The shape of the scissors made me do it.
They were small, metallic scissors with curved ends. My mother used them to cut her fingernails. I never considered that fingernails needed to be cut. Between scraping them along the bricks of our apartment building and my scratching them along chalkboards to seek revenge against the kids who taunted and tortured me on the playground they always seemed to take care of themselves.
My mother often told me not to bite my fingernails. She said that biting fingernails was a sign of insecurity. I imagined that 'insecurity' happened to bears when they didn't hibernate properly. I didn't bite my fingernails for fear of not hibernating properly when the time came. I often wondered when the time would come, probably around the age of fourteen when everything else of mysterious nature seemed to happen. I asked my father if I could still play in the snow when I turned fourteen. He told me to go ask my mother. I did. My mother asked me if I was hungry. Perhaps I would like a baloney sandwich.
My mother kept her makeup and a variety of mysterious objects on her side of the bathroom counter. My father's side looked quite bland in comparison with only a shaving razor, a face towel and a bottle of aftershave lying near the sink. He usually kept combs and a bottle of coricidin in the cabinet. Sometimes he did leave the can of shaving cream open, the green gel kind that takes a while to foam if you don't lather it between your hands first. I rarely poked through my father's side, finding my mothers end far more colorful and interesting.
I had made an ashtray in art class. The teacher handed out blocks of cold, mildewey clay and told us that we would be making ashtrays. Though my mother detested cigarettes I felt she needed an ashtray for her counter. I painted my ashtray with bright colors to match the things on my mother's bathroom counter. She accepted it graciously and used it to hold hairpins. Sometimes I would sneak into her side of the bathroom, take a handful of hairpins and drop them on the floor. I liked the springy sounds they made as they hit the floor and bounced along the tiles. It reminded me of the sounds Pigpen made as he shed dirt from one place to another when following Lucy or Snoopy.
One day I made my way into my parent's bathroom while my mother washed the laundry and talked with the woman next door. She had left the scissors with the curved ends on the counter between circular powders of red and smaller ones of blue. I had never seen curved scissors before. They had such small handles. I held them easily in my fingers. I didn't know what they could be used for, perhaps to cut circles out of paper? Then I realized that they would fit very nicely along the outside of my eyeball. I closed an eye and placed the scissors along the fissure of my eyelids. I looked in the full-length mirror with my other eye. The sensation of the scissors against my eye felt oddly appropriate, appropriate enough that their function came naturally without my even thinking about it. The scissors met the curvature of my eye to near perfection. Only my eyelashes kept the scissors from lying true against the lids. I opened the scissors. SNIP! I looked down to witness a flurry of eyelashes tumbling to the floor. Had they made any noise they would have sounded like my mother's hairpins scattering along the linoleum tiles. I changed hands with the scissors and closed the other eye. SNIP! A distant array of my eyelashes now sprinkled my shoes and the floor. I wiped some up with a kleenex and blew the others away with a few breaths. Having eyelashes felt the same having no eyelashes.
Two nights later our next door neighbor, Marvin, wandered in after supper to talk with my father. I liked Marvin. He would read me bedtime stories from any book I handed him. I had heard every story and knew how they began and ended, but I never recognized the stories Marvin told me. Most of his stories involved large women. I imagined them as princesses with long arms and long blond hair. I think Marvin imagined them in another way. When I became bored with large-women stories I would hand him a Dr Seuss book and he would talk about sculptures, usually his sculptures that he made in his studio, many of which resembled large women.
After reading a story to me he leaned over to kiss me on the forehead but he stopped short and looked quizically into my face. 'What happened to your eyelashes?' I squirmed a little and tried to edge under the covers. 'Nothin..' He gently grabbed my chin between his thumb and index finger. 'Hun, you have no eyelashes. . . Annie! . . ' My throat went dry as the blood rushed from my face. My mother came in with an apron wrapped around her waist. 'Annie, she has no eyelashes.' I felt the tears well up in my eyes. My mother was moving my face from side to side though I protested. 'What happened to your eyelashes? Do your eyes itch?' I told her to stop. I told her nothing had happened, but she seemed so concerened. Between sniffles I finally blurted out, 'I cut them off.' Now my father was standing in the doorway. 'You what!? . . ' and I had to explain the curved scissors and the fact that they were used for cutting eyelashes and . . . . nobody said anything for a while.
My mother looked exasperated and said softly, but forcefully that I should not have put scissors near my eyes . . I could have . . . some words I didn't understand. . . it was dangerous . . . Then she took my face in her hands again to examine my eyelids.
'They won't grow back.'
I didn't understand. 'Yes they will.'
'No they won't, you cut them all off.'
'But . . . they will. Jenny Monroe found an eyelash on my
shirt once and said it was good luck. So every time I find an
eyelash it's good luck and if they all fell out and never grew back
again I'd run out of good luck for ever . . '
My mother sighed again. At least Marvin was smiling. My father came
over and looked. 'Why did you cut them off?'
'I dunno.' I sniffled to keep my nose from running. Marvin handed me a kleenex. My mother gave me another concerned speech. Each time she collected another breath my father would ask me, 'But why did you do it? . . . '
'I dunno.' I didn't, and it upset him greatly that I had no reason for cutting off my eyelashes. I think Marvin understood. In the end he kissed me goodnight and told me that if I rubbed pennies over my eyelids they'd grow back faster.