Plastic Vision

Mac Carey 

For seven years of my childhood, age three until fifth grade, it has been scientifically confirmed that I had a third eye.

It wasn’t attached to an optic nerve. It didn’t possess any of my DNA. Or any DNA at all. It was made of plastic, those arts and crafts googly eyes stuck on paper plates and brown bag puppets. Mine wasn’t the gawking bug-eyed kind, but one of the smallest ones in the mix, a disk so discreet a breath could blow it off into the atmosphere.

I was three when the eye arrived in my ear, and I of course put it there. We had made Thanksgiving turkeys in preschool and back at home I became entranced by this new curiosity and after peeling it from the paper face, proceeded to drop it into my ear.

It wasn’t long before I confessed to what I’d done. My mother laid me on my back on our thick living room carpet. As she slowly rolled me from one side to the other, I closed my (real) eyes, as if the new one offered its own range of vision.

The rolling didn’t work, nor did the streams of water poured into my ear canal or the tweezers blindly probing the darkness. Our grey-haired family doctor didn’t find anything on our first visit, reassuring my mother it had likely fallen out without being noticed. By the third trip, he instead worried he had a pathological liar on his hands.

In the following years, its faint rattle would remind me of its presence. Sometimes when eating; oftentimes when brushing my right-side teeth. I would shake my own head to make others hear what I could, but to no avail.

It began to rattle less and less. The novelty lost, and my claim about the eye now meeting furrowed brows from older siblings and parents, I stopped mentioning it around the age of nine or ten, when detached coolness began to replace ardent enthusiasm.

Then in my last year of elementary school, at urgent care for a fever, the much younger doctor examining me stopped, otoscope aloft, to ask my mother and I why there appeared to be something in my ear.

“Like a plastic googly eye?” we exclaimed in unison.

Only more puzzled, he confirmed it did indeed look exactly like a googly eye, tucked into a pouch in the ear canal. My protean skin had grown over it, like a sling.

It didn’t hurt at all a month later when another doctor sliced that open, or when he retracted the small steel forceps with my third eye clasped between them. Only some smudges of ear wax told of its sabbatical, otherwise it was as good as new, its black iris still letting off a hearty clatter.

I kept it in the bottom drawer of a jewelry box after that, occasionally bringing it out for guests like a war trophy. I thought about putting it in a locket in place of a sweetheart’s photo when I got older and had more money for these things.

Then one day while cleaning, I realized the wisp of plastic I’d carried inside of me for seven years – as long as the bad luck lasts from a broken mirror, as long as the freshness of a marriage before the itch – had slipped from my ownership. It was so small maybe it really had blown away into the atmosphere.

Looking around my teenage bedroom, I realized something on the edges of my perception had dimmed.

Mac is a writer from Virginia whose nonfiction work has appeared in Texas Monthly, Mental Floss, and Halfway Down the Stairs.