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Look Us in the Eyes

Anna Augenblau

        There was a little problem. We noticed it when it was returned to us: the feeling. We go to a friend, any friend, and ask them if there is a something on our face. A piece of lunch or some pen mark though we hardly ever use pens anymore since the war with the other countries. We don’t have much of a story except what our siblings say and the movie theaters (when we go to them) remind us that we have to make the story (to tell our kids). Ideally it would involve hunting and shooting big game and it would involve the night sucking the curtain through the window and a loud train in the distance and a knee pinning you in place.

        The trouble is working up the courage. When we came home, you were in a fantastic mood and had prepared an incredible feast. As we sat down to eat a sort of awe some respect washed over us because the animal had died with love and the meal was made with its love and even the air smelled of it. We still believed in meaning even though it failed to appear, time and time again. We still believed in the well-appointed mini mansion. We still believed civilizations worshipped the sun. We still believed in the nourishing properties of fruit and vegetables. We still had a way of life and life had a way with us, of making us want to live. We could meet each other in the eyes and that uninterrupted union was our way, we said, of not harming one another.

        Once we knew people weren’t looking we found we could get away with anything, even delivery surcharges and a bit of yolk in the white.

        We are sorry to say we are avoiding the point but the conversation we have not yet had is the flattened blonde grass in the park (grass pushed down as if by a herd of sleepy ancient animals) where we can sit down and talk about displacement, the displacement of your feelings and your subsequent outbursts. That’s where we sat, right there at the lightninged tree and you said your unborn daughter would not be on social media until her eighteenth birthday.

        We have recently realized that there are people who are chosen in their family. We understand we will never see a wild animal in the city in our lifetime but there are other exoticisms breaching the perimeters, not to mention your friends if you are lucky enough to have produced any in the last couple months (given the restrictions). We know that when you’re alone you think you are perfect–your wet hair fragrant and laid just so (water beading at the tips and dampening your work shirt at the shoulders) and we are counting down the seconds until the lowest point of our relations, we are getting close to telling you what we have been waiting to tell you and if we tell you in the next few minutes your eyes might fly up and latch ours where they are meant to. Our eyes, human eyes, all wrapped up in a thick white gel that reveals the direction of our gaze while the animals are all iris. There is nothing so unmistakable as pure, unmixed eye contact, is what we are trying to say. It can happen across extraordinary time and distances. Our cab driver whispered to his wife over the phone, “Even when you’re in public, don’t speak so loud. Don’t talk so loud. Even when you’re with your friends, you’re mine. So don’t laugh so loud. I’m watching you and you’re mine.”
        This is why we are so hurt (and offended) when you refuse.
        Stop saying okay okay. We are laying our intellect down side by side, sheet by sheet and comparing the quality of the paper. We are overwhelmed–we have so many decisions to shake. A far-off voice leaps from a grey dress and flounces down the street and your eyes fill–with what, we don’t know. Forgot what the water in the eyes is supposed to do. Is that what you have been looking at this whole time, that tube we just discovered pressing our finger deep into the lid and watching a pearl form? Form for what? To slide away.
        We’ve watched you sleep so many times you can’t fool us now.

Anna is a writer from Rock Island, Illinois. She can be reached at