Every morning Sulevi would eat his breakfast and read the daily paper. And today again the paper had arrived and his breakfast was ready: porridge and coffee and orange juice. That day the newspaper contained discussions of tax renewals and low-pressure areas and some hammer-thrower's Achilles tendon.
But when Sulevi glanced up from his paper to rest his eyes a bit, everything his eyes fell on looked remarkably different from before. He looked at his own right hand, which was gripping the cereal spoon. It looked entirely different from what it had been, very complicated, as though his fleshly hand had numberless shadow hands.
Sulevi was frightened. He felt his right hand with his left, but it felt the same as always. It just looked different. Actually, both hands looked different. But nothing had happened to them. In that case, something had happened to his eyes. They didn't hurt, but they had changed.
It was so early on that autumn morning that the sun had not yet risen. Sulevi lived on the top floor, and from his kitchen window he could see a grand highway. When he looked at the cars' headlights, they were not at all distinct points of light. They were glowing, criss-crossing ribbons, as though they had been photographed using a time exposure.
Sulevi went back to bed and pulled the covers up over his head. Maybe he hadn't slept enough. He hoped that a little more rest would restore his eyes to their previous state of health. But when he opened them again, the trouble was still there.
Sulevi went out. The day was already long gone. On the athletic field across the street some boys were kicking around a ball. Sulevi guessed that it was a soccer ball, although it didn't look anything like a ball. It looked like an enormously long strand of macaroni that was tying intricate knots.
The boys themselves looked even stranger. They too looked like living ribbons, while at the same time preserving something of a human aspect.
Sulevi was frightened by what he saw. This kind of thing wasn't entirely normal, that he knew. Best to go see the doctor. He had to walk groping and feeling his way, since he had not yet become accustomed to his new eyes. But he managed to find the eye clinic.
"And was there some problem?" the eye doctor asked.
And Sulevi described all his symptoms to the eye doctor, and the doctor peered into his eyes with a small light and measured their pressure and asked him to read the letter E that was displayed in different directions on the wall chart.
"What is it, doctor?" Sulevi asked. "What's wrong with my eyes?"
"There is nothing wrong with your eyes," the doctor said. "Not so far as I can tell. I don't think that it actually has to do with your eyes. The problem is deeper, far deeper. Look, we don't see with our eyes alone. We see with our whole being, so to speak. With our brains. Our memory. Our feelings."
"But then what is wrong with me? As a person?" Sulevi asked. "And is it serious?"
"In reality you are not ill. This won't kill you. And just the same it is serious, in a way. But as to what has caused it, well, I can't say. The fact is, you have started to see time."
"I beg your pardon?" Sulevi said.
"That's right, you are seeing more dimensions than other people do. Nothing more unusual than that," the eye doctor said.
"And isn't that unusual?" Sulevi said.
"Of course it is rather strange," the doctor agreed. "This has never happened before in my practice."
"Is it possible to get rid of it somehow?" Sulevi asked. "I really wouldn't care to see time. That is, when no one else sees it. It makes me feel somehow eccentric, surely you understand, Doctor. Perhaps you might find some suitable eye drops-"
"Such medicines I don't have. No one has them," the doctor said. "You must make an effort to adjust. It could have been something worse, much worse. But if you'd like a second opinion from another expert- Though I don't think an expert is to be found for your condition."
"But surely surgery would help," Sulevi said. "Maybe you could remove that part of the eye that is seeing time."
"Surgery-nooo, I don't want to get into that," the doctor answered. "Because the problem is not with your eyes, as I said. It is much deeper, if indeed it is a problem at all. I would not call it a problem. And I'm sure it could not be cut out. I would say that it is just a new peculiarity. It's the way you look at the world. Accept it; that will make things a little easier for you. You might be proud of it. That's my advice. You see more than others do; that's surely special. Unique!"
Sulevi listened in silence. But he wasn't proud. Rather, he was distressed. Whether the thing was a defect or a distinction, he wanted it out.
"Of course it might correct itself," the eye doctor consoled him. "Be patient. Maybe you're just overstressed. Give yourself time to adjust. But I would very much like to write about your condition in some prestigious scientific journal."
"Fine with me," Sulevi said. He thanked the doctor and paid.
Sulevi returned home with his new special distinction. The eye doctor wrote an article about Sulevi in a prestigious scientific journal, which attracted some attention. He sent Sulevi a free copy of it. It had a picture of Sulevi's eyes, and they looked just like anyone else's eyes. There was no evidence that he looked at the world in a different way from anyone else.
Sulevi went on living, patiently awaiting the time when his eyes would return to their former state. But time passed, and he watched it passing, but his eyes didn't return. And gradually he stopped waiting. He understood that once someone has seen time, he will always see it.
Everything that moved and everything that aged left their tracks in the world, and Sulevi saw those tracks. But nothing stayed just as it had been. He looked at clouds and saw their earlier stages. At night he followed the light-year voyages of the stars and the moon's orbit that arched over the sky. He eyed himself in the mirror, and the mirror was full of eyes-tired and bright, tearful and cheerful and lonely eyes.
Sulevi looked at people coming toward him on the street. They were all very complicated. In every one of them there were many, many Is, and yet they were one and only. It was perplexing. It tired Sulevi. Through today's faces Sulevi saw their earlier forms, back to youth and childhood.
Once Sulevi even saw Lydia on the street, far off. At first he didn't realize that it was Lydia. And when at last he did recognize her, he noticed that Lydia did not remember him. But in the forgetfulness of Lydia's eyes he saw the days of their shared childhood.
© Leena Krohn