Tuesday, July 13, 2010

character sketch - Carver

Just tonight, he stood quietly beside his desk with a magnifying glass in his hand. I looked at him from the splintered pine frame of our kitchen door where I was standing. He turned around slowly, like a person who is in deep thought, and looked at me through the lens of the glass. His magnified eye was astonishingly big and brown – as big as the globe in my second grade classroom and as brown as the turned soil of our farm.

- Carver, why you up? It’s the middle of the night.

- I cain’t sleep.

- What you doin’?

- I’m studyin’ a tomato.

I walked to him and knelt beside him. I turned his magnifying glass around and looked into his eye. I saw clearly the parts of his eye that my teacher taught to me at school – the colored part that is the iris and the black part that is the pupil. But it was Carver, my five-year-old brother, who taught me how these parts work together to give us our sense of sight. It was Carver who helped me understand how we see. His lessons always began and ended with questions and were filled with an amazing assortment of facts that came from God only knows where. Our talk about seeing went something like this –

- Carter, you know the five senses?

- Yeah. Let me think…seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.

-Did’ya know if we divided our brains into three parts, two of the parts would be filled up by seeing?

- Naw, I didn’t know that. Seein’ is that important, huh?

- Yeah. You know what a person who studies the inside parts of the body is called?

- Naw, I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

- Well, that person is called an anatomist. An anatomist is kind of like an artist whose art he’ps us know
where those parts are and what they do. Did you know there were artists like that?

- Naw, I didn’t.

- Yeah, there was this anatomist in Africa a long time ago named Rufus. He he’pd us understand the parts of the eye. Do you want me to teach you about the eye?

- Sure

- There’s a thin layer on the inside of the eyeball. It’s the retina. No one could see into the retina until microscopes were invented. When people looked inside the retina for the first time they found millions of rod and cone cells. The rods and cones find rays of light and turn them into signals for the optic nerves. The optic nerves send signals to the brain and it turns them into pictures. ‘Cause of the way lenses work, the picture is upside down. The brain turns it right side up. Idn’ that amazing?

- Yeah, it's amazing. And, you know what? So are you.

He taught me the parts of the eye that helped him see the world as everyone sees it. In that moment, though, deep in the dark of night, I tried to see the parts that I didn’t understand, the parts that woke my brother in the middle of the night to study a tomato while our corner of the world slept, the parts that helped him see the world as only Carver could see it. But those parts remained hidden to me. I gently put my arm around his shoulders and held him close to me.

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