“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.
I called the specialist’s office back the next morning at 8AM, determined to demand that the receptionist write my name on the calendar, to discover that Dr. Jordan had done my work for me.
“You can find all the new patient forms online, if you’d like to fill them out ahead of time,” Sherry said.
“Thank you,” I said. “Um, by the way, how much do these appointments typically cost? I don’t really have insurance – it’s a sharing program, so we pay all the bills up front.”
“You’re self-pay?” Sherry asked.
“I guess so,” I said.
“For self-pay clients, you have to pay $250 up front when you arrive, then the rest after the appointment – depends on the tests they do. They usually do an ultrasound on the first appointment. Could be up to $1200.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Wow,” I said. “So, the doctor actually already took photos of my eye… could we use those instead so we won’t have to repeat tests?”
“Sorry, these doctors like to take their own photos,” she said.
“I see,” I said.
I sobbed on the way home, squinting at road signs through the roll-up sunglasses wedged between my glasses and my face. The plastic clung to the edges of my forehead; my dilated pupils ached in the afternoon sunshine.
By the time I pulled the car into the driveway, my husband had already emailed his boss and claimed a personal day. I opened the door and my husband stood in the center of the dining room, my kids on the floor playing beneath him – they turned to look at me.
“Mommy!” said my two-and-a-half-year-old son, while my four-year-old daughter hid beneath the table, giggling.
“Hey, bud,” I said to him.
“Hi,” my husband said to me.
I closed the door and walked toward my husband. I rested my head on his chest, and he embraced me. “Are you okay?” he said.
I stood up straight and said, “It looked like an explosion in my eye.”
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.