Written by Nonexistent Rose
I couldn’t remember the past twelve hours but I guessed that meant the drugs had worked. I’m sure it would have been much worse if they hadn’t. I felt light fingers touch the gauze around my eyes.
“I’m jealous,” Rosie spoke softly.
“Of what? Having your eyes ripped out because they aren’t good enough?” I felt my left arm tingle when she drew close, the hairs standing on end from the slight draft.
“Are you really upset about this?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You got new eyes, Charlie. They’re beautiful, they fit right, and they work much better than your old ones; I even heard your parents paid extra to get the eyes of an expert pilot.”
“My mother couldn’t stand to see her child walking around wearing glasses, like I’m one of those, you know, slum kids. So she bought me a pair of used eyes. Big whoop.”
Rosie sighed. I was being unreasonable, clearly. But she still leaned on me, choosing to ignore my petty attitude. I almost wish I could say that I was the jealous one because Rosie still had her own eyes, but I couldn’t because she hated her eyes. She would give up both of them just for one new one. They were such a dull blue they looked grey and their vision wasn’t perfect, but her family couldn’t afford to buy her new ones. I wished my family couldn’t afford to buy me new ones. I wished our money was directed at more important things than appearances, though my mother would throw yet another unnecessary tantrum.
But normal people didn’t wish to not be rich so I kept my mouth shut. Rosie touched the gauze on my face again.
“I wonder what they look like.”
“Why don’t you peel off the tape and find out?”
“I thought you weren’t supposed to take off the gauze yet.”
“I don’t care.” I didn’t care if I went blind or ruined my vision back to its previous blurred state. I just didn’t care.
“I’ll be gentle.” Rosie whispered and I felt her stand up. Her touch was always delicate, as if everything she laid her hands on was as fragile as a butterfly wing. And true to her word, she was gentle with the gauze as she peeled it off. I was rough and impatient and my foot fidgeted until I nearly reached up and peeled it off for her.
I felt the air dance over my closed eyelids once she finally shed the final layer. I was scared to open them, to let these new eyes see the world. Would it look the same through someone else’s eyes? Would Rosie look like she always did, with her plain brown hair and dull grey eyes?
“Open your eyes, Charlie,” she murmured like a mother waking her child.
I opened my mouth instead. I said nothing, I didn’t even say I was scared. She probably knew anyway. I felt her hand on the side of my face; her thumb stroked from the corner of my eye back to my hairline, then she tucked the stray hair behind my ear.
“It’s okay to be scared.”
I shook my head but I didn’t know what I meant by it. Rosie leaned forward and her breath smelled like oranges. Her lips touched my eyelids, the right one first and then the left, and then her forehead was against mine.
“I can put the gauze back on if you’re not ready.”
“I don’t care,” I said again, my voice cracking.
“I’ll count to three and you open them.”
She held my hand and counted, her fingers were cold. The one was slow, the two was quiet, and the three was a staccato whisper in my ear and I felt the puff of air when her tongue made the “th” sound.
I pulled my eyes open and I felt the eyelids stick and snap like they broke the seal. They felt dry. They stung. The world was more blurry than before.
“What do they look like?” My voice shook when I asked.
“Oh Charlie,” She said and her tone stole my breath with fear, but she touched my eyebrows and my cheeks and everywhere around my eyes, and I could hear the smile in her voice. “They’re beautiful.”
I blinked. “What colour are they?”
“They’re blue. As blue as that neon open sign down at Ralph’s.”
I tried not to laugh and it came out my nose like a snort. “Do they glow too?”
Rosie cupped her hands around an eye and peered in. “Yes.”
I smiled and reached up to touch her face. Her cheeks were always flushed so when she blushed, no one could really tell. She hated her blocky eyebrows and her flat hair that she always pulled up. Deep inside I always agreed with her, but I would never say anything because never once in my life did I care.
“I like your eyes better.” I liked her everything better. She was poor, lower class, and didn’t have the painted on look that my mother donned every morning. Her hair was real, her skin was natural, her eyes were her own.
“You’re just saying that,” she murmured. She sat down, directing her gaze away, so I pulled her into my lap. She readily leaned her head on my shoulder.
“I would never lie to you.”
I kissed her. Our lips became acquainted. My top lip met hers and my bottom lip did the same. That was all my lips ever knew: their top and bottom counterparts. I wondered what it would be like to meet their opposites. I wondered if they would like that. If Rosie’s would like that.
When I pressed my lips to hers, I tried to copy her gentle style but I was no good at it. It was like the moon trying to copy the sun, but the sun never laughed. The sun didn’t care that my parents were more high-strung than the phone wires we read about in old books. The sun didn’t care that the moon was ungrateful for something so expensive. And the sun didn’t care that the moon was jealous of blurry eyesight and flat hair.
The sun just kissed back.
‘Neon’ is Nonexistent Rose’s first piece on Inkblots, and we just think it’s lovely. There’s a distinct alien quality to this short piece of fiction – how someone could afford to buy new eyes instead of just a pair of glasses really boggles the mind, but Rose has executed this piece perfectly. She claims her inspiration for ‘Neon’ was an idea that flew into her mind at 4am and just wouldn’t leave. And we’re definitely glad it never left!