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Location: New York, New York, United States

Thursday, May 04, 2006

How God Made me a Hunter 4/28/06

Green to grey and grey to green
is how I go,
I'm sight unseen,
and yet I can't see anything.

I have this eye that won't look to the right. I was born that way. So it's a birth defect. It could be worse. It could be cleft palate. It could be harelip. The doctors call it Duane's Syndrome. Some doctor named Duane discovered it at the beginning of the 20th century. When my mother was two months pregnant, a nerve in my brain stem didn't develop the way it was supposed to.

It's a sporadic defect, meaning doctors don't know why it happens.

All it really means for me is that I get self-conscious about looking to the right, because when I do it, my eyes cross.

So I'm left to assume that young men to the right of me are looking at me. I won't return their gaze if they are, and my lack of right-side peripheral vision can't observe if they're not.

So I assume they are. And I assume I am being furtive and coy by ignoring them.

There was a time in my life when I claimed I didn't know how to flirt with men. But that's just because I didn't know I was physically attractive. It's much easier to see the attention I'm getting when I know what it's for.

But I have to try and not look to the right in order to keep it.

I have dated a few guys who weren't perceptive enough to notice the crossed eye. So I would tell them about my little trick in one of those early getting-to-know-you, look-I'm-double-jointed, I-have-seven-scars, check-out-my-birthmark talks.

And then it's always the same routine. "Follow my finger," they'd say, and they would hold up an index finger and move it back and forth in front of me.

"I can't wait to tell everyone," my boyfriend at age 16 said.

He also said that when the policeman caught us topless, making out in the back of his jeep.

But my right eye was crying then, along with my left.

"So I can do stuff to the right of you and you wouldn't see it?" he'd ask.

"Obviously," I'd say.

I have to be careful when I look to the left, too. Because when I look to the left, my right eye retracts, which means it sinks back into my head and looks much smaller than the left. And my left eye moves forward, so it appears to bulge out of my head.

They're sort of like these wheels of a car, and my brain is the steering wheel. There's just something wrong with the steering mechanism.

My childhood dinners were at a table for three, with the wall on my right side. When I was 13, my mother remarried, so she planned a whole new seating arrangement. She placed my step-father to the right of me.

I barely looked at him at dinnertime for ten years. It didn't help that he barely listened to me. He's deaf in his left ear.

Strange that my mother says she put a lot of thought into the new arrangement.

I live in New York City now, although I grew up in the suburbs of Delaware. That's what the grey to green is. I ride a lot of trains to Delaware, to New York, and back again.

Sometimes I forget and I sit with the window on my right. So the trees and bushes go by in this green blur. And then I get to New York City, and the cement buildings become a grey blur.

And of course, I bump into people on my right side all the time. That never happened in the suburbs. But I have walked into trees.

The grey blur. My boyfriend tries to warn me. "Look out," he says, and holds me back.

He holds me back.

"I like bumping into people," I say. "It makes me like a real, live, oblivious New Yorker."

It's the only way I have to be rude. I'm usually overly polite. I apologize to everyone. I apologize for causing anyone trouble, I apologize for things not really my fault.

But I never apologize for the right side. It's usually too late. Plus, then they'd see me cross-eyed.

I used to be a very reliable driver. I wouldn't get distracted and start talking to you if you sat in the passenger's seat. That's because I'm good at keeping my eyes straight ahead.

I used the mirrors a lot.

I did almost hit some children crossing at a crosswalk on Halloween once. The traffic light had been replaced that night with crossing guards so the kids could trick-or-treat more easily. I could barely see the crossing guard in my enormous blind spot.

My dad died at an intersection, attempting to turn left. A teenager ran a red light and hit him in her monstrous SUV. His little car never had a chance. I was 25 and when I found out, one of the thoughts I had was of how many times I could have been that teenager. I would never have seen him coming.

I used to be a reliable driver. Now I never drive.

So I take these trains with the blurs of grey and green and the men who might be looking at my imperfect-eyed side, but I don't know for sure.

But I'll never hit a car to the right of me.

And I talk to my step-dad when he's to the left of me or straight ahead of me now. Either way, I try to keep him on my good side.

Mostly I have to pay more attention to what I do see than those with a wider panoramic view have to.

There is a lot I miss, but sometimes that means a fight on the sidewalk or cow carcasses in the butcher's shop window.

I look straight ahead like a pointer dog. My eyesight pierces because I have no distractions. I always focus in on details.

And my senses of smell and hearing are excellent.

Not to mention my reflexes.

It's how God made me a hunter.

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