Again, I can see — forest and tree

Helmet Head

I’m seeing the world in a whole new light. Not because we’re coming out of the pandemic, if we even are. No, not because we’re finally getting a chance to be together again. No, none of that. I’m seeing the world again because, after years of squinting, of pretending, I finally traded my three-dollar CVS readers for a pair of progressives. Yes, glasses.

“You would just about fail your driving test,” the eye doctor tells me when I finally give in to the reality of age.

I don’t like hearing it, but those exit signs are hard read when careening along New England highways — my phone telling me where and when to turn, complete with Australian accent.

“When was my last eye exam?” I ask the assistant prepping me for a test I’ve aced since I was ten. “Eagle eye,” they used to call me.

“Five years ago,” she says. “2017.”

“What!?!” I say, questioning pandemic time, the last two years compressing our lives into one big blurr of delayed appointments and postponed to-dos. Lockdown changes our relationship with each passing day, though none of us yet quite sure how. “Is time even linear?” the Stephen Hawking in me asks. Covid time the new measure.

The assistant hands me a simple eye blind. “Read what you can.”

I can’t — read more than a line or two before I start guessing.

“That’s good,” she says.

“No it’s not,” I think to myself. The thought of my blurring eyesight slowly grips present reality, though this whole thing’s not much of a surprise since I’ve been wearing my readers around the house for years. I find two times magnification not all that disorienting.

“Twice as much to see,” my warped rationalization whispers. “Twice as much fun.”

“I wear my readers all the time,” I say, trying to lessen creeping low-level anxiety. To this statement I get no response. She’s powering through her prep list, half listening to this patient, one in a long line of denialist.

“The doctor will be in in a minute,” about all I get back.

It’s scary to think about what I’ve been missing these last five years. My brain making excuses for what my eyes couldn’t see. When my new glasses arrive, I ride over on my bike to pick them up, and soon walk up and down the floor of Lenscrafters to get a quick sense of what actual glasses do for me.

Kupels Bagel

“How do they feel?” the question asked of all new wearers, my fitter looking bored now that I can see her from across the room.

“Weird.”

I walk up and down the store a couple of times, the way one might when trying on new shoes, not really able to tell if they fit, find myself dutifully smiling, following direction.

“OK, I guess,” the only answer I can muster.

Wearing them for bike ride home quickly fades from possibility. No, these will take a bit of getting used to.

“Wear them all the time and in a couple of days you won’t even notice you have them on,” my fitter explains. A light queasiness accompanies me when I have them on, but things are clearer.

“You’ll have to turn your head to see clearly,” she points out. “You remember the hourglass effect I showed you? Everything outside of those areas will be blurry.”

That’s too bad, I think. Until a couple of days later when I don’t even notice them on. Turning my head comes quickly and naturally. I find myself looking around, noticing the world again.

“You all look great,” I say to colleagues when we join Zoom and Teams calls. “You’ve been a blur since we all were sent home, not because of COVID, but because I needed glasses.”

Now, two years to the day we walk away from each other, I can see again. Mostly, I find myself looking up at the trees, observing them posed for the warmth of spring so they can do their leafy thing. I look up and notice the complexity of intertwined branches, occasionally seeing hawk in flight. There’s a lot to see when you stop to notice.

A pair of morning doves on icy branch.

The sharp focus of text.

The glistening wet road beneath ever so thin bicycle tire.

Crisp crystalline flakes of falling snow.

Small print.

Seeing both forest AND tree again. Yes, a new man. The miracle of clear sight.

It took longer than it should—to admit, to give in, to take the test. So glad I did. Everything and everyone looks great, just in time to be in the world again.

Clarence St.

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