For much of my infancy, I was cross-eyed. There’s a picture in a family photo album of two babies, a cousin and me, laid out on a patterned blanket, fingers curled tightly towards our palms. The other infant, my cousin, looks normal–unassuming and baby-like. But the dark jellies of my irises are skewed towards one another.
This photo used to distress me. I had no idea why my parents would take such a picture, much less keep it. My mother assured me over and over again that my eyes did this because I was always staring at everything; always hyper-alert, always watching. The side effect of such focus and intensity, apparently, is crossed eyes. Who knew?
I grew out of this phase, eventually. My eyes stopped crossing. But I never stopped watching.
The photo in this post is of me, just after my second birthday, staring at pigeons in a park. I recently re-discovered this picture, and was amused at how little things have changed. Twenty-two years later, this is still me. Each story that I write is like me staring hard at the pigeons, trying to figure them out. The story is just that: a meditation on things that make no sense, or that are new and wondrous, or familiar but still fascinating. When I write, I’m working things over on the page. I’m looking, watching, staring, doing my best not to flinch, or be afraid.