I didn’t fall in love with him at first. I was working at the grocery store when he came through my line with a bushel of strawberries and cheap champagne. He flashed me a strained smile and his gray eyes stared at me, flatly. He was just another customer, I gave him the same blank look I gave all the other customers in return.
I scanned his items, told him the price, and when he handed me his cash he winked at me. The two things I distinctly remember about him were those eyes and his oddly long fingernails. When I returned his change, his pointer nail jabbed into my palm. It was only after he walked away with his spoils, did I notice the little gauge mark he left in my hand.
I was kind of wigged out, so I closed my line while another customer was piling up her week’s groceries on the checkout counter. Through her curses, I ran to the employee’s bathroom, and scrubbed at my hand with soap and antibacterial gel until the entire palm was red. It didn’t hurt, but he drew blood, and for the rest of my shift it took everything in my power not to look at my hand.
When my day was over, I got back to my apartment and collapsed on my bed, willing my excited and anxious brain to calm while my tired body immediately relaxed. Soon enough I did drift off, but it was only to wake, abruptly, to a nightmare.
I couldn’t open my eyes. They were stuck shut. Kind of like when you cry yourself to sleep only to have those salty tears solidify on top of your eyelids by morning. Except, in this instance, the crust surrounding my eyelids was so painful it took everything in me not to cry out when I woke up.
I tried to pull at the impossibly thick gunk stuck to my eyelids, but as I tried to pry it away, it felt like I was slowly peeling off the lens of my eye instead. I screamed and rolled off of my bed, taking an end stand and lamp with me. Thankfully, my place is so small that the only bathroom is connected to my bedroom. I crawled on the carpet, feeling my way to the door jamb while trying not to yell out in pain with each movement.
My eyes tried desperately to get rid of what was on them by leaking out salty tears that burned them even more. I banged into the doorframe of the bathroom with my shoulder soon enough, but the ache from my face was so excruciating, that I sat back against the door and sobbed into my shirt sleeve. I hoped the neighbors wouldn’t hear me and call the cops. I was only in my PJs at the time and deeply embarrassed that I was crying over morning eye crust, but there was such a sick feeling deep in my stomach that it set off alarm bells in my brain. Something was wrong, but I had to figure it out myself. I pushed down the agony with every ounce of determination I could muster.
I pulled myself up from the door and blindly put my hands out until I grabbed the counter that I knew should be in front of me. I felt around more until I found the sink, and then I pried open my old and screeching vanity mirror. I knew I had an emergency eyewash kit, but it took a lot of rummaging, and discarded bottles thrown around the bathroom until I found the right package with a cup and solution in it.
At that point my head was starting to pound with every beat of my frantic heart. I filled the cup with the solution, overfilling and spilling some on my feet. I felt once more in front of me to get right to the edge of the sink. Shakily, I brought the cup to my tender left eye, and threw it away from me almost immediately. It felt like someone set my eye on fire. I fell down in shock and pain, banging more of my limbs against the sink. I sat and cried more which only made the pain worse. I curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, without an idea of where I could find relief, wondering if I’d ever be able to see again.