Amra Eye Caps


I have a recurring dream in which I’m late for a party and I’m trying to put my contacts in. I’m having a problem, because these are not my usual, waking-life contacts. They’re big as fried eggs. Sometimes they’re rigid and made of the wrong material—drift wood, melamine, ice. One dream had me trying to fit an entire paperback in there. It wasn’t a thick book—Siddhartha comes to mind—but I had a hell of a time, and my friends left for the party without me.

A while ago I was visiting a mortuary college, because I was working on a book about cadavers, and I came across what looked to be a contact lens straight out of one of these dreams. Technically, it wasn’t a lens, as it couldn’t change the wearer’s vision, or anyway not in a positive manner. The morticians called it an “eye cap.” It was about the diameter of a cocktail olive and made of rigid plastic with perforations partway through. The perforations form little pointy, spur-like chads, which work on the same principle as those steel spikes that threaten Severe Tire Damage on behalf of rental-car companies. An eyelid will come down over an eye cap, but, once closed, won’t open back up. The instructor explained that eye caps “help the decedent keep his eyes closed.” (I love mortuary euphemisms. “Decedent” turns a dead, decomposing human into something benign and academic; it’s like you die and become a legal term.)

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Mary Roach

Mary Roach is the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (W.W. Norton).

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