While this lucky man is happy to have two of them, they don’t focus without glasses. I am farsighted, with an astigmatism in one eye. My mother realized there must be a problem with my undisguised lovely eyes because she couldn’t teach me to read. Frustrated she pulled my ear (see My Ears) to ensure I wasn’t being stubborn, and when my eyes filled with tears she relented. (Poor poor pitiful me…yeah, I know get over it.)
We went to the Bay to see James Shane Optometrist, who clicked clacked away until I saw distinct letters, looking at the big E this way and that, matching them until they didn’t overlap. My mother was thrilled, and so was I – about my eyes with beautiful long lashes; wasted, I heard, on a boy (see boy). My glasses came like most in my small border town, in a sturdy carboard bit of business the size of my glasses, good for stamp collecting by the unambitious.
I was my eyes the minute I could separate the letters to read words, then sentences, then paragraphs. I was five. E is also for the Eaton’s catalogue where I read the words “double gusset,” making me swoon.
I was 25 when I read Bataille’s Story of the Eye, in English. I can’t pronounce even the title in French, but “The Eye” realized Kristeva’s theory of abjection in Powers of Horror for me, and provides the opening quotation for the Abject Alphabet. “I am abject, that is mortal and speaking” said Julia Kristeva. The term abjection literally means “the state of being cast off.”
I was fifty when my mother died. I spelled out the name to the company making the concrete vault enclosing her casket when she died. The engraver misheard, and she was encased in concrete as Susann Ennf. I was startled at graveside,
but nobody admits to have noticed. My eyes the only ones to have seen my error down by the riverside. A micro-agression, a Freudian slip, a comeuppance I can feel guilty about.