Dr Jordan said, “First, I’d just like to test the pressure of your eye. Please tip your head back, and I’ll just place some numbing drops in your eye, like so…” I leaned my head back against the chair and one at a time, he raised a bottled, squeezed it, and liquid dropped into my eyes. I blinked furiously and the solution streamed down my cheeks.
He handed me a tissue. “Go ahead and wipe your eyes if you like and then tip your head back again for me – thank you,” he said.
Then he approached my eyes with an object I couldn’t identify, which he seemed to touch to my eye before I heard, “Good. Eye pressure looks normal.”
I trailed Dr. Jordan down a short corridor and through an open door. He motioned with his hand for me to sit in a blue vinyl exam chair. Two arms extended from the chair, one with a light on the end, and another with a black device I recognized but couldn’t name – it reminded me of a many-eyed metal mask. A small table also attached to the chair and held what looked like a microscope, and in another corner of the room, an angled table held a monitor and several other contraptions.
The next day, I left the kids with Jeremy and drove to an office building in Arvada, a city in the northern suburbs of Denver. I drove right past the optometrist’s office at first because I couldn’t pick it out among the other concrete and glass boxes engulfed by parking lots, but after some cursing, a jaunt through an adjacent parking lot, and a U-Turn, I pulled Jeremy’s truck into the right lot.
I parked, stepped over a parking curb and into a bed full of red mulch and an evergreen shrub, and then up onto the sidewalk. I’d worn my leather ankle boots because it made me feel like a grown-up – I needed every boost I could get – and the heels tapped as I strode across the concrete. I reached the glass doors and looked up, noticing the numbers: 12191 in a 70s font. I was at the right place.
On January 29, 2017, I stared at myself in the mirror in my bedroom, the one that hangs on the wall to the right of the bed. I stand in my underwear, a foot away from the glass, opening and closing my left eye. My optometrist appointment was the next day, and I had decided to do a final experiment before going to sleep that night – after all, I’d probably made the whole thing up, hypochondriac that I was, and I wanted to be sure the problem was even worth bringing up to a physician.
Left eyelid open: I can see my whole face. Left eyelid closed: I’m missing a nose. Open: all there. Closed: blank in the middle.
I nod, looking at you, and when I turn my attention back to the road, I notice a red Mercedes convertible in front of me, stopped in the middle of my lane, its right blinker flashing. While we’ve been talking, I have been accelerating toward it, distracted by you. I pump the brake hard, and just barely, I manage to stop a foot from its bumper.
Then time slows. I turn my neck to the right and look up into the rearview mirror. I see a white box truck coming up fast. I brace as it slams into the back of the car.
Sometime in mid-January, my vision changed. I noticed that if I closed my left eye, a grey cloud appeared right in the center of my vision.
I tested it for a few days before I said anything, even before I allowed myself any judgments about it – because, surely, it was a fluke.
But each time, I saw a clear peripheral image and a blank grey cloud in the center and distortion at its edges, through which no light passed. I could not read out of my right eye; I could not study my children’s faces; I could not see the names of street signs.
Jeremy: hey I’ve been looking at that conference… I got in touch with the guy in charge, and he sent me a schedule.
me: So cool! Live jazz, bach cello recital, music collage, a play, “art as a gift to rehumanize the world”! This sounds like the sweetest conference ever. I hope you’re going to go with me, because it’d be more fun to go with somebody I know. : )
I do not at all take to heart the passage from Mark 4 that we discuss at bible study the day before: “A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29, NIV)
I ignore the truth it screams at me: growth is slow, imperceptible, out of my control. A seed can’t be rushed into a stalk into a wheat germ. I cannot prod it along with my tears and anxiety and journaling and library stalking, not even a little bit.
Even so, I am desperate for signs of change. Which is probably why, when your teenage sister texts – she got my number from you, and she wants to know if I’d like to come over to hang out with her – I think, sure, why not, and by the way, maybe I’ll just happen to see you while I’m at your house hanging out with your high-school aged sister. Surprise!
I sweat during the whole twenty minute drive to TGI Fridays to attend my welcome home party, cranking up the AC even though it’s practically snowing outside the car windows – what if you’re there? What if you’re not there? I’d just arrived back in Colorado Springs that day, after a long drive from the […]