I must admit from the outset I did not have good intentions going in. What ailed my poor eyes were simple aches from the steady bath of LCD backglow I had bid them suffer this past decade. It wasn't the handcrafted lenses I needed so much as a fashionable square frame to draw out some intriguing definition from this beige pool of vagueness, my face. The trend in high school was to wear glasses or the empty frames of glasses (¿does anyone remember this horrible trend?) regardless of the wearer's visual acuity. Now, there are whole Tumblrs pornographically devoted to men with beards and glasses, two things I lack, but with a bit of good fortune, could possess. The best shape of my life is attainable yet, in time for Pride 2015. The barber who has a hard time mind-reading what I want is always there to tame my coarse, dull black hair into submission for at least a few
days hours of sleek glory.
I want glasses to look hotter and smarter. After all these years I still think back to eighth grade, when I saw the most beautiful pair of glasses ever I'd laid eyes on. Thick, black frames with temples of equal breadth adorned with a nacreous square inlay. It is a sin to say this, but I was envious of their owner's poor vision for just that reason.
I signed in on the sheet. The receptionist hadn't blacked out the names of earlier patients, and it lacked a checkbox for new patients. The pen was attached with something like twine embedded in the endcap of a bic pen. Several women without glasses and several people with glasses floated in and out of the receptionist's desk, an island in a swamp of beige-tiled floor space, with two wings forming the sparse waiting area and the elegant gallery of eye-glass frames. I gazed at the 10,000 delicate puzzles of glass, metal and swirly plastics perfectly aligned on about a dozen equally-spaced mirrored shelves and had a light euphoria from that part of myself soothed by regularity and geometry.
The receptionist mispronounced my name in asking me to fill out a new patient form, which was awfully simple and short, and most importantly asked you to consent to a dilation of the pupils. In the meanwhile I caught my eye on the pretty, bespectacled technician who flitted in and out, nervously asking for instruction here and guidance there, obviously the ugly duckling in this gaggle of grown women, but the apple of my eye. His rusty-blonde hair complimented both his skin, like clotted cream drizzled with honey, and the impossibly-vital blush of his cheeks. I imagined our future life together: One in which I would never let him leave the house without sunscreen. One in which we'd stay in shape together, because we both needed a little trimming around the waist. A life where we stumbled around blindly with our mouths during hot make-out sessions, because our need for corrective eyewear would be equally desperate, our square-cut designer frames hopelessly impeding. I also checked my phone and read Harper's Magazine during this Biercian reverie.
Finally my name was called and the technician led me into a small, dimly lit closet outfitted with two devices on a raisable platform. I was to place my chin on the first device to automatically measure the focus of my eyes by means of a tiny screen with tropical visions printed on it, and the other, which secured the vertex of a truncated cone almost to the surface of my eyeball, puffed my eyeball and knocked out one of my eyelashes (good riddance!). I was then transferred to a slightly larger, equally dim room and left to my own devices. Interspersed with this post are some blurry snapshots I captured in my boredom. Although these are quick shots from a two-year old Galaxy, they carry the weight and significance of any museum-ready piece. Did I not substitute the visceral experience of human eyesight for an electronic facsimile of the experience ? Social commentary. Was there not meaning in my failing, God-given vision being outpaced by binary machines wrought by human hands? Irony.
Before he departed for the last time, my blond everything administered salty, tear-producing drops on my eyeballs, followed by those which dilate the pupils. I then suffered the most unique and unusual sensation ever encountered in life. My eyes became very blurry at close range, and my iris felt stretched back as if by tiny, hateful amoebas, or Saran wrap pressed over an over-flowing bowl of soft, cubed fruit. I heard the beautiful, mingled laughter of two men enjoying each other's company waft in through the cracks of the door, from the room where the technician was attending to the next patient, whose broken English and affable manner caused much hilarity and warmth to ensue after the tonometer. It is possible the technician put one too many drops in my right eye and skewed the results of my eye exam. We would never have worked out because attention to detail is part of caring for another human being.
Note carefully that an optometrist is not a medical doctor, but a licensed professional, whose work forms a subset of that of a specialized opthalmologist, and I say this not to denegrate the work of optometrists; actually I don't even know why the fuck I'm saying this, really.
The optometrist, who was remarkably similar to his many vintage likenesses hung on the wall and meant to humanize him, performed an eye exam. Letters were projected on a screen opposite, my eyes were tested for astigmatism through misshapen lenses rotated between iterations, the very interior of my eyeball examined through a combination of microscopy and a narrow, high-luminance torch emulating the brilliance of the Sun.
He prescribed me reading glasses, although my vision was fairly normal (slightly farsighted in one eye), because I took the trouble to "complain" and something might as well be done about it now. I was directed to a desk in the right wing of the tile swamp, in the midst of the gallery of frames. My Medicaid (I'm a welfare baby! #ObamaPhones2014) did not permit me to look at any of these, but rather a paltry selection of 16 to 20 served on a moulded plastic platter. I was allowed to use a magnifying desk mirror to try them on and opted for chunky, translucent rectangles, the closest thing to the real McCoy I could hope for.
The clerk said they "look nice on [me]". Outside, the sun made me blink twice a second because the dilating drops did not wear off for several hours. I stumbled home as gracefully as I could, with my eyes glued to the ground for respite.