Jenny Sadre-Orafai & Rebecca Cook

THE MISPLACED EYE

How life affords us everything. If we wish it. If we live in our minds, in our heads, up in the grey matter. If it’s all in perception. If I know a thing or two about living, about getting what I want, if I know a thing or two about reaching out and grabbing onto your arm as you are walking by on your way to the grocery store that’s just like the grocery stores from all my favorite movies, from all the times I’ve watched the unreal men and women moving down the swanky aisles searching for perfect balsamic vinegar and white cheeses from somewhere in France where the grasses grow in cultivated clumps and French feet press into the earth with the heels of their polished leather shoes in a place I have never been to but here, on a park bench in my head, here in a green park just below the center of my quivering frontal lobe there is a little girl in a red hood, the kind of hood we all see in our minds when we hear certain fairytales, when we watch the wolf in our minds opening his mouth just wide enough to take her in. In here in this place where the world shifts and I’ve decided that you can be the wolf and I can be this little girl because that’s how it is in stories when I make them up, that’s how it is in the places I’ve been to, you and me, wolf and little hooded girl bleeding into the afternoon together because when I was very young in the real world where my mind peered out and watched everything happening

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and then I saw the woman with her misplaced eye, with her real face askew, with something going wrong in front of me in the middle of the very real, too real world and the woman’s old, wrinkled face like a hag from the stories except that her evil, misplaced eye had wandered from fiction into the waking places down into her cheek where the bone was supposed to be, down into her face where no eye should be and I saw her and left part of myself with her forever, part of me swimming into the most horrible of things smelling of meat and hot fat frying into her damaged, misplaced eye and that’s why I need for you to be the wolf now and swallow me whole so the woodcutter can come later and chop you into bits, so they can pull me asleep from the dead wolf’s stomach and I will be okay and the world will be okay and only you will be dead, only you a wolf, only you a bystander that I can’t even be really sure exists at all outside this place.

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You see how it always comes back to blood? That’s the way it is inside here where I am living out this part of my story and please understand that I’m no better off than you, in no better a position. It could be that you are the one writing all this and making up the world as we go along. That’s what they kept telling me in my philosophy class—that we make it up as we go along, but is it true? See how all the way through the forest I was chasing you because my mouth is so big like this and my teeth are so large, Grandmother. What big claws you have, what big paws you have inside our story where our real mother taught us the same things Red Riding Hood’s mother tried to teach her–to be afraid, to be very afraid of the wolves inside the men’s trousers. And do you see how well we learned our lessons, how well we learned what men are up to inside the forest after little girls and in here in the park the man is pulling aside the bushes, the man has been pulling aside the bushes ever since there have been little girls running down garden paths down the blood that never goes away, down the blood that surrounds us, down the river we leap from, down the ocean we swim in and I wish that there were never murders in this part of the truth, this part of the world where someone told me recently that this sort of thing is only partly true, that this sort of thing is really only me unwinding my brain in front of you, up in your eyes, it’s just this game we play when the girl really does lean into the bushes to hear a noise and the man snatches her into his world, snatches her out of our story and into his where he holds his hand over her mouth so her teacher can never hear her, so that no one will ever hear her no matter how loud she screams inside how large my hands are, Grandmother, see how I am peering at us through the widows?

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It’s just because of the things that get inside us and won’t get back out. It’s what our mothers taught us about the terrible real world, about what we keep learning over and over about how the real world works about how we looked everywhere for his mother, all through the woods, calling the cows to come up over and over. Suuue, Suuue! That’s what we called and called and we looked everywhere until we found where she’d fallen down a deep hole and broken, fallen down a deep hole and died, fallen down a deep hole and starved to death where no one could hear her, deep in a dark hole on the edge of our woods where all the bad stories are always waiting to overtake us finding her only because we could finally smell her dead smell blowing toward the southeast where we were calling for the cows to come up in the lower pasture and how that smell led us to her body in the deep black hole and how after that we had to feed him milk from a bucket with a big, rubber nipple sticking through a square of the page-wire fence, his skinny calf’s body butting and pulling against us while we stood there and fell in love with a black baby calf we knew better then to love, little steer, so soon to appear on the table as hamburger and minute steak inside how the world works and how I’ve had forty-seven cats and ten dogs in my lifetime–so far–so far I’ve loved all these different animals but certainly loved none of them more than little Herky’s black calf body leaning into that bucket, the silky hair in the middle of his forehead growing in a perfect whirling black curl and how just the other day I lost a cat, just another one of my many cats’ lives ending again but wasn’t he happy while his life lasted and wasn’t that little girl lucky to get to appear inside our story even if it was for just a while? Cause see what happens and how large his mouth is when the girl falls inside him and can’t crawl out into what large thumbs you have, Grandmother, stroking the girl’s thighs asleep in the man’s lap after he opens her innocence in the backseat of his car that’s parked outside his house hundreds of miles from the park where he took her, where he pulled her kicking feet through the died and there was a girl who was us crying into a pink flowered pillowcase after the story was over, after the dogs died saving their master, after the boy finished crying and buried them in the dirt next to the river, after we heard our father telling our mother that he couldn’t accept the Lord’s blood pouring out to save him and see how we stay inside the wolf’s belly and come apart inside him, all our smiling and running through the woods unraveling inside the wolf forever and see how we need to come into the story at this point and make something different happen before it’s too late to save anything? This is the point where we need a hero and here we are waiting outside the park in our new white jogging shoes on our way to the lake. Can we hear someone screaming? Can we see the opportunity that has been given to us, just to us and to no one else? We can save her. We can grab the hem of her red plaid skirt and keep him from pulling her into the backseat of his car, we can take hold of her ankles and keep him from pulling her into the garden behind his house where he buried all the others, we can keep the shovelfuls of dirt from piling over her face one at a time until the night in the story lasts forever. Please answer the screaming knocking down the length of these pages, please help the girl dig her nails into the man’s stubbly face and claw him, please give her long fingernails, please help her bring down his blood and make him let go his hands over her mouth so everyone can hear her screaming, so everyone can watch us pulling her from the open mouth of the wolf just in time, you have one ankle and I have the other and we are pulling her out from the inside of the oh-so-simple-how the way the world works just the way it works the day our mother and older brother grab us by our ankles and pretend to toss us out the back door while we are screaming into the back porch steps and all fourteen kittens come running at once and remember how they drowned in the watery

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basement? I’m sorry we remembered how that part of how the world works, how the kittens swam and swam, screaming and screaming and we couldn’t help them, isn’t their some way to get them out, Mother? some way right under us, right under our feet resting on the rug under the kitchen table on the floor that was the ceiling of the old water-filled basement where the kittens finally stopped mewing and finally slipped under the water and were silent just the way the girl was finally silent after we let go of her legs, after he pulled her into his large teeth, Grandmother must it always keep happening this way?

Will there always be others, always other mothers searching for their babies on a farm that taught us all how the world works up close, so up close there was never any ignoring how we had a cow named Laura and every year when the little steers where loaded into the truck and taken to market how she cried and cried for days searching everywhere for her baby, oh Grandmother she is the most unlucky cow because she always, always has male calves and we never let her keep even one and she has been bawling all morning, bawling, and bawling for her baby inside how the world works inside the woman’s eye and the blood smell permeates our senses. Have you forgotten that we mustn’t let go—if we do we’ll slip over the edge and start to remember how we bought a pig once and named him Samuel and how we tried to love him but he was fat and not a good pet at all because he was never cute and he grew so large and lived in the barn stall and bit us once and then we saw him as mean, as bacon, as sausage shortly showing up on the breakfast table and weren’t we glad and not a bit sorry swallowing the pink fried ham and isn’t it funny how pigs really do look like food, like moving feasts in split stilettos and how that time in the grocery store it wasn’t just meat we smelled but pork, the oily smell of lard boiling, the oily sausage smells mixing with the misplaced eye in the woman’s face and the blood smell of the meat counter and the blood of Christ our father

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would never drink, how No Daddy Comes Unto the Father But By Me and no one comes unto this story without some share in what will happen when the girl who believes she is inside the woman writing this story watches how our father still will not budge from his living room chair at nine-thirty Sunday morning so please come in here and climb up into this daddy’s lap and be a better girl than she is, be a prettier, smarter girl than she is, be a girl he will listen to, a girl to unstop God’s ears, a good enough girl to take her father’s hands and lead him out to the station wagon and up the steps of the church away from the hell fires burning. Be a better girl than the one who must take us back into the blood inside this story, back into the blood for even God cannot pull us close without the blood pouring out and in all of our stories there is Abraham waiting with the knife and the look in Isaac’s eyes is the same as the look in Little Red Riding Hood’s eyes only his is worse, oh God our holy Father, his is worse because his Daddy does not pull him into his lap but binds his wrists with rough rope just like the man is binding the little girl’s wrists with rope right now because we didn’t save her. We didn’t scream when we felt the bones of her ankles sliding through our fingers, sliding away into the bushes where we could never follow the man drawing her into his belly, opening his large mouth, how large and sharp your teeth are, Grandmother. Why didn’t we run quickly enough? Why didn’t we listen while the man slipped into the bushes and waited to grab the girl when she looked inside this story happening for our benefit? Do you understand that I’ve brought us here to explain how all of these things just keep happening?

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forty-seventh cat of the woman’s life and if you cut your meat into smaller bites then you can dip them into ketchup to cover that rancid taste only we’ve run out of ketchup but never fear. She is always prepared and there’s another bottle in the pantry, another bottle just waiting for us to open it but we can’t because our father told us on the phone yesterday that our mother’s ashes had come in the mail, a year and a half after we donated her body to science they sent us her ashes in a little cardboard box with a row of numbers stamped on it and it’s sitting right next to the extra ketchup and mayonnaise jars in the pantry and what big lies you tell, Grandmother, when you get too close to opening how we’ve thought about rubbing the ashes over our teeth, how gritty they would feel, about pouring the ashes inside helium-filled balloons and setting them loose in the wind, about covering our heads with ashes and wailing, about pouring the ashes inside the girl’s mouth so we can stop her screaming, about covering this part of how the world works with the ashes of our mother so she will stop following us into the stories and would you please, please come into the grocery store and help the girl push the old woman’s eye back up into its rightful place in the real world, help her clean the meat smell off the world’s skin, help her catch the forty-seventh cat of the woman’s life just as he is slipping out the door into the first snow of winter, help her stitch up the wolf’s body after we crawl from his bleeding insides because that’s what this is really about—what we keep doing, what we keep shoving up under the light, what we say we can’t keep from happening even though we are waiting beside the lake where we are laughing inside the story and wondering if it’s all true. Please come in and make it stop, please come in and let’s go cast her over the mountains.

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We knew it would be this way. There is a misplaced eye watching all that we do and her mouth keeps telling us just how the world works, how the large eat the small, how the kittens never stop drowning, how we can never swallow quickly enough, how animals are so lucky that we are making love while they wander in front of that car, how important it is to never ever trust anyone in wolf’s clothing and to always understand what the man is thinking of when the little girl comes into his forest and runs up and down the paths of what was never a fairytale, that’s the part they wouldn’t tell us, but that’s the part I’m willing to tell you now, how Jesus waited and waited for our father to walk down the steps to the station wagon but how he never left his chair on Sunday mornings and how our mother sewed a red hood onto the new brown coat so our ears wouldn’t get cold and we wouldn’t get an earache in February and have to lie on the heating pad while our eardrums swelled and throbbed inside all the stories and how we ran through the garden on windy days afraid of everything, afraid of every wolf, afraid of blood everywhere pouring out, afraid of fingers waiting to pull us into a part of the story that isn’t written yet, into the unknown world where we can’t see anything, where our hands reach out to stop ourselves from falling where we can hear ourselves screaming out of the girl’s mouth, out of the ashes spreading against our teeth, out of the ones we’ve loved and lost and let loose inside this story, inside the woman’s eye, inside our father’s burning, inside the story closing grey around us.

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