I waited, listening to the tapping, to the computer fan quietly humming, as my eyes adjusted back to the dim room, the orange fading like my first grade teacher’s name.
A song flitted into my mind. We had sung it, Jeremy and I standing side by side in the pew, that previous Sunday: “You’re a hiding place for me / you preserve me from trouble / you surround me with shouts of deliverance…” I let it pull me back into my body. I noticed my feet touching the floor and I felt them tapping in time with the melody. I imagined myself melting into my chair, firmly rooted. I felt my heart bump in my chest as I breathed deeply, each inhale and exhale a prayer.
“This will all be over soon enough,” I thought.
The nurse strode out the door; I followed, Jeremy and Zeke rolling behind me. We snaked along another hallway until Amy stopped before a door. On the frame, a plastic green flag laid flat against the wall. Amy reached up and flipped it toward the hallway, then opened the door. “In here,” she said.
I walked inside the beige room while Amy stood in the hallway, scribbling on her clipboard, and I sat in one of the two mauve chairs edging the room. I noticed a computer and stool to the right of the doorway.
“Actually, Dr. Patron will need you there,” she said, looking up and motioning to the black exam chair in the center of the small room.
Need death be what wakes you at 3AM, agog and panting,
like you’ve fallen beneath a wave and drunk its foam, sputtering and begging for relief?
Just then, we heard a knock at the door. “Come in,” Amy said.
The door opened a crack and a blurry Jeremy entered with Zeke.
“Hi, hon,” I said.
“Do you want us to sit with you?” Jeremy asked.
“Please!” I said, grinning. “I failed the eye test, by the way,” I said to Jeremy, smiling. “No surprise there.” He grimaced.
I walked straight down the corridor and trailed the nurse into an open room to the right.
“Take a seat for me,” she said. I glanced around the beige room – it was no larger than a walk-in closet. I sat in the black vinyl chair in the center of the beige room. The nurse sat on the perimeter on a stool facing a desk, a computer monitor behind her on the counter. She tapped the keys, and then swiveled to look at me. “I’m Amy,” she said.
“I’m Liz,” I said, holding out my hand. We shook. She was blonde, friendly-looking. She looked like the sort of person who might go camping over the weekend.
“So,” she said, “what brings you in today?”
I said, “Well, there’s something wrong with my eye,” then smiled.
The doors swung open, and I walked inside the beige specialist’s office, hoping to look young and healthy and confident, perhaps like a feminist lawyer with a full schedule — instead of the partially blind stay-at-home mom that I was. Jeremy followed behind, pushing a stroller with Zeke inside, half-asleep and gripping his cowboy doll.
I walked up to the receptionist, who was on the phone, while Jeremy and Zeke retreated to a corner of the waiting room.
“I’ll be with you in one moment,” she said, raising one finger.
The next morning, I woke up tired: Zeke had woken us a couple of times with crying and throw up, and by morning, we had draped his bed with towels, and the washing machine thundered with the soiled fitted sheets, pajamas, and blankets from the nighttime.
I opened my eyes, staring at a blurry ceiling and remembered in a flash that today we’d finally learn what was wrong with my eye. Just a few more hours of not knowing, I thought, and I sat up suddenly. Jeremy sighed and turned onto his stomach, burrowing his face into his pillow. I looked at my phone and saw a text from Kiley: “Can definitely still watch Hope. We’re planning on it. Keep me posted if anything changes.”
I smiled and whispered, “Thanks, God.”
Once we were finally driving home, a plastic grocery bag wrapped around Zeke’s torso as he dozed in his car seat, I asked Jeremy: “What are we going to do?”
“I guess we bring Zeke with us,” he said. “Kiley can watch Hope, and we’ll take Zeke.”
“But if Zeke’s really sick, then she won’t want to be around any of us – otherwise her kiddo will get sick, too,” I said.
We’re quiet for a bit, and then I said, “I can’t believe this.”
“Yeah,” he said.
The night before the appointment in early February, Jeremy, the kids, and I brought a salad to Morgan and Joel’s house for a Superbowl party. We milled around, sometimes reclining on their yellow couch, sometimes filling plates with food at their long table and sitting on the benches along the length of their table. We talked, ate guacamole and chips, glanced at commercials, and drenched salad in homemade dressing as their kids and ours run up and down the stairs in wild delight, chasing each other and building towers and playing hide-and-seek.
While I chopped cucumber to finish assembling the salad, crammed into an alcove in the kitchen, Joel filled cups with water.
He asked me, “So, how is your eye? How are you feeling?”
“I’m so sorry, Liz,” Sheryl said.
“Thanks, Sheryl.” My friend Sheryl had stopped by during naptime a couple of days after the appointment. We talked on my teal couch in the basement, surrounded by bookshelves, cups of hot tea in our hands.
“Who is your specialist, if you don’t mind me asking?” she said.
“Colorado Retina Associates,” I said.
“That’s who Carl saw – did I ever tell you he had an eye issue?” she said.
“What? No – what happened?” I said.