“It will be an eye for an eye,” the translator told me, with a sincere look of worry, and terrible tremble in his throat.
All I could think of was that old saw. It was something Gandhi said that went something like, “When it’s an eye for an eye, the whole world will go blind.”
But Sharia law prevails here, and no one gives a damn about Gandhi in these parts. They led me past the evil-eyed, bearded judge, through the chamber halls, and eventually to my cell. The sentence would be carried out in just a few days. I would lose one of my eyes.
I had time to ponder and plan. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do, though. Stuck in a foreign land, working as a roughneck in the Iranian oil fields, didn’t leave me too many options. But I had one option. And I guessed I had about a 50/50 chance of succeeding.
The evening before the sentence would be carried out, two men visited me in my cell. One was a grim looking Persian whom I’d never seen before. The other was my translator. My translator quickly solved the mystery. He explained that this man who accompanied him would be carrying out the sentence. He was some sort of doctor. Oh, yes, an eye doctor. His name was Snela, Sneli, Snelean? Or, something like Snellen.
Anyway, the translator told me that the eye doctor needed to know which eye I would choose to have evulsed from its socket. Which organ of sight would be plucked away, never to enrich my life with the visual beauty of the world again. Which? Which?! Which door of darkness would I choose? Oh, humanity!
I rued the day I sneaked the BB gun to Iran in my luggage. My mother had always warned me I could put an eye out with it. It was a childhood Christmas present that I’d nostalgically treasured for more than 20 years.
It was an accident. I swear, I did not see that Persian skulking about behind the tin cans I was target practicing with. He startled me when he cried out, “Allah hara! Allah hara!” And when I saw him move his hand from his bloody face, with his eyeball cupped in the palm, I passed out from the shock and horror. When I awoke I was being arrested by a Persian policeman.
And now I had to choose which eye I would lose, for the sin of this accident. My translator asked me again, “Do you want it to be your left eye, or your right?”
“Aye,” I said.
My translator seemed confused. “Eye, yes. Which eye?”
“Aye,” was all I could say. I wasn’t trying to be cute. I was voting, and when you vote you’re supposed to say “aye.” But then I realized I hadn’t chosen which eye.
“So, your left eye?” my translator ventured.
“Aye.” That seemed like a good choice for me. Yes. Definitely. That was my bad eye. Take the left one, you Iranian devils!
“Eye. Yes. We know this,” my translator moved in closer to me. “So which eye? Your left eye?”
“Aye!” Perhaps he hadn’t heard me clearly.
My translator looked around the cell, slowly, muttering something unintelligible. He looked down at my shoes. He looked back up.
“So which eye? We must know. Please, make up your mind. Should we take the left one?”
“Aye! Aye!” Now I was getting upset. He’s a translator, goddamnit it. Doesn’t he understand English?
“Okay, okay, well, it will just be your left eye I guess.” He spoke something in Farsi to the eye doctor. The eye doctor nodded grimly and looked directly at me with a gimlet stare.
The next morning they led me in shackles to a dimly lit room. They laid me upon an operating table and tied me in with restraints. The eye doctor stood over me, holding a shiny scalpel in his hand. A black cup descended upon my face and I fell unconscious from a general anesthetic.
I woke up in my cell. I opened my eyes. I could see. I could see! I could still see! My plan had worked. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. The right eye felt semi-solid and normal, like eyeballs are supposed to feel. But at the left was a hole. A vacant lacuna. I inserted my finger into the socket. I chuckled. Triumph! What fools I’d made of these Persian pricks.
I heard footsteps. The grim eye doctor and the translator were at my cell door. The eye doctor seemed angry. The translator gave me his message.
“Why didn’t you tell us you had a glass eye? You think you made fools of us? This matter has been brought to the judge. There is a new order from the court. Tomorrow your right eye will be removed.”
I guess the Iranians weren’t so stupid after all. Tomorrow I will lose my right eye. I will become completely blind. There is no escaping the Sharia system of justice in Iran. My good eye will go.
It’s the only eye I had left after that accident so long ago. No one warned me when I was a kid, to never look down the barrel of a loaded BB gun.