They actually tried to explain the glasses once. It was in an issue I read when was a kid, and I couldn't get my hands on it now. As I recall, it started with somebody drawing Clark Kent's portrait, and Kent realizing it didn't look like him. Soon he understood that everybody saw him as slightly older and thinner than he really was.

Good old Ma Kent had to remind him why it was so:

Back in his Superboy days, our hero quickly realized he had to keep people from recognizing him in his civilian identity. He needed something simple, and glasses seemed like a good idea.

Super-glasses, of course, would be even better (in those days, everything had to be super, including Krypto, the super-dog). Young Clark Kent still had the capsule in which he'd arrived to Earth as a baby. He used the Kryptonian glass from one of its windows to make his glasses.

As it turned out, the glasses gave him mild hypnotic powers. They made people see him a little differently without any conscious effort on his part. This worked out well overall, but led to occasional puzzled comments along the lines of: "You know, you look really muscular from behind". This may also mean that the glasses are indestructible.

That was long ago, and DC Comics has made many revisions since. For all I know, maybe the secret origin of Kent's glasses has been retconned out of existence.

Prologue: Clark Kent

A globule of ink grows at the end of my leaky pen, hovering precariously over my blank page. The drop is a blue-tinted mirror to the room; it reflects the light of the cheap IKEA lamp in a pinpoint on its surface, and reflects the shadows on my weary face. Although barely a teardrop-sized piece of fluid, every other detail of the room is captured in its surface with varying levels of detail. The unpolished teak of the desk is shaded blue on the drop, in which every crack and scratch of the aging wood can be seen; indeed, the entire claustrophobic, much-neglected room is compressed into the ink surface of the droplet.

To me, it is a slow-motion film, a slow-playing reproduction of my life and room for the few seconds of its existence. I know, dear reader, that it is unusual, foreign to you, for a man to see such detail in a minuscule glob of slowly drying ink. Indeed, it is unusual for any entity – man, animal or machine – to take any interest in such a trivial globule, let alone observe the beautiful film on its surface. You would also be correct in this assumption; the ink is as plain and quotidian as the other inanimate objects in the very room it reflects. Normal people do not see this, and this is my very problem; I am near-sighted. Now, the battered horn-rimmed1 glasses on my desk would attest to this, but this near-sightedness is an acuity, more so than a visual defect.

Others can see far in the distance, where they find amazing displays of splendour, action and adventure: sports and sunsets, movies and musicals – these are the most exciting things they will ever see. Being restricted to the near, my irides have correspondingly adjusted to better see the painting they are presented; the average man sees the entire painting and basks in its general glory. My eyes can see only a postage-stamp of the masterpiece, and will focus itself instead on the irregular texture of the canvas, or the speck of Mona Lisa’s elbow that turned a paler shade of black when it was damaged years ago.

I distinctly remember reading somewhere that the eyes are but a clear glass window that sees both ways. As with all memories, this idea itself sticks tightly to my mind, while all events surrounding it had disappeared. I can’t quite recall where I read this; perhaps it was in the newspapers I pluck out of the recycling bins, or on the cover of a glossy preteen fashion and relationship magazine. It is irrelevant, however; I read that day that the pupil sees out to the world, but it is similarly easy for an observer to stare back into the person, and see the depths of their emotion, personality and thoughts. The pupil, it read, was not a one-way mirror. Indeed, to the sufficiently perceptive, one-way mirrors do not exist; pressing one’s nose against the glass confirms this simple fact. There are no one-way pupils, and the eyes of everyone in this are a portal to their own life.

From then, this concept has been the central tenet of my realm of perception; of myself, of others, and of the world. We are all Clark Kents, with our pressed office suits and dry-cleaned ties; we all have X-ray vision when we observe one another’s eyes.

1 I was always a passionate fan of Clark Kent’s everyday persona. Superman never did carry the same charm or fascination as Kent’s perfect disguise of tedium: the office suit and tie, the cleanly groomed hair, and the horn-rimmed glasses.

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