Bird Eyes

A colored droplet in the retina that acts like a clever pair of sunglasses, not blocking but amplifying light, adding visual spectra, clarifying and delineating. A leaf, a brick, each a quivering mass, thousands of wriggling colors. See spots run. As a young girl, she was rapt, quietly thrilling with her own vision, her eyes dark and slick, like gems floating in crude oil. She could discern the muscles of a bird in flight. Raindrops were kaleidoscopic. That man's socks don't match. Little Avianne, pointing it out only because she knew others couldn't see it, no matter how obvious, glaring even, to her. And the man across the street, half a block away, walking briskly.

Avianne in the park, swinging on a swing. Motes of dust like snow, only swirling, not falling. Light was alive. Her eyes contained multiple foveae. Regions we don't possess. Her mother laughed. She's a godsend, that girl. Lost an earring? Ask Avianne. Dropped a contact lens? Ask Avianne. She found five wallets in parking lots. In a single year. And then stopped looking. The presence of different carotenoids. The earth was a comedian of glitter--her phrase--ants complex monsters.

A family holiday in Vermont. Her brother chewing gum and pulling her hair; their mother saying stop that. When a buck stopped at the side of the road, she said, Wait, he's going to move. And he did. She saw it in his eyes. She saw everything.

Can we say there is beauty in all things? Or does abundance rob appreciation? Soda water bubbles were magnificent. A flower or leaf, unflushed shit in the toilet, all complex and wonderful. But a garden was chaos, a riot of color and geometry and muck. Brick walls made her dizzy; subways you can imagine. A human face became unbearable after a while: too many fissures, splotches, fleshy divots, little hairs and discolorations--so unpristine. The world, it seemed, was not well, was not of one mind.

She sat mesmerized before the rising sun. The light, she would say, her lustrous eyes wide with wonder. A true tetrachromat, she saw millions of colors. But couldn't share. Words were hopelessly inadequate. Nor could any camera capture the world she saw. Can there be too many colors? No one else in her aerie, although some of us tried to understand. Believing was seeing.

Short wavelengths in the violet region of the spectrum. At the symphony, she couldn't bear the movement and distraction. A man near the front picking his nails. Snot oozing from the right nostril of the second violinist, glimmering under the lights. Better not to look, better only to listen. Sure enough, the violinist stifled a sneeze during the adagio. A doctor explained: Our own sensory experience provides little understanding.

Perpetually vanishing. She forgot immediately what she saw. Can humankind not bear such clarity? Go, go, go, said the bird. Riding the subway: That man, she said, eyes wide. What's that? But forgot what she had seen, and her face crumpled, went soft with trying to remember.

Thick oil on canvas, swirls of color shining snugly atop gesso. Photography she had little time for. Grain and fuzz, not enough dots per inch. Blur. Movies were the same, TV almost indecipherable. Meanwhile, ambitious doctors wanted to write articles. Her sight is. She has the most peculiar. Her family said no. We don't reveal ourselves.

Does the extraordinary eventually become ordinary, plethora the norm? Most lives, in the end, appear to be one kind of tragedy or another. She joked about crow's feet, about flying the coop. What the ophthalmologists didn't know: what happens when vision goes? Out of sight, out of mind. You don't see a pigeon with glasses. Diminution would be blindness; and the blind bird dies.

About the author:

Anthony Schneider has been published in McSweeney's, Conjunctions, Boldtype, Mid-American Review, The Believer, and the anthology The Encyclopedia of Exes, among others. He lives, works, writes, and plays tennis in New York City.