Prompt Day #209: Tell the story behind the glass eyeball that the narrator keeps in her purse
Token of Sin
It had been twenty some years since I last walked through the doors of my church. My AA sponsor encouraged me to re-establish the relationship with my church as a way to maintain my sobriety once I’d moved back to my hometown. I stared at the confessional. I was on those steps of AA where I needed to admit the exact nature of my wrongs and try to make amends. It was time to tell my story and this place was the safest for me to do that.
I sat down inside the booth. It was cool and dark; it was peaceful. I crossed myself and began my confession by saying it had been over twenty years since my last confession. The priest assured me that the Lord was a kind and forgiving God. He encouraged me to tell my secrets. I began:
“I started drinking when I was 18. I liked to party, I liked to hang out with college boys that came into the diner where I worked. They’d come in for something to eat before heading to some frat party and I’d be at the end of my shift, it didn’t take much flirting to get them to let me tag along. The year I turned 21, I didn’t need to hit those boys up anymore. I could go to the bar, play some music on the juke box and drink until they closed. And then I would drive myself home.”
My hand was fidgety. It found its way in to my purse and to the key chain made out of a glass eye. I rubbed my thumb over the surface of it, finding the subtle divot where I’d done the same a million times before.
“Is that your confession?” The priest asked. He sounded young. I wondered if Father Hubert was still here or if perhaps he’d passed during the time I was gone.
“No, well yes, I had a problem. I am an alcoholic, although I haven’t had a drink in a long time. I drove all the time too, drunk, I mean. I knew I shouldn’t and every day I woke up sick and unsure of what had happened the night before, I promised myself that I would never do it again. But I always did. I was young and invincible. Aren’t we all at 21?
It was September 21, 1995 and I had stayed til close. It was this little hole in the wall joint—Buddy’s—I don’t know if it’s even still open.”
“It is.” The priest said.
“Oh, well, good for them.” I said honestly. “So, I don’t know if I said that my drink of choice was whiskey. Hard stuff, somehow it made me feel more sophisticated, sexy even. I was a girl who could drink any boy in town under the table and men seemed to get off on that. That’s what I’d been doing that night, courting the attentions of a couple guys. We ended the night doing whiskey shots. And then I left to drive home.”
The glass eyeball in my hand felt warm, hot actually.
“Everything was blurry. When I think back on it, and I think back on it every day, it’s like a dream sequence in a romance movie. The edges are blurred and grey, the air is wavy kind of and it’s all in black and white. Maybe that’s just my memory or maybe that’s how drunk I was. I remember focusing so hard on the yellow lines of the road that I never saw the kid walking along the edge of it. I mean, who would have expected to see some kid walking along the road at 2 am? I hit him. I hit him head on and I felt the car roll over him.” My voice was wavering and the lump in my throat grew, threatening to stop my confession. The worst of it was out. I didn’t need to say anymore. I could have stopped. I looked down at my keychain, it was turned now so that the green iris was staring up at me. I went on.
“I managed to pull the car over and get out. I went over to him, his leg was bent funny and there was bone sticking out. His face was all bloody and smashed up. I thought he was dead. I mean, how could he have still been alive? Maybe if I had thought he was still alive I would have tried to get help. I’d like to think I would anyways. But I was sure he was dead, I felt like if I stayed or called for help, I would have went to jail. And then two lives would have been over. So, I left. I left that boy lying there broken and bloody along the side of the road. I don’t know what happened to him.”
I decided then, not to tell him about the glass eye, I’d found still spinning on the road beside the crumpled body. I don’t know why I took it but I did. There was a small piece of glass missing from it. I assumed it chipped off when it fell out of his eye and hit the blacktop. Later, I’d had a friend drill a hole through that spot and make me a key chain out of it. That way, anytime I tried to get in the car after a night of drinking, I’d see the eye and remember what could happen. I didn’t tell the priest this because I’d already confessed the worst of my sins. This seemed so petty comparatively.
“The next day, I left town. I told my parents I was going to visit a friend in college in Ohio and I never came back. I worked a lot of crummy jobs and mooched off anyone I could get to feel pity for me. I kept on drinking until I burned the last bridge still standing and ended up on the streets. That’s when I checked myself into rehab.”
It was there, that one day, when learning about the 12 steps of AA, I decided to do some research on the hit and run accident I’d been a part of. I wanted to know the boy’s name. I wanted to be able to visit his grave. That’s how I found out he’d survived. A car had come along not long after I left I guess, and found him. He was in a coma for three days and lost the leg that had been so twisted. I didn’t want to tell the priest this either. I knew the kid’s name, I could have called him up and begged forgiveness but I was turning my life around now. If I did that, I could be arrested and all this—rehab and coming home to my parents to start all over—would be for nothing.
“Have you ever tried to discover if the boy survived the accident?” He asked me as if reading my mind.
“No.” I lied. “I don’t think I want to know, Father.” I said.
“I see.” He said. I heard the disappointment in his voice. I didn’t care. I’d gotten it off my chest, the worst of it at least. Completing half a step is better than nothing, right? He was telling me what to do for penance. I wasn’t listening. I was already pocketing my keys and getting up to leave. I wanted a drink more than ever. I needed to get out of there.
Five days later, I was sitting in one of the pews of the church with my parents. I watched the new priest who had replaced Father Hubert, limp up to the pulpit and lean his cane on the podium. His eye patch was black with a small gold cross in the center of it. The other eye, a bright green smiled out at his congregation. He was younger than me, maybe five or six years younger. My mouth was dry and I could have sworn the pounding of my heart could be heard echoing on the church’s walls. He cleared his throat.
“On the night of September 21, 1995, there was a meteor shower. A beautiful, miraculous example of God’s creation. I remember waiting up until 1 am that night, when the show was to be at its peak. I had walked about a mile down the road from my house to a big clearing where the night sky looked like a dome lit up for a celebration….”
I got up just then, I couldn’t hear anymore. I needed a drink and I knew for a fact that Buddy’s was still open.