

I try to appeal to his generosity, his immense love for me. I beg him to let me take him to the ER, for my sake. “Imagine,” I tell him, “if it were you, staring at me, bleeding from my eye?” I don’t think he is listening even though I am, in fact, shrieking this. He’s busying himself with pricking his fingers, his routine of glucose testing. He pulls a wad of toilet paper off its roll on his desk and stuffs it into his mouth, Sean’s version of nail-biting, his chewing the only sign that he is experiencing anxiety.

I can’t stop yelling at him, though he pleads with me to calm down. He wants me to give him a clear picture of the circumstance, and all I can do is weep. He is sitting on the bed, rocking back and forth. He says, “Can’t you please describe things for me?” I try to but I can’t stop sobbing. I go into the kitchen, not knowing what is happening to my beautiful, sweet husband whom I’ve only had for three years. I call 9-1-1. I am told the paramedics will be there in moments. I go downstairs and unlock the front door. I sit on the porch and wait for the paramedics, my fists shoved against my ears so that I can’t hear a thing.

The paramedics—two men—arrive and we go upstairs. They enter Sean’s office and are instantly silent.

Sean says, “Hello? Hello?”

Sean stands up, puts out his hand to shake. There is one long moment before one of the men takes his hand, while the other one says, “What happened, buddy?” He slowly looks at me. There is accusation on his face.

I say, “Tell him he needs to go to the emergency room.”

“Hey, guys,” Sean says, “it’s not like I’m going to go blind.”

They laugh.

Sean asks, “What’s your name?” and one man says, “Buddy, I think it’s time to go to the emergency room.” Sean hangs his head and sighs.

We get in immediately and they lay Sean on a gurney in a hallway. Several people ask him questions, all wincing visibly. When the physician shows up, I squeeze Sean’s hand and walk down the hallway. I am praying, thanking the walls the ceiling the floor the strangers in the hallway the PA system everything for surrounding Sean and taking care of him, because I am weak and scared and a mess and he needs so much more than me, so much more.

Forty-five minutes later it is over. His eye is cleaned up, and we are sitting on the gurney, kicking our legs back and forth, waiting to sign paperwork. The doc says it was a hair, a hair had penetrated his eye. Sean had gotten a haircut the day before, and those little shards were stuck all over him.

The nurse comes with paperwork, and I sign my name and write “spouse” on the relationship line. She puts a hand on Sean’s shoulder, says, “It’s nice to see you.” Sean says, “It’s nice to be seen.”

Back home, I spend the afternoon and evening trying to untie the knot that is this day, and come up wanting. I sense that I have failed him, though I can’t figure out what I should have done differently. I finally go into his office, take his hand, bring him into the bedroom. I ask him to forgive me. He teases me: “Meltdowns are not part of the contract.” He reminds me how much worse everything is when you are alone. It’s that simple. No heroics. No miracles. “Just don’t leave me alone.” And because this is all I have wanted my whole life—to be wanted this much—I pull him under the covers, wrap tight around his body, and close my eyes against the capricious world.

The next time we go to the salon, Sean wears swim goggles and everyone giggles.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury