Monday, May 03, 2010

Giving my Nose a Break

or
It‘s All Brooke‘s Fault

By All4Eyes February 2007

"Well, Lauren, that's some black eye you've got yourself there! It looks OK on the inside, though. But I'm afraid you have a small fracture on the bridge of your nose. Naturally, it's not exactly a place were we can put a cast or anything, so what I suggest you do is don't touch your nose for a few days, apply ice periodically to keep the swelling down and come back in a week and we'll see if it's healing straight. If not, we can do plastic surgery later, if you wish. Your mother says you got this from walking into furniture-that ought to teach you to walk around without your glasses!" That was a very dumb thing for the doctor to say, because

1. At around -6D each eye, I am not THAT blind without my glasses (you'd think a doctor would know this)

2. Even if I were, that was a rude thing to say and you would think a doctor would have more tact and

3. This whole thing was actually my best friend Brooke's fault

Before I tell you how Brooke led to my getting a black eye and broken nose, perhaps I should back up and tell you a little bit about her (and myself). Brooke and I have been next door neighbors and best friends since my family moved here, when I was 3 and Brooke was 5. I always kinda looked up to Brooke as the big sister I never had (I've got a big brother, but he's 8 years older than me, so he and I were never quite on the same page growing up) and I guess I was like the sister she never had, too. She was her parents' first child and they didn't want to have anymore after her, they were afraid if they did they'd have another baby like Brooke.

You see, Brooke was born blind. In spite of this, she went to the same school I did, navigating the halls with a white cane and learning from Braille books. We were never in the same class at the same time, because of our age difference, but every morning we walked to the bus stop together and every afternoon we walked home together and we had the most wonderful weekends and summers. We did what any girlfriends do: we went shopping, baked cookies, did each others hair (I was amazed at what she could do just by touch), had heated arguments, listened to music, talked incessantly about everything and everyone, and had sleepovers where we did everything but sleep.

She was such a pretty girl, taller and slimmer than me with long silky blonde hair (I always loved braiding it for her, then watching her feel the braid with her fingers to check my work) and the most beautiful blue eyes that any girl could hope to have, until she realized they were sightless. At first glance you couldn’t tell Brooke was blind, it was only later you realized that her eyes weren’t following you or anything else for that matter. I think it made it seem a little sadder, to know she could never see how beautiful she was. She made me think a bit of Mary from the Little House on the Prairie TV show, except of course that Mary wasn’t born blind.

I never told Brooke (or anyone else) this, but her blindness always fascinated me. I loved to watch and listen to the careful, rhythmic walk she had with her cane making a gentle tap, tap, tap, her head held high, face ever-serene, the blank, unfocussed look in her eyes making her all the lovelier. From the time she learned to read she started showing me her Braille books, so that I actually learned to read Braille before I learned to read regular print. It was like a whole other plane of existence she showed me, the world of the blind: a world of sounds and scents and sensations, a world where everything is closer and more intimate.

How many conversations we had, sitting side-by-side, her arm over my shoulder or mine over hers or just holding on to each others arms, leaning in with faces touching, speaking softly into each others hair (hers always smelled like vanilla, warm and sweet)! None of my other friends were ever that physically close with me. And her smile-there’s nothing in the world quite like a blind person’s smile; it seems, I don’t know, purer or something compared to a sighted person’s. I reveled in being with her and when she wasn’t around, I reveled in pretending to be like her.

In addition to being fascinated by her blindness, I also felt that it somehow touched on some part of me, like part of me wanted to be blind or thought I should be blind or would someday be blind. I sometimes even had this semi-creepy feeling that maybe I HAD been blind in some kind of past life, even though I don’t believe in reincarnation. Anyway, what I would do is put a blindfold on myself and then walk around my house performing various tasks, like tidying up the house, fixing myself a snack and playing with my dog Buster, who probably thought I’d gone crazy, certainly there were times when I wondered myself if I was quite well. But probably my favorite thing was to take a bath, wash and style my hair and dress myself, all while sightless. It was as if, with my sight cut off, all my other senses suddenly came alive. Stepping into the warm water, lathering up a sponge with sweet-scented soap, then scrubbing myself all over, being totally naked and totally in the dark, was so incredibly sensual and I don’t just mean in the sexual sense (though once I got into my teens, that became a strong component of it). I’d use Berry Bounty bath salts, Peach Parfait body wash, Snappy Apple shampoo and top it off with a light spritz of Lemon Mist perfume-it smelled like I was making fruit salad in the bathroom!

Then sometimes, if I felt lazy, I would just plop my blind(folded) self onto the couch and "watch" some TV (by listening). If I paid attention, I really could follow the plotline pretty well this way, maybe because I’d had so much practice. You see, up until I was 13, I couldn’t do much more than listen to the TV anyway, even without a blindfold. Well, I could look at the set, but all I saw was a vague, smeary blur of colors, unless I walked up to it and practically put my nose on the screen.

I think subconsciously I always knew I didn’t see things quite the way others did, though I didn’t understand why and, strange as this may seem considering my obsession with blindness, I really didn’t dwell on it or even think much about it at all. By the time I was 8 or so I guess the idea had formed somewhere in my mind that I probably needed glasses, but this too was deep background to all the other things I was thinking about at the time. But then I began to have a hard time seeing the board in school, and my grades suffered somewhat, but I’d always been a middle-of-the-road student, and I managed to keep up my C average.

Then one day the inevitable happened- there I was, minding my own business in History class, when suddenly Mr. Koch said "Lauren, will you read question #5 on the board for us?" "Uh, sure" said I and proceeded to squint for all I was worth. After several moments of this, I managed to find the correct # and began "In who, no, what year………(blinkblinkblink, try to refocus) did Chris…..topher Columbus (squint a little harder, c’mon, push those lenses into focus!) discover (more blinking) America?" Mr. Koch said "Well, that was very good, Lauren, except I asked you to read question 5 and you read question 6." Blushing with embarrassment I replied "Oh, silly me, I must have misheard you!" He sighed a bit and then asked another student to read question 5. He didn’t call on me again, lucky for me, especially since my eyes ached terribly from the effort and I wasn’t sure I could stand to put them through it again. In fact, this was the last time Mr. Koch ever called on me and as scenes like this were played out in all of my classes, pretty soon all the teachers got the message that I never could read the question (or answer it) correctly and they might as well not bother asking me. Looking back, it seems odd to me that none of them cared to find out WHY I could never get things right.

It was the same with gym class, when we played baseball and I couldn’t hit the ball, pretty soon I was the last kid picked for the team and spent most of the class bench-warming. I did receive the time-honored "Keep your eye on the ball" speech, which is very good advice, assuming you can actually SEE the ball. I didn’t even understand the concept of watching the ball from the moment the pitcher began to pitch, because I didn’t think any batter could see the ball at all until it was almost hitting them, let alone from the distance the batter was from the pitcher.

I always managed to pass the school eye tests by listening to the person in front of me and repeating what they said when my turn came. My parents were too caught up in their work to notice me much and I didn’t have any close friends besides Brooke and of course SHE couldn’t possibly know I couldn’t see right. Or could she?

One morning as we were waking up from a sleepover, she asked me what time it was. I looked up at the clock on my bedroom wall, but try as I might, I couldn’t make out the numbers at all. "I’m sorry Brooke, but I can’t read the clock from here. It’s too far for me to see." "What do you mean?" she asked, sounding extremely puzzled. ""You can see, you’re not blind." I answered "No, I’m not blind, but I just can’t see very well very far." "I don’t know what you mean. Why?" "Well, it’s just that things that aren’t close to me look blurry" as soon as I spoke I realized the word "blurry" meant nothing to her. "Oh, how do I explain?" I thought for a moment. "Aha! Brooke, you know how when you’re listening to the radio and it’s not quite tuned right, you get static? You can sort of hear what’s going on, but you miss a lot of words? That’s how far away things look to me."

"But why?" Brooke persisted (she was good at persisting). "I know other people who can read things far away." I thought again. "Well, it’s because I’m nearsighted, I guess". It was the first time I had ever really admitted that, even to myself, although I’d known it subconsciously for years. I can still remember the weird shivery tingles that went through me as I spoke those words -"I’m nearsighted".

"Oh" Brooke replied, in that voice that says "I’m still confused, but I don’t think you’re really capable of explaining it any better, so I’m dropping it". But I was barely listening to her anymore. I just kept listening to that voice in my head that kept repeating, over and over, those magical, tingle-sparkly words: "I’m nearsighted. I’m nearsighted! I’M NEARSIGHTED!" I don’t know why it just hit me all of a sudden, but suddenly the idea of being nearsighted took on just as much appeal as the idea of being blind, though it was an appeal of a slightly different kind. And this nearsighted thing was REAL, I didn’t have to pretend anything, I was really it!

As Brooke went about her morning routine, I sat up in bed and pondered all the implications of this new discovery. What did it mean to be nearsighted? Of course, it meant everything that wasn’t close (by this time less than 1 foot) was a blur to me, but there was something else… Oh, of course! Glasses! This was what people wore glasses for! I thought about all the people I’d seen with glasses, the way they changed the look of a face, how the glasses themselves looked, the frames and the lenses.

I remembered back in 5th grade, there’d been a girl named Helen who had glasses and absolutely loved getting people to try them on and trading specs with other glasses-wearers. She had gotten me to look through them once and I was shocked by the clarity and brightness of everything. At first I had been reluctant to give her the glasses back, but eventually the time came when we had to rush back to class and in the events of the day I somehow semi-forgot the experience, being left only with a vague jealousy of those lucky enough to wear glasses (and this wasn’t even an ad campaign yet back then!).

But now it was all coming back to me with full force. I needed glasses. All I’d have to do was go see an eye doctor and I’d walk out with those beautiful, glittering objects on my face that made things look so much sharper and nicer! And whenever I wanted I could take them off and still enjoy what I had begun to think of as a luscious (if sometimes inconvenient from a practical standpoint) blur! But in almost the same instant a cloud of despair engulfed me, for with the dawning of pleasurable feelings attached to my visual situation, came a deep sense of embarrassment about it, such that I wasn’t sure I could manage to tell my parents I needed glasses. So I developed a plan. On Monday I was going to go up to Helen and ask to try her specs again, just to confirm, then if indeed I did see better with them, I would go home and try to get up the nerve to relate the experience to my folks.

"Hi, Helen" I began "Do you remember a few years ago when I tried on your glasses?" Her face seemed to brighten at my mentioning this. "Sure I do! Would you like to try on my new ones? They’re almost twice as strong now" she sounded almost proud of that. I readily agreed, relieved not to have to come right out and ask. She handed me her glasses and I put them on. Then I gasped in awe and surprise as everything around me leapt into focus! "Oh, my God, Helen! I can’t believe how bright and clear everything is! Is this really how most people see?" "You see much better with my glasses?" she asked with what sounded like intense interest. "Oh, yes! I cannot believe it!" And I meant it, too. I literally almost started crying, that was how intense it was.

"You should go ask your mom and dad to take you to get glasses of your own then. You look gorgeous in mine, by the way." "Do I?" I asked, as I pulled my little mirror out of my purse to take a look. She was right! It wasn’t just that the gold oval frames nicely complemented my auburn hair and warm skin tone. I loved the way the fluorescent light from the school hallway flashed against the lenses as I turned my head, the white rings that gleamed along the edges, the way my face seemed shrunken behind the glasses! And my eyes-I’ve always been rather proud of them, big brown ones I have, if you stared into them too long, you’d be like the man who fell into the big vat of chocolate at the Hershey’s factory-it’d probably kill you, but what a way to go! I’d done it to myself many times just staring in the mirror, I’ll freely admit, but now, with these amazing lenses in front of my eyes, making them a little smaller, sharper and brighter, it was like I’d fallen into the vat and had someone holding my head down in it!

It was a short eternity before I felt Helen’s tap on my shoulder, startling me out of my little narcissistic reverie. "See, I told you you looked good in those! Now can I have my glasses back please?" I hesitated an instant too long, so she repeated "MY glasses, please?" holding out her hand for emphasis. "Oh, I’m sorry, here" I said, blushing violently as I handed back her specs. She gave a little good-natured laugh. "Oh, it’s quite alright" she said warmly, smiling. "I can still remember how excited I was the first time I looked through glasses. Trust me about going to get a pair of your own, you will love them! I do mine!"

As I walked home from the bus stop with Brooke , she noticed I was unusually quiet and seemed distracted. "What are you thinking about?" asked Brooke. "Nothing particular" I answered vaguely. "Are you sure you don’t have something you want to talk about?" "Yes, I’m sure" I knew she couldn’t possibly understand. Heck, I didn’t even completely understand it! Sure, now I knew I needed glasses, they’d help me see loads better and I’d look pretty good in them, too, but should I really be feeling THIS excited about it?

And I wasn’t sure it was all innocent excitement, either. While I’d been wearing Helen’s glasses, especially while I was looking at myself in the mirror, I had a very pleasant sensation in my eyes, but I also had a very different but equally pleasant sensation in, shall we say, a place rather far removed from my eyes. It was a fairly new sensation for me (I was 13 at this time), one I’d begun to have when I was blindsimming (though I didn’t know back then that’s what it was called) and sometimes when I awoke in the mornings from dreams I didn’t understand and sometimes for no reason at all that I could trace. So, was this the big, all-important "sex" thing I’d heard so much about? And if it was, what on earth did pretending to be blind or wearing glasses have to do with it? As exciting and pleasurable as this was for me, it was also somewhat confusing and disconcerting. I felt embarrassed and even a little vaguely guilty, though I hadn’t a clue why and of course I knew I was the only person in the world who felt this way.

When we got to our street, Brooke and I parted ways and as I walked in my house I began to contemplate what I would say to my parents. From the kitchen I heard my mother on the phone-"Thank you for telling me, Mrs. Henley. I’ll speak to her about it as soon as she gets in. Goodbye." "Hi, Mom" I said as I walked into the kitchen. "Hi, honey, sit down, please, we need to talk". We did? What had I done wrong? I sat. "About what, Mom?" "Your eyes, sweetheart. Mrs. Henley just called and told me that Helen said you tried her glasses on today and that you told her you could see much better with them. I’m afraid that probably means you need them, too." She sounded like she expected me to be disappointed and upset to hear that, but of course I was anything but! For a moment I was angry at Helen for talking about what felt to me like a very personal thing, but mostly I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to bring the subject up myself. "Honey, why didn’t you tell us you were having trouble seeing?" "I didn’t know I was until I looked through Helen’s glasses and things looked so much better" I replied, even though it was a lie. "Well, first thing tomorrow morning I’m calling and getting an eye appointment for you" "OK, Mom" I said in my best mock-disappointed voice.

When I got home from school Tuesday afternoon, I noticed the scent of freshly baked cookies wafting through the house (I’d spent so much time and done so many things blindfolded that my other senses were highly tuned). Uh-oh, there must be bad news-cookies were one of my mother’s favorite forms of consolation. Dad heard me slam the front door shut behind me. "Hey, Lauren, could you come here a sec?" he called from the den. This was another thing my mother did-she liked to delegate to Dad the role of bearer of bad news. I walked into the den and sat down. Sure enough, there was a plateful of chocolate-chip cookies on the coffee table. I grabbed one and started munching. "So, have you got anything planned for after school tomorrow?" Dad asked "Nope, why?" I said between cookie-bites. "Oh, good, then you’ll be able to go to your doctor’s appointment at 3:30 then." "Yep, guess so. Wow these are really good! Has Mom started using more vanilla?" It was pretty hard to act nonchalant when I was so excited inside. I hoped changing the subject would help, but Dad wouldn’t let me change it. "Honey, you know, even though nobody in our family wears glasses (this is why it was such a big deal to my parents), there are still lots of people who do and I’m sure it won’t be as bad as you think." "Well, I don’t know, I think maybe I might like seeing better." "Ah, that’s the spirit, honey!" Assured that he had done his job, he now let the subject change. "I think what you’re tasting there is a hint of coconut extract" he said. "I see" said I solemnly, trying to hold back a smirk.

Since my exam was scheduled for right after school, instead of Brooke and I taking the bus and then walking home from the bus stop together, our parents picked us up. So far Brooke hadn’t said anything to me about the change of plans and I was rather glad for that. Mom and Dad didn’t say much to me on the way to the optometrist’s either. They were talking to themselves about this and that, stuff I really wasn’t interested in, so I mostly tuned them out and thought about my upcoming test. I’d gone to the library during study hall that day to look up as much info as I could about vision and eye tests and glasses. I already knew a few things, like the difference between nearsighted and farsighted and that I was most definitely nearsighted (I just never get tired of thinking that, too!), but there were an awful lot of new things I learned. Some of it went over my head, but some of it was useful, too. The part that made me a little excited but mostly scared was the bit about how "high myopes" were prone to retinal detachments, which sometimes caused blindness. I wasn’t sure if I was a "high myope" or not. I felt my eyes were pretty bad, but I figured some peoples’ were probably worse. I learned about the 20/20 system of vision designation and I wondered what mine would be. I also read an explanation of what the numbers on the glasses prescription mean. I read that the typical first-time rx is somewhere around -1D, which didn’t sound like much to me, and I wondered what mine would be. One thing is the books didn’t do a very good job of explaining what people with different levels of myopia (a new word for me, but one I immediately liked!) actually see or don’t see at various distances.

So, there we were at the doctor’s office. I sat in the waiting room with my parents (Dad was filling out paper work, while Mom read a magazine) and looked around. There were only a few other people there, an elderly couple, both wearing plus-lensed bifocals in big, clunky, old-fashioned plastic frames (the man filled out papers while the woman attended to her knitting) and a little sandy-blond boy of maybe 3 or 4 (who was running around the room yelling and getting into things) and his Mom (who was yelling at him to stop it); the boy wasn‘t wearing glasses, but his mother was sitting too far away for me to tell if she was or not, all I could tell was that her hair was red (not reddish-brown like mine, but really RED), her skin suitably pale to go with it and she was maybe about my brother‘s age (21). He probably would have liked her, as he’s always had a thing for redheads. I tried to retain my composure by not thinking too much about what lay ahead and luckily I didn’t have a long wait before my name was called.

My parents asked if I wanted them to come with me but I said "Na, I’m a big girl. I can handle it by myself." The nurse led me back to the examining room and walked out, saying the doctor would be with me shortly. Rather than sitting right down in the chair to wait, I walked around the room taking a good, close look at things. I wondered where the eye chart was, as I didn’t see one any where. Most of the things I did see I really had no idea what they were, despite my previous "studying". I had turned my attention to the phoropter (one thing I had learned something about) when the doctor walked in. Actually, I was so deeply engrossed in examining it (not only looking closely but feeling with my fingers, as I had learned to do in all my blindness experiments) that I didn’t notice him come in right away, so he startled me when he said "So, does my equipment meet your approval?". I jumped then turned around to face him. "Oh, I’m sorry, did I startle you?" he asked as he shut the door. "A little" I confessed. "Why don’t you take a seat there and we’ll begin the test, shall we?" He sounded quite pleasant, the word "jolly" even came to mind, so I sat down in the big chair where so many other glasses-wearers had sat before me. As he walked a little closer, I could see that he was rather "jolly" looking, too! He was tall, maybe 6’1" or 2", muscular, but not too much so, with olive-toned skin, thick masses of wavy dark hair and sharp, tiny, intense black eyes behind rimless minus lenses that appeared to be very strong, maybe about three times as strong as Helen’s, judging by the "bite" they took out of his face and the rings of reflected light when his head turned. He had a very "manly" scent, woodsy, like cedar and pine. He was probably about 25 or 26, most likely fresh out of optometry school, but to my 13-year-old eyes he looked like a very cool, sophisticated "older man". I was just starting to realize at that point that I had a "thing" for being with people or in situations that made me feel like I was in a dependant or submissive kind of role, I liked the feeling of being helpless and having someone stronger to take care of me. Now I realize this may be a big part of my obsession with blindness and vision defects, but at 13 I was not thinking that deeply yet. I only knew that this tall, older guy, no, make that this tall, older DOCTOR, really looked good to me, and I was now looking forward to the test even more than I had been.

He sat at his desk and starting asking me things. He asked my name and age and what my problem was. I was a little more honest with him than I’d been with my parents, I told him that I’d noticed I didn’t see as well far away as other people did as early as third grade, but that I didn’t think that much of it until I tried on someone else’s glasses and saw so much better. He wrote down what I told him (at least, that’s what I assumed he was writing) then got up and switched off the lights. Ohhhhh, in the dark with him! This was really getting exciting! He picked up one of the little black plastic instruments and switched on a light on it and shined it in my eyes. "Are you sure you’ve never worn glasses before?" he asked, sounding incredulous. "Yes, quite sure, why?" "Well, you’re quite nearsighted! I’m really surprised it didn’t bother you before. Didn’t you have trouble in school?" "Just a bit, sometimes." "Uh-huh. Well, it looks like you definitely need glasses. Boy, do you ever!" He sounded somewhat amazed. I felt oddly proud of that and also tremendously excited to hear him say those things. He looked into my eyes with another instrument and as he was doing so, his hand ever so gently and briefly brushed against my lips. It jerked away quickly, as if he felt he had crossed a line there, however accidentally, and at the time I was na├»ve enough to think maybe he felt something for me, too, but now looking back I’m sure he had no idea the effect that brief touch had on me.

"Alright, looks like your eyes are perfectly healthy, at least. Now, let’s see if you can read these letters here, though with your degree of myopia I imagine it will be difficult." With that he went behind me and on the wall in front of me a strip of light appeared. He had told me that this had letters on it but I didn’t see any. Since I really wanted glasses I didn’t even try to squint or struggle to see, I just told the doctor flat-out that I couldn’t even see the letters. This was repeated until we reached the top of the chart, by which point I did finally see a dim, gray smear in the lighted area that, if I squinted, might possibly be transformable into a recognizable letter, but instead I just said "No, I still can’t read anything." He smiled "Well, let’s see if I can fix that for you" he said. And thus began the most exciting part of all-the phoropter test! He swung the machine in front of my face, told me where to rest my head and then flipped a black cover down over my left eye. "Now, I’m going to put different lenses in front of your eye and I want you to tell me which makes the letters look best." As he began putting the lenses in, the letters on the chart came into view, then became clearer and clearer until finally they were crystal-bright, pin-sharp and just slightly smaller. Once more I was so overwhelmed with it that I was near tears. Really. It was almost more than I could handle, although the doctor didn’t seem to pick up on my emotionalism. Then when the next lens made the letters smaller but no clearer, he switched to the other eye and we did it all again. "Wow, it seems you’ll need something a little stronger even than my initial estimate" he said when we were done. "What is my prescription, Doctor?" "Well, your right eye needs -5.50 and your left needs -4.75. Also you have a half diopter of astigmatism in your left eye, as well" WHAT?! OMG! Five times the average first rx was what I had. I also knew that classed me as a "medium myope". Well, so much for retinal detachments, anyway. And I hadn’t thought that I might have astigmatism, too, but I really didn’t mind.

There was an optical shop connected to the doctor’s office, though (much to my dismay) he himself did not do the fitting and dispensing. Instead I was seen to by a nice but not especially thrilling older lady (around 45 maybe, but to me at 13, this was quite ancient) with short blonde hair and gray eyes that looked soft and mild, though slightly enlarged, behind a pair of fairly weak plus bifocals in a thin blue metallic frame. She smelled like talcum powder and had a high-pitched voice, bordering on chirpy. "Oh, my, I don’t believe I’ve seen a first time prescription quite this strong in quite a while" she said. At first, I’d loved hearing the doctor say that, but now it was getting a little embarrassing-what was I, some kind of freak? Anyway, I’d been thinking a lot the past few days about glasses and specifically what types of frames I liked best on people and what kind I would want to wear. I’d been thinking of going for some kind of bold, plastic frame, maybe even black, but after seeing how great Dr. Pratt looked in his rimless ones, I was a bit torn. "Well, Cindy (this was what her name tag said), how do you think I’d look in rimless glasses, like the ones Dr.Pratt’s got?" "I’m afraid with your prescription they’d look awfully thick, dear. I know the doctor has a higher rx than yours and wears his happy as can be, but you must realize that they are quite thick, though he doesn’t mind since he’s a bit…different. But for a pretty young girl like you I don’t think it would do at all. There’s only so much we can do with high-index, you know." "Well, how about a plastic frame, then?" I asked. "Ah, now that would hide the thickness nicely!" Oh, so I had something to hide now? It was really sinking in what a minority I was in in my feelings toward glasses. Then I thought of something. "Do you think maybe I could get a frame that’s black plastic on top and rimless at the bottom, like you see in old movies sometimes?" Cindy looked at me like I’d lost my mind. "I’m sure we have frames like that, but are you sure that’s what you want? The thickness will still show at the bottom and I haven’t seen a lot of girls your age wearing frames like that." "You said you have some, though. Could you show them to me?" "Well, I suppose" she said, gathering up a few frames.

"Now, this one is lovely" Cindy said, holding up a small, rectangular, black plastic frame, the kind everyone and their sister was wearing. I put it on and looked in the mirror. "Hmm, this is nice. But I think I’d like to see how I look in the half-rimless style." "Well, alright, dear" Cindy shook her head at me slightly, but offered me the frames I wanted. I tried these on and at first I was rather repelled by these old-fashioned frames, but when I started to think about how they’d look with lenses in, they started looking better. "Could I try a plastic full-frame, but more the shape of this one?" The next frames I tried were again black plastic, but this time fairly large and more rounded, with a slight narrowing towards the outer edges, like a cat’s-eye effect. Bingo! This was the look I wanted. Maybe the rimless or semi-rimless would look better when I was a bit older.

Then Cindy suggested that I get a second pair as well. She seemed to think I’d be in trouble if something happened to my glasses, but I reminded her that I had gotten along OK this far in my life without them, but she said "Oh, honey, I’m sure once you start wearing them, you’ll get so used to them that you’ll be most uncomfortable without them." "Really?" I asked. "You mean, like, I’d be dependant on them?" Ah, my inner submissive had been stirred again. "Oh, I’ve seen people with weaker prescriptions than yours come in here literally in tears after losing or breaking their glasses! One does come to rely on them. I’m afraid even I would be quite lost without my glasses." With that, she put her thumb to the bridge of her glasses and very gently pushed them up her nose.

For my second pair, I chose a round gold frame like Helen had. Then we got into lens materials. Cindy told me that I should probably choose high-index lenses, since "if you go for CR-39 they’ll be awfully thick and heavy". But I also knew from my afternoon’s reading that I’d likely be charged more for high-index and Cindy confirmed this. My parents, who had been there while I was selecting frames but limited their participation to an occasional brief glance and "Oh, that looks nice, dear", perked up their ears at this point. "Well" said my Dad, "Maybe you could get the thinner lenses in your metal frame, where the thickness would really show and get the other lenses in your plastic frame." That seemed a good compromise, so now it was time for the famous "one-hour" wait………………………………....................

Of course, it took a little longer than an hour, but it was well worth the wait. First Cindy put the gold framed glasses on me. I can hardly find words for what it was like, looking through my own glasses for the first time! Trying Helen’s glasses had NOT been adequate preparation at all! Things had EDGES! They didn’t just softly blend into each other. Everything was so bright! And colors were so intense and vivid! I don’t mean to belittle the experience of being blind and I know it’s most certainly not the same as merely needing glasses, but I’d say it’s only a small understatement to say that I felt as if it was almost like being cured of blindness, like I were seeing for the first time. For quite awhile I was even too busy looking around me to think about how I looked! But when I did finally turn my attention to the mirror, I was just as shocked and amazed at how I now looked to the world as I was at how the world now looked to me- my gold frames looked even better on me than Helen’s had, there were more rings of light along the edges, they took more of a "bite" out of my face and even with the high-index the lenses were thicker. Next came the fitting of my plastic-framed glasses. Even for the few seconds it took to make the switch, I absolutely hated having my glasses (and new-found clarity) taken from me. Things looked just as great with these specs as with my others, but when I looked in the mirror, what a surprise- since these lenses weren’t high-index, they were quite a bit thicker, so much so their edges even went beyond the (admittedly fairly thin) plastic of the frame! I’d expected the lenses in the metal frame to go beyond it, but not the plastic!

OK, I know I’ve detoured a bit from how I started this story, but I thought you’d need to know a little background. Anyway, fast forward about 4 years. I’m now 17 years old and a couple months ago Brooke went away to college out of state. We still talk on the phone regularly, but it’s not the same. I miss her friendship, of course, and the things we used to do together, but also I miss having contact with a blind person almost every day. Maybe that sounds stupid or shallow or something, but it’s true. So lately I’ve been doing more blindsimming myself, partly to try to fill this gap. The other day I was having a particularly exciting blindsim, in my room, since my Mom was home. Sometimes I wear a blindfold when I do this, so I can have the experience of opening my eyes but still not being able to see; other times I don’t feel like having something covering my face, so I just close my eyes. This was one of those times. I walked along the perimeter of my room, running my hands along everything along the way, feeling the texture of my wallpaper, the outlines and details of my furniture (I’d recently changed things around a lot and this was my first time being blind in my room since I’d done that, so it was a bit extra-challenging) and trying to identify all of my knick-knacks and stuff. I had been doing pretty well until I came upon something that stumped me: it felt hard and smooth, slickly so, like varnished wood. It was a couple inches across and had three hard, smooth knobs on either side. In the middle there were what felt like wires tautly pulled, like………. *Guitar strings!* That was it, it was my guitar! As recognition dawned, I felt a smile spread across my face and I could tell it was one of those beautiful "blind smiles". I would have given a lot to see my own face just then, except that if I could have seen, it would have ruined it. I knew I’d never be able to play my guitar again without thinking of this and smiling to myself. So I was feeling all wonderful when I turned around and BAM! hit my chest of drawers with my face!

The pain that shot through the left side of my face was some of the worst I ever felt. My eyes immediately flew open from the shock, but all I could see was a blur, since my rx had gone up to -6.75 and -6.25 (both -6.75 if you counted my left eye’s astigmatism) and I had taken my glasses off and thrown them down somewhere as soon as I decided I was going to blindsim (I’m usually very protective of my precious glasses, but when I get into blind-mode I have a completely different mindset, one where glasses are irrelevant). I heard my mother climbing quickly up the stairs. "Honey, are you all right? What was that noise I heard?" I opened the door to my room and met her in the hall.

"I bumped into my dresser, Mom. My nose and my eye hurt a lot."

"How on earth did you do that?" she asked, examining my face. I winced at the touch of her fingers, even though it was quite light and gentle. "Just clumsy, I guess."

"Well, I think you’d better go to the hospital and get a doctor to take a look at your eye. It looks like you could have done some real damage. Can you see OK?"

"Well, not at the moment. Without my glasses."

"Oh, don’t tell me you broke your glasses. I just bought you those last month and they weren’t cheap, either, I-" "It’s OK, Mom. I wasn’t wearing them when this happened."

"You weren’t wearing them? No wonder you bumped into your dresser! Why weren’t you wearing them?"

"Oh, Mom, I‘m not BLIND without my glasses! I could just as easily have done this if I‘d been wearing them." While I enjoy thinking about how bad my uncorrected eyesight is and sometimes enjoy hearing people comment on it, other times it just annoys me that people are so stupid as to think I really am blind without glasses. "Sometimes I take them off to give my nose a break" I explained, which happened to be true, though of course that wasn’t why I had them off this particular day.

"You may have given your nose a break, alright. *sigh* Go get your glasses so they can test your vision at the hospital and get in the car."

So, that’s how I got where I am. It was definitely worth it for the pleasure of the blindsimming experience, but the thing that really sucks right now is that now my nose REALLY hurts if I try to put on my glasses, so it looks like for awhile I’ll not be able to wear them. I’d been thinking about having some bare-eyed adventures, but it’s a little different when it’s your choice than when it’s forced upon you. I’d call Brooke and tell her all the trouble she’s caused me, but seeing as she’s never been able to see anything and, barring a miracle, never will be able to, I doubt she’d be terribly sympathetic to the fact that I have to live in a blur for a few days.

THE END

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