Deborah Eisenberg’s “What It Was Like, Seeing Chris”

This story actually reminded me of a story that a classmate wrote a few years ago, because it dealt with blurry vision and what it was like seeing that way.  The only difference is that one was more of an essay while one was a story.  Other than the topic of sight there were no other similarities.

I liked the fact that the narrator was so plain, not a hyped up teen or little miss popular.  I think that simple detail helped bring the character to life, because she wasn’t some super awesome person, she was pretty normal.

At first I thought that the story was going to be about how Laurel, the main character, was losing her eyesight and going blind, but that detail was merely there to propel the story forward and provide the baseline for entering the city.  From there it was about Chris, only it really wasn’t.  At first you think that the story is going to be about her relationship with him, but really it’s about how their relationship changes her. So, in a way it’s not even really about the man at all, he is just merely a tool that helps the larger picture; Laurel facing difficult decisions and gaining knowledge on the relationship between her and her family and others that she interacts with in life.

Some of my favorite moments of the story happen when Laurel is by herself.  She is looking at a turtle in a fourth-grade classroom and wondering if the turtle will die before she can’t see it.  The first time the turtle is mentioned in the story is on the bottom of page four:

“Maureen and I wandered over to the school building and looked in the window of the fourth-grade room, and I thought how strange it was that I used to fit in those miniature chairs, and that a few years later Penelope did, and that my little brother, Paul, fit in them now.  There was a sickly old turtle in an aquarium on the sill just like the one we’d had.  I wondered if it was the same on.  I think they’re sort of prehistoric, and some of them live to be a hundred or two hundred years old.”

That whole scene just kind of grabbed me, because it really shows the vulnerability of the narrator and the complexity of the situation of the story.  And when she brings things full circle at the end the turtle is reentered.  The last sentence of the story is probably my favorite in the whole thing.  It essentially contains the whole story as well as the biggest insight into Laurels mind.  And that, that last sentence is craft.

“And I thought how maybe there was, say, a princess who lost her mother’s ring in a forest, and how in some other galaxy a strange creature might fall, screaming, on the shore of a red lake, and how right that second there could be a man standing at a window overlooking a busy street, aiming a loaded revolver, but how it was just me, there, after Chris, staring at that turtle in the fourth-grade room and wondering if it would die before I stopped being able to see it.”

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