When they brought her home from the hospital, they buckled her into the backseat gently. Her body was hardening into a shell so she had to be placed on her back with the lap belt twisted around her waist, securing her frame to the seat. Blond hairs tangled into the buckle. Maybe while the hospital staff was carrying her to the car, or perhaps when the father had leaned across the seat to cover the body with a blanket, her left eye had been brushed open and it stared absently up at the saggy upholstery of the Volvo station wagon.
Her opened eye went unnoticed for two hours while they drove, the city lights sliding in and fading out around them. The green glow of a vacant Star Market pooled onto the pavement where a single shopping cart was rattling rhythmically against the guardrail. They drove through the buzzing blur of tunnels and past the mud-splattered signs for Allston, Brighton, Cambridge. The river separated them from the shouts of students muffled by thick scarves and liquor-lazy tongues. The Mattress King’s promises of low prices danced on their car’s roof, his jeweled crown gleaming through their windshield. It wasn’t until they pulled off the highway into the crumbling parking lot of Friendly’s to use the bathroom and contemplate a cup of watery coffee that the mother saw her child’s eye reading the empty world the way an illiterate person might read the foreign shapes of words, and she reached back to press the lid shut.