Claire Hopple’s fiction is published or forthcoming in Monkeybicycle, Bluestem, Quarter After Eight, Timber, Souvenir Lit, District Lit, Noctua Review, Crab Fat, Limestone Journal and others. She's just a steel town girl on a Saturday night. More at clairehopple.com
H E R M E N E U T I C C H A O S J O U R N A L
C L A I R E H O P P L E
C R A I G S L I S T M I S S E D C O N N E C T I O N
Career Woman in Red Dress in Downtown Hampton Inn Bar
I met you the day that my eyes changed color. I have to think that means something. Like when I saw a bear cross the highway, its rounded muscles rippling under its fur, and that same week I got a call that yes, I did get that teaching position.
It was rather unexpected; your whole life having brown eyes and you wake up in your early 30s and they’re changed to an icy blue. I thought I was hallucinating. Then I poked my eyes to check if someone had snuck colored contacts underneath my lids while I was asleep. No such luck.
I had nothing against blue eyes. It’s just that they weren’t my eyes anymore. I noticed yours were a piercingly beautiful blue, so obviously I have no problems with that.
This must be a sign of eye cancer, I convinced myself. So I called and made an appointment with my eye doctor, who also happens to be one of my closest friends. This fact was depressingly convenient, like getting hit by an ambulance.
The receptionist asked me the typical questions. I wanted to make panicky shrieks into her ear but instead I kept getting quieter with each word. I was so quiet by the end of the conversation that she kept asking me to repeat myself.
This eye doctor friend of mine, his name is Troy Carlisle. You’ll probably meet him soon. I was wary of Troy at first because when I met him, he spoke in an Australian accent, and I learned during our second meeting that the accent was not real. Troy Carlisle grew up in Billings, Montana. I’m still not sure why he would feel the need to lie about that. He also told me during our second meeting that he views all work as some form of prostitution. I have a hard time disagreeing but I didn’t necessarily want him anywhere near my eyes. It turns out he’s very skilled, has a great reputation in the community and even cuts me a special deal.
While waiting for Troy, I feigned aloofness in front of the walls, the clinical cabinets. I saw images in the wood grain of the closed door like a Rorschach because there was nothing else to look at lying in that chair, waiting. The chair that had me tipped back just enough to where I couldn’t get up easily. Right where they wanted me. I saw an angry frog in the door, a stony-eyed lion. A small balloon in the top corner close to the hinge. You can analyze that if you want to.
When Troy finally strolled in, I did not ask him all of the burning questions I had. I let the paranoia bubble up and release into the air. He eventually revealed to me that I have pigmentary glaucoma. So not cancer. And I had even practiced my rueful look, as if I were reflecting on all the poor lifestyle choices I had made that led me to eye cancer.
“It’s not that bigga deal, Holt,” he told me. My eye doctor talks to me this way.
I used this pigmentary glaucoma as an excuse to call off work for the rest of the week. I was still unsettled, but a bit relieved. I did not want to face my classroom. The students as harsh and unforgiving as the overhead lights.
They’re still better than when I was temping at an academy for homeschoolers. The contradiction in that name is not lost on me. Those feral homeschoolers with their rapidly beating hearts and injurious gazes. I half expected them to be huddled in the corner when I walked in, hunched over torn off hunks of bread. You have no idea.
I shouldn’t have been as shocked as I was with my new pair of blue eyes. Things pretty much go the opposite way I intend constantly, and I’ve grown comfortable with acting as if that’s exactly what was planned. Things continue whether you like them or not and what exactly are you supposed to do with that?
What I did with it was, well, I went to a bar. Original, I know. But I went to a bar at a hotel (as you well know), so I had my own spin on alcoholism. I thought hotel bars were more exotic. They gave me the feeling of traveling, of doing something transcendent, without having to do very much at all.
And I can’t say it wasn’t a great plan, because there you were, at the bar. I wouldn’t leave you to have your drink in peace like you probably wanted. You were in town for a conference, I recall, but the details are blurry. Everything was blurry.
But I do remember that you were a professional of some kind. You had a job and it was the kind of job that you did when you wanted to do something on purpose. Was it a nutrition conference you were attending? Are you a nutritionist? I ask because I remember you talking about fermented food and how good it was for people. How the nutrients intensify as the food starts to decompose. And I said, “I think I can relate.” And you laughed and said you didn’t know what that meant. It was like something softened in my stomach and strengthened in my chest at the same time. A tearing down of a blockade and a building up of something whole. I tricked us both with my contentment, for a moment.
I asked you to accompany me to dinner. You paused before answering longer than I would have liked. I’m not sure how we ended up talking about our family histories and how exactly it came up that we might share the same father. I’m just not convinced. There are probably hundreds of Jeremy Crawfords who fought in Vietnam and then settled in New York afterwards.
At least we should do research, study genealogies, before we arrive at any conclusions.
I excused myself to go to the bathroom. My new glaucoma medication gave me an upset stomach and it was the first time I experienced it. Maybe you think I fled due to the strange turn in our conversation. I assure you I was actually using the toilet. When I came back, it was to an empty table.
Couldn’t you at least have left your phone number
Your room number?
I’m typing this on my deck while I watch my neighbors put up Halloween decorations. “Move the skeleton to the left,” the husband says, motioning to the wife as she teeters out the second story window with her hands grasped firmly against its ribcage. The husband has a nice sweater on. I can tell he keeps his sweaters in a drawer rather than a closet because the sweater has a firm crease down the middle with little feathered wisps of creases along the sides from it not being perfectly folded.
It seems rather infelicitous to me, all of this death as decor. Proudly displaying all of these things that are normally considered grotesque. I know I’ve seen plenty of Halloween decorations over the years but I guess I haven’t really seen them like I am seeing them now. But the more I’m looking at it, the more it starts to seem completely appropriate.
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