I walk into the exam room and sit in a mauve chair on the edge of the room. I text Jeremy, squinting to see the letters and hoping auto-correct will help me communicate the gist of what I mean to say: “I’m in exam room 2 now. Looks like dr will come in here. Want to come?”
“Z is continuing to throw up,” Jeremy texted.
“Oh no :(,” I texted.
“So, I’ll give you a shot in the arm with a red dye. The dye then flows through your veins and toward your eye, illuminating the blood flow in your eye for us. It’ll give us a better idea of what’s going on in the back of your right eye. The only real side effect is that occasionally people feel woozy once the whole dose enters the blood stream,” she said. “Oh, and your urine will be neon for awhile, and you might look in the mirror and your skin might look a bit yellow – that’s all normal.”
“Okay,” I said, nodding and reaching for the paper and pen she held out to me across the desk. “Doesn’t sound too bad.”
“Nah,” she said, shaking her head.
“I am totally fine with yellow pee,” as I scribbled my signature.
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.
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.
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?”
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.