ojos que no ven. | A Personal Essay

Words and artwork by Daniela Bologna, a longtime creator for Sunstroke

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My family’s never really been superstitious, but growing up I remember being surrounded by evil eye pendants, charms and jewelry. Always glaring back at me, wide and unassuming. When asked, my mum would explain that the purpose of these eyes is to protect you from “el mal del ojo” – malevolent glares that wish you ill – and in doing so they consequently fall off. We had no need for charms to fend off spirits or demons, for the true evil that needs warding off is just other people.


Believe what you will, but not one of us was successfully able to keep an evil eye charm for long. Not in one piece, anyway. The eyes always found ways to break in public and disappear before our very eyes, teaching us subtle lessons about the times we wore them and the times they disappeared.


* * *


My sister and I had matching bracelets with our names inscribed as children, since before I could even remember. In every family photo, the little bracelets were there, honey-coloured evil eyes catching the sunlight as they dangled from the chain. I’ve been told that I lost my first evil eye very young, sometime I was still in a stroller. It fell right off, leaving no trace that the charm had been there to begin with. I had apparently taken quite a liking to this eye even if I had not learned it’s meaning yet, so dismayed I refused to wear the bracelet without it. My sister, on the other hand, was luckier. She kept her bracelet intact for much longer, until one day when she was eleven and hiking in the woods. The entire bracelet had come off and been swallowed by the foliage that glazed the forest floor, still damp from the rain. She spent the rest of the afternoon retracing her steps with her friends at her side. Although she never found that evil eye or the moment that triggered its loss, she found the people she could count on.


* * *


The first evil eye I actually remember losing was a woven bracelet gifted to me by a Brazilian and Greek couple, with teal, ivory and golden thread. It fell on a ferry to the mainland from the Isle of Wight during a Geography class trip. I didn’t even try looking for it. I didn’t really need an extra indicator but the bracelet reminded me of what I needed to hear: I didn’t belong. The next year I started Sixth Form at a different school.


* * *


I asked my mother about a time she lost eye jewelry that really stuck with her. She paused for a little while and then said that, yes, one time when she was a new mother and doing grocery shopping with my sister in McAllen. She was reaching for something in the frozen section when she felt as if someone was pulling her hand. Flustered, she finished quickly and took my sister back to the car. My mum’s bracelet was intact, but the evil eye that hung from it was gone. She searched everywhere around the section where her hand got stuck and found nothing. To this day, she still remembers the weight of feeling someone watching her. My sister always caught the eyes of passerbys because she was a really beautiful baby, but my mum said that that day something was amiss with the stares they were receiving, and she still can’t quite shake it off.


* * *



The only person we know that has never lost or broken an evil eye charm is my father. For years would wear it around his neck, as if daring someone to even try looking at him wrong. I wonder if he still wears it.


* * *


The last one that broke was this summer. It was an evil eye ring I found tucked away in a thrift store on 5th Ave. I was later warned against this purchase by my mum because she said it would carry the weight of its previous owner’s ill-meaning glares but at the time I thought nothing of it. It didn’t even last me a month. I was waiting for an elevator in an deserted London building when it snapped in half, like if the eye had been cut clean off. Its bounces echoed down the hall, as if it had been thrown at full force. I still have no clue how it even physically happened, but as they say  “ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente” (eyes that cannot see, heart that cannot feel) – what you don’t know cannot hurt you. I wanted to glue it back together but everyone protested because it had lost its protective power”. Instead, I rebelled by buying four very similar-looking evil eye rings and stacking them in a row on my bedside table. For the first time I feel prepared for the next occasion a ring chooses to break. Tthere will be plenty of other rings in line waiting to be worn; plenty of other lessons waiting in line to be learned. That doesn’t count as cheating, right?