I started wearing glasses in the first grade. I don’t remember when I couldn’t get by without them, only that I always had to have them. There is a fear with glasses, a fear I would be helpless, I wouldn’t be able to get home, the world would be in smoke and tatters and I would be unable to see it all falling down around me. There is also a lovely muting to taking off one’s glasses, like removing a hearing aid. People could do whatever they liked, but I couldn’t see them, invisible to me. A boy in my elementary school very much wanted red glasses. I thought he was crazy for this. A fat boy. A Black boy. I don’t remember his name, but I want to call him Fred for closure of this memory. He also wanted a retainer, or maybe it was a headgear, or maybe it was braces. I guess he wanted to accessorize, or maybe he wanted to be a cyborg.
In the sixth grade, when I was thirteen, my mother let me get contact lenses. My mother doesn’t call them contact lenses, she calls them her EYES. I need to go put my EYES in. My father was not directly involved in these parts of my life, in the physicality of me. The contacts lenses were terrifying to put in and take out. Touching an EYE is scary for the physical feeling, squishing the ball of it is a little nauseating, but you also see the FINGER coming right up at it, you have to learn to suppress the desire to close it. My brother remembers taking my lenses out of my EYES for me. I don’t remember this, but I don’t doubt it, either. The novelty of the fear wore off after a little while. I was free of the glasses fear, but had new fears. What if the lens got folded up in the corner of my EYE? What if I lost one? What if my EYE got infected and rotted out of my head? What if no one liked my patch? (In my first college, there was a girl who had Veronica Lake hair, all peanut butter sundae swirls, very carefully and completely covering one of her EYES in a swoop. We always wondered if and later found out she was indeed missing an EYE. So there is a better way.)
When I was thirty, due to my own idiocy, I had to spend eleven hundred dollars of health insurance money in two months, so I got my EYES lasered. I couldn’t get the LASIK on account of my thin corneas. I had PRK: they blasted the surface of them, as opposed to peeling an orange skin piece up, blasting that, and putting that piece of peel back all nice; what LASIK is. They messed up the first EYE and for four months I couldn’t tell the difference between a V and a W, an m or and n, or a ‘ and a “. I was wearing glasses with one lens in them and one poorly lasered EYE, but I could still see the light on the fire alarm at night and my feet when I woke up, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen those things.
They redid my EYE, and did the other one, but I should have gotten the second one done again. I still need correction in it. I wear glasses with a very slight prescription in them when I need to read for a long time. I will never be free of them, I suppose. (I wouldn’t recommend that doctor. The male assistant was also a bit handsy.)
The thing no one told me about EYE surgery: you smell your EYES burning. The entire time the laser is going, it smells in there like burning HAIR. I mentioned it to the surgeon, and the lady assistant said, Oh, but that’s just the laser! And we both looked at her hard. Because lasers are light. Light doesn’t have smell. I didn’t want to tell her she’d had dozens of people’s burnt EYES in her nose. But there was that crumbling, that undertow of knowing, her stomach curled in and her eyebrows went up and she became aware of a bad part of her job. I ruin things.
When the apocalypse comes, I will see it coming, if somewhat out of focus. The Beast of the Sea will be easy to spot, but I will have to close one EYE to see him without a bit of a fuzzy halo. If I want to relax, I’ll have to get my glasses to see the Whore of Babylon riding the dragon with all the HEADS. But I can run now. I can run and not need the chemicals and the little rubber sheaths for my EYES. I am better off now. I will see my death.