Saoirse’s crush, Richie tried to give her a golf ball but he gave it to her by whacking it at her face and now Saoirse only has one eye. The boy had a mean backswing, which led the ball to fly, which led her to the emergency room, which led her flying in a flapping hospital gown to the operating table which led her to emerge two hours later with only one eyeball in her possession. They had let her hold the golf ball in her hand the whole time.
It is a little pale pink ball. It must be a specialty design but whatever symbol is printed on it is faded now; looks like a loop, like a knotted ribbon, or like fingers being crossed. Maybe a breast cancer awareness ball. Soft with dust, warm with sun when the boy placed it on the tee in his backyard and aimed for her. Its surface is dimpled with round divots scooped by some miniscule melon baller. It fits in the palm like a perfect scoop of strawberry sherbet. There is no other like it.
Over her recovery, Saoirse has cupped the ball in her hand so constantly that she doesn’t think of it anymore. She hardly recognizes it as an object foreign from her body. Like placing a cold hand on a warm forehead, and feeling both the sensation of warmth on the cold hand and coolness on the warm forehead, she touches the lightweight ball and registers the feel of her fingers. She reads the bumps like inverse Braille. Sometimes she dreams that she is inside the small globe with Richie and there are no windows but it is lit from within and the inside-out dimples serve nicely as places for them to sit.
The first day back to her fifth grade classroom after the accident, Saoirse is more concerned about her acne than her eyepatch.
“Saoirse! You’re going to make me late!” her mother cries from the front of the house.
“Take the car, I can walk!” Saoirse shouts. She remains at the bathroom mirror. She has a stick of brownish concealer that she smears over her spots but it doesn’t distract from the mountainous landscape of her T-zone. She wants to look nice for Richie because he sometimes says her acne grosses him out. Then, sliding the golf ball into the pocket of her shorts and her eyepatch over her socket, she leaves for school.
Fortunately, her classmates find her eye injury more outrageous than her everyday acne.
“Do you have a real hole in your face?”
“Whoa, can I see?”
“Richie pulled your eye out with a fork, right? That’s punk rock.”
“Wait, what happens if you stick your finger in there?”
Saoirse is encircled by her class at recess and she smiles and tells them all about her eyelessness. She saves her bravest story for Richie; about how she got through the pain remembering that the last thing her poor eye saw was his pretty face. But Richie sits on the opposite side of the schoolyard and so she nobly excuses herself from the eager crowd and, feeling round and whole, she approaches him, golf ball securely in hand. She scoots up next to him on the bleachers. He is hunched over and only glances at her shoes.
“Sorry,” he says.
“I still have the golf ball you gave me,” she begins, sighing delicately.
“Huh? Oh yeah. Did you tell your parents that it was me? That I did it?”
She stops for a moment. It had slipped her mind that her parents didn’t ask how she was hit in the face hard enough to warrant going to the hospital. “A lot happened at once. They’re probably going to ask eventually.” She says it to herself as much as to him.
“Can I have it back?” he asks. “It’s not mine.”
Saoirse feels her story slipping away. “Why…why do you want it back?”
“It’s evidence, you know?”
Saoirse had thought she was sitting very close to him but she tilts her head a little, puts out a hand, and she cannot reach him. He is messing around with a football instead of looking at her. This entire conversation he hasn’t asked her about her eye-hole at all.
“I don’t want my parents to know what happened. It’s their ball,” he mumbles.
Saoirse thinks fast. “I don’t think you want it.”
“Because. We were thinking of what prosthetic eye to buy and I had to figure out what size I needed and they ran out of fake eyes to try out but I had the ball and…”
Richie finally looks up at Saoirse and there is disgust on his face, but this time it’s not because of her acne. His two perfectly functional eyes dart from the pink ball in her hand to her eyepatch. Saoirse stiffens as something like realization washes over her. Richie will go the rest of his life seeing the world as he would like to, but she will have to live half in darkness because of what he did to her. He allowed her only ten years with two eyes and she wasted some of that time looking at him.
“You know what?” she says, “You can have it. Here.” And she pops the golf ball into his shocked mouth and walks away.