On Eyes

Eyes pierce.

I apologize in advance if this seems highly personal, and makes my readers uncomfortable, but I’ve learned that that fact alone is exactly the reason why I love eyes. They are highly personal, and make the observer uncomfortable in ways I rarely understand, and it fascinates me.

I am completely and unashamedly a people watcher. People are fascinating, and what they do is just as fascinating as who they are. Actions speak louder than words, they say; but I daresay eyes speak louder than even actions do. Eyes betray even the most well-kept secrets, communicate to the best of friends, reveal hidden feelings of love, challenge with the utmost confidence. They can be hidden behind spectacles, accentuated by long lashes, dimmed by years of use, bright with new life. Brown, hazel, blue, grey—they are as kaleidoscopic as they are mysterious.

It is well know that eyes are the window to the soul, but I wonder if we understand exactly what that is saying. To have access to a person’s soul, at any time, whether they so desire it or not, is quite a responsibility we have been given. Our eyes betray when we most implore them not to and reveal us when we can’t find the words. They are our greatest ally and our worst enemy, boldy telling others what we could not tell them ourselves. They are independent from us and yet one and the same: contradictory, yet truthful; paradoxical, yet consistent. They speak the simple and utterly mysterious duplicity of who we are.

Over my twenty years, three or four pairs of eyes have stuck in my memory more than any others. I have seen myriads of souls in my two decades but only these have stayed with me. The pair I remember best I only remember as being the darkest eyes I have ever seen. They were cold and black and utter ice and betrayed oceans of hurt and loss. It was only when I encountered this person again that I realized their eyes weren’t dark at all—indeed, they were a pale green, pale and inviting, like the chipped paint on a whitewashed summer house. I was quite taken when I saw those eyes again, because I realized how skewed my memory was. After considering it for a moment, though, I knew my memory wasn’t wrong: after our preliminary hellos, the eyes slipped back into the darkness I remembered, and I knew it wasn’t the pale green that has fascinated me so much. The eyes were betraying the soul: hurt that had only been aluded to in our vanilla conversation was before me in full, tempestuous color. I realized I was almost ashamed to meet his gaze because I felt I had unearthed something too intimate for our blasé comments about this, that, and the other most irrelevant details of our lives. I felt a sombering mood come over me, something he didn’t feel, and our conversation felt top-heavy: him, wondering what the change was that came over me; and me, wondering what the hurt was that so clearly overwhelmed him. My own eyes must have betrayed me as much as his were, for soon he couldn’t hold my gaze any more than I could hold his. Not a more significant word than the state of the weather had been exchanged between us, and yet the air was thick with a palpable understanding that much more had already been said.

Some eyes betray more than others, and his always betray every word. Others are cool and calm, like the soul inside; others can lie, and those frustrate me endlessly. There is power when you encounter someone that way, and if I ever do, I don’t hold that occurance lightly. Not all eyes ache the way his did, because not every soul experiences the same hurt. I have realized, though, that all eyes tell a story, sometimes that the soul does not want told. Other times the soul begs the eyes to tell the things it cannot say, through a sideways glance, or a wink, or a smile the mouth does not participate in. The eyes can laugh without the voice and hold a beloved close without a touch. They are beautiful, fathomless, orchestral, and silent creatures that beckon and hold at bay in a single, antithetical moment. They are your very soul.

And when eyes like his soften, though, when they soften…my soul pours over in delight and love and joy. Seeing light come to lifeless eyes…that is a joy I live for. That is a moment I can’t explain.


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