Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Blurry Eye of the Beholder

It was my eighth-grade social studies teacher who, after watching me squint at the blackboard, first urged me to get my eyes checked.

I felt silly visiting the optometrist—I had enough friends with legitimate vision issues to know that my eyes weren't that bad—but eventually I went, and the results bore out Mr. Martinez's impression: nearsighted with a touch of astigmatism.

I wore glasses for the next eighteen years, mostly for distance at first, but eventually all the time. They just made so many things clearer—street signs, movies, sheet music—that wearing them became a habit. Unfortunately, I also had other habits, like dropping my glasses on driveways and sidewalks, and sitting on them, usually just after getting a new pair.

And then, eight-or-so years ago, having scratched and bent my latest pair beyond usefulness, I just stopped wearing them. I didn't feel like coughing up $300 for new ones, so I decided to try getting by without. And mostly, I did fine. If I couldn't see something, I just squinted harder or moved closer. Soon enough, I forgot that I'd ever seen the world any other way.

When I finally returned to the optometrist last spring, he asked what had brought me in. I told him that I'd recently become more uncomfortable driving at night. He nodded; this was the most common reason people visited him.

I first wore my new frames when taking Hugo for a walk one night. I certainly didn't need glasses for this activity—I just wanted to start getting comfortable with them, to work through that dizzy, new-prescription feeling.

Even in the dark, the difference was remarkable. The tree in front of our house, once just a shadowy mass, resolved into the outlines of droopy spring leaves, tinged yellow by the streetlight.

Then I looked up, and instead of a brilliant blob I saw the crisp crescent of the moon, the shaded portion still discernible against the even darker sky. It was the one thing that no amount of squinting would ever bring into focus, the one thing that I was powerless to get closer to, and it was beautiful.

The next night, I would confirm that driving was indeed easier. But I still wonder, why in seven years did I not miss the moon?

1 comment:

  1. I got my own glasses for near-sightedness in 7th grade. And just like you were, I'm long overdue for a new prescription. Thanks for the reminder of what I'm missing. (I'll let you know how long it takes until I sit on them.)