It was the middle of the afternoon when I noticed. A figure. A spot. A shadow, hovering in front of my eye, disappearing whenever I tried to focus on it. Reappearing. Disappearing. Reappearing. My hands clasped over my eyes tight. Opening them again, I did what any sensible adult would do. I called my mother.
Minutes later, I was googling blindness. My hand was, at this point, jammed into my eye, desperately trying to rub out my imminent doom. Mom J. found me hunched over this way, stabbing at my keyboard. She ushered me to the car. Driving, she could barely suppress her instinctive dread – that this was bad, that this was very, very bad.
When I was a kid, bat-like eyesight was just one of several handicaps that made my childhood extra humbling. Obviously the enormous pink and gold-engraved glasses were not a plus. But these were dim maladies compared to my dwarfish height, my oshkosh b’gosh wardrobe, my debilitating shyness, to name a few. I could blame my mother for most of these, those ridiculous, purple and green giraffe print overalls especially…. but at ten, to compensate, I often retreated to my greatest alibi – to my sparkling hopes and dreams.
I realize we all have hopes. We all have dreams. What I cannot explain is why so many of my childhood dreams involved dancing like Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2, or singing like Mariah Carey. I can’t explain what either of these have to do with poor eyesight, but it’s true. Whenever my eyesight would raise a negative power, somehow my imaginative dance skills would increase in greatness, as would the appreciative audience watching me. Whenever I was teased for being too short, or my glasses were unapologetically smashed into my face by a stray ball (a.k.a. a jerk classmate), I would shrug it off, because these fools had obviously never heard the angelic register my voice could hit, in my head.
Hilariously, my delusions only became more elaborate, more defensive the older I got. By 14, my amazing dance skills would inevitably win the affection and devotion of a hot foreign exchange student, from Italy, who would be providentially visiting the school that day. He was just looking for the restroom when he heard someone singing a sad, beautiful song in a vacant hallway. He would later ask himself in disbelief, whether or not he really saw the girl he found there moonwalk.
I’ve since discerned that the key word here is ‘defensive.’ My enormous ego bruises too easily, it always has. So, as a kid, pathetic daydreams dramatized my self-worth. As an adult, I often catch myself elaborating, making sure I look especially winsome in unappealing situations, however inconsequential. Most importantly is that I am trying to stop this. I am trying not to explain so much. Which brings us back to our original story…
Arriving at the eye office, I stumbled out of the car. My hand rose and fell from my eye, indecisively. The eye doctor that I visit is a gregarious Italian man, who has always made me feel okay about having the worst vision he has ever seen. A family man. Three daughters. He also has a random penchant for picking only absurdly beautiful interns and receptionists to work for him. Of course, on this fateful day, ten minutes past their closing hour, the latter were the only people left to see me.
They were crowded around the desk. I think they emitted light, all of them. Their concerned, model faces were rapt as my mother and I swept into the room. I opened my mouth to apologize for keeping them. But my mother spoke first. “Oh, she gasped, “thank God! I thank God for all of you! She was crying. Crying!” My heart dropped. My mind started racing to my rescue.
But I was too late. The receptionists melted into a chorus of pitying “Oh”s. A handsome, bearded intern stroked his chin with concern. The young doctor in charge that day – who kind of looks like Superman – made a sweeping gesture towards the treatment rooms. His face said quite plainly, “Your oshkosh b’gosh suspenders are too sweet.” How I wanted to defend myself! How I wanted to go into a diatribe against poor vision, and the Internet, to make him believe me, that I was not crying, not really.
In the end, I sighed, smiled and nodded. While my pupils dilated, I sang ‘Always Be My Baby,’ pitch-perfect, in my head.
p.s. you should know, I officially know how to read a newspaper. Cover-to-cover, just like my Lolo D. Kind of anti-climactic, this one. But you can cross it off the list, in case you’re keeping track. Will probably take a break from reading it whole for a while. Am terrified of running into anything remotely related to Floridian face-eating.
p.p.s. Forgot to mention, the eye-ghost was a floater. Annoying, but harmless. Le sigh!