The Price of My Pearl by Miren Agur Meabe, translated by Amaia Gabantxo

My left eye is made of glass. They gave it to me so that my sick eye wouldn’t infect the healthy one, to avoid what they call sympathetic ophthalmia. When they told me that they had to remove my eye I was terrified: it’s not an easy exercise to put aside something you’ve always had and to imagine your face with a fake eye on it, like a scream.

I couldn’t erase two childhood images from my mind: the first one, of the gardener in the park and, the other, of an uncle from my father’s side, because the glass eyes of those two men were exactly like targets, fixed, unmovable, dead. However, they explained to me that how the eye was lost (if by accident or by illness) and how neat the scar was after the extraction had an effect on the overall state and look of the eye socket.

Shotgun pellets took the gardener’s eye out in a hunting accident; in my uncle’s case it was firecracker and a childhood friend’s trick that did it. “Look in the hole in that wall,” his friend said, “there is a coin there, but I can’t get at it... You try.” My uncle brought his eye close to the wall.

I lost mine to glaucoma. My eye became a twisted red marble. That deformity weighted heavily on my teenage years. Every now and then whispered words would reach me. “Such a beautiful girl... it’s a great pity.” Because of this, irony of ironies, I’ve always been much more despondent about the contours of my waist.

I kept my deteriorating eye until I finished my studies and started work in a Basque school. When I heard the nickname some students used for me I was very hurt, but what can you expect from cruel students.
Early on I had a doubt, an important one since I’m very emotional: whether it would be possible to cry without an eye. I cry easily. Tears are necessary to me, to prove to myself that I am a good person. At the same time, I also like that they provide transcendence to the events I experience. I find them a reliable measure.

The first time I wore my fake eye felt like walking out in the streets naked. But the shame, however, didn’t last.

After weighing my existing preconceptions against the final result, I am pretty sure that I have been lucky with my pearl because, modern prosthesis, being individualized, look rather natural – unlike the old ones.

Be that as it may, when I get in the sack with a man for the first few times I am careful with the eye. Since I can’t control the pressure in my eyelids at all (I don’t like it, but my left eye is always half-open, even when I’m asleep), when I fuck I consciously try to control the eye and close it. Those who aren’t used to it might find it disconcerting that my two eyes don’t behave like identical twins all the time.

Amaia Gabantxo is a writer, a flamenco singer and literary translator specialized in Basque literature. She currently teaches at the University of Chicago, and performs regularly in venues all over the city. She is the most prolific translator of Basque literature to date, as well as a pioneer in the field, and has received multiple awards for her work; most recently, the OMI Writers Translation Lab award, a Mellon Fellowship for Arts and Scholarship, and a year-long artist-in-residence award at the Cervantes Institute in Chicago.

Her publications in 2017 include the novels Twist by Harkaitz Cano for Archipelago Books in NY, A Glass Eye by Miren Agur Meabe for Parthian Books in the UK, and two seminal collections by the father of modern Basque poetry, Gabriel Aresti, Rock & Core and Downhill, for the University of Nevada Press. Her writing can also be found in recent issues of literary journals like The New Engagement, the Times Literary Supplement and Words Without Borders.

She is writing ‘a novel in flamenco form,’ a work structured around a chain of flamenco songs, a hybrid that is both literary and performative.