Author: J. David Thayer
I lay in my hospital bed with both arms crushed and my face and eyes cut to pieces. A loose timber from a logger swatted my Jeep into a drainage ditch. The accident should have killed me, but I survived. Didn’t feel like it. Well-meaning people, when void of anything useful to say, often proceed regardless.
“Well, it could have been worse.”
True. And it damn well could have been a whole lot better.
I was once a gifted artist. My right hand would never regain the dexterity that earned me a scholarship to NYU, but that hardly mattered now. Color was fading memory. One day Dr. Gregory Perkins visited me in my new darkness. He had an idea.
“We have found a suitable pair of eyes to attempt a radical double transplant! It may result in the full recovery of your eyesight. The eyes of an artist, as I understand it.”
The nurse unscrolled the gauze like an archeologist undressing a mummy.
“Alright, Jonathan, tell us what you see?”
My lids fluttered. The new pupils began to orient themselves. My first dose of light since Highway 61. Light! Precious light!
I began screaming long before I recognized my own voice.
“Purple! Why are you all purple?” I looked at my hands. “Why am I purple? What the hell is this?”
My donor, whoever she was, saw in a completely different spectrum. All was alien and awful. When she said, “blue” did she mean “orange”? My green sure as hell wasn’t her green! There were also other colors I never saw before. Neat, huh? I couldn’t take it. None of it. I screamed like I was on fire every time I opened my after-market eyes. They would not reboot. This was my world now.
“You Quack! What the hell!
“No one really knows for certain that we all see things exactly the same. Maybe we just have a relative vocabulary for describing relationships. The idea’s long been on my mind. My father’s color blind. He can tell whether something that is red or green, but his brain only sees distinctions of gray. He doesn’t know green grass—not like the rest of us do. As an ophthalmologist, I know that color blindness affects the cones and rods. Even so, I’ve always wondered if colors are absolutes at all! Seems they’re not.”
“Well! Good for you! Get out.”
After ten days my new left eye began to reject. The right eye soon followed. I was actually relieved. I couldn’t accept Jane Mincy’s world. That was her name: Jane Mincy, age 23. Dad pulled some strings and found out that much.
After leaving the hospital, I started working clay with my left hand. NYU honored their scholarship, and they were rewarded with a promising new artist who tells an incredible story. Crowded lecture halls. People wanted to hear what it was like to see through another set of eyes. At least they thought they did.
‘It’s a good thing I didn’t end up with the eyes of a cubist!” This line always killed ‘em. “I probably would have fragmented instantly and never recovered.”
After graduation, Dad drove me out to a cemetery in Rochester to find Jane Mincy. I made a small sculpture to place it on her headstone. Funny thing about my work now: I refuse to let anyone tell me the color of the clay. Just give me a lump of anything and keep your mouth shut.
Why not? You don’t really know what color it is either.