By All4EyesAs she was driving home from her job as a teacher at George Dubya Bush Jr. High, Nancy Stewart noticed that the street signs seemed a bit fuzzy. “Wow, I must really be tired” she thought. All her life Nancy had had perfect vision, better then perfect in fact, 20/10. So she was a bit puzzled but not too concerned about the sudden blurriness - a good nights’ sleep should take care of it. Soon she was home, really just a little apartment that she shared with her cat, Furball, but she tried to fix it up nice. Still, it got lonely sometimes and she thought about Mike Anderson, the nice, smart, handsome teacher of the class next door to hers. She was terrifically attracted to him, but she was too shy to tell him so, and he never seemed to notice her. Sitting on the sofa watching TV and eating a Freezer Queen entrée (it’s too much bother to cook for just one) she noticed that the blur she’d had driving home was getting worse. She could no longer see the expressions on the faces of the TV characters, unless she squinted, and looking around she realized just about everything more then a couple feet away from her was quite fuzzy and she began to worry.
She got the phone book and looked up an ophthalmologist, whom she called just as the office was closing and made an appointment for the following morning. Then she called the school and told them she wouldn’t be in tomorrow (she could have arranged to return in the afternoon, after the exam, but she had a strange feeling she wouldn’t want to see anyone then). Finally, Nancy called her best friend, Beth.
“Hey, Beth, can I ask a favor of you?”
“Sure, Nance, what’s up?”
“Well, I have this weird thing going on with my eyes. I made an appointment to see a doctor tomorrow, but my vision’s so messed up I don’t think I should drive, so do you think you could come pick me up around 9:30?”
“Yeah, sure, but what do you mean your vision’s messed up? What kind of weird thing is going on with your eyes?” Beth asked, worried.
“Well, everything looks blurry. I mean, not everything, I guess, if I get real close to something I can see it all right and it helps if I scrunch up my eyes.”
“Hm-m, sounds to me like you’re getting nearsighted. That’s how I was before I got my glasses.” Beth let out an irony-filled laugh.
“It’d serve you right after all those kids with glasses you used to pick on when we were kids! I was amazed you didn’t drop me when I got them!”
“We were 16 by then, I’d matured a little” Nancy said stiffly, feeling a bit ashamed of her bullying girlhood.
Beth continued “I’d been needing them for years before that and putting it off, partly because I didn’t want to lose you and partly just general vanity. Somehow I’d gotten the idea that boys wouldn’t make passes at me wearing glasses!” Another ironic laugh, because Beth always had a date, while Nancy’s Saturday nights were usually spent with Ben and Jerry and Furball.
“But now I’ve come to think I look rather bright in specs. You don’t realize how hard it is to get people to take you seriously when you’re a blonde. At least I don’t look like a total ditz when I wear my glasses.” Beth sighed.
That had really been a problem for her. It made Nancy feel jealous, though, because while Beth was a knockout blonde with a model face and a figure to die for, Nancy was a mousy brunette with muddy brown eyes, medium build, medium everything, really. Not ugly, not beautiful, just plain.
“But it does seem kind of unusual to suddenly start getting nearsighted at our age (they were 27). When did all this start?”
“I swear, I didn’t have any trouble whatsoever with my eyes until today.”
“Hm-m” Beth said, worried-thoughtfully. “Believe me, I’m as anxious as you are to find out what’s wrong. So I’ll be there bright and early, ‘k?”
“Thanks, you’re the best.”
“No prob, Nance.”
When Nancy awoke the next morning, her first thought was to wonder how so much fog got into her bedroom. Then, awakening fully with a shock, she realized her eyes had gotten much worse overnight. Now she could barely make out the outlines of her furniture. Squinting didn’t help at all anymore. “Oh, God, I’m blind!” she thought, as she stumbled around trying to dress herself and not panic. Both tasks took every ounce of ingenuity and courage she had and she walked into things and stepped on Furball several times in the process. She had to bring her watch to within a couple inches of her face to see that it was almost 9:30, so she carefully felt her way to the door and waited for Beth’s knock. When she heard it, she opened the door.
“Hey, girl, nice hair! Oh, and you’ve got a couple of buttons done up wrong.”
“Don’t try to be funny, Beth. It’s gotten much worse. I can hardly see at all now.”
Nancy’s words and the panicky look on her face stopped Beth’s joking cold.
“Oh, no! Now I’m really worried. Here, let me fix your shirt.”
They stepped inside and Beth helped Nancy get her shirt buttons straight.
“Now, do you need me to help you out to the car?”
“That would help, thank you.”
By the time they got to the ophthalmologist's office, Nancy was almost ready to cry.
“Now, Nancy, don’t go assuming the worst until you know.”
“I’m really trying to stay calm, but I’m just so scared that …“
“Miss Stewart, the doctor will see you now” the nurse called.
“Would you come with me, Beth? I’m really scared.”
“OK” Beth said.
She had never seen her friend like this, so she didn’t even try to make a joke about her still needing someone to hold her hand. Nancy explained her situation to the doctor and then he proceeded to examine her. First he asked her to read the letters on the eye chart.
“I can’t read any of it! I don’t even see a chart!” she sobbed.
“It’s all right, I expected as much from what you told me.” said the doctor. “Let me take a look inside your eyes and see if I can figure out what’s going on.”
He sounded cheerful enough, not worried at all like Nancy and Beth were. Nancy hopefully thought maybe this was a good sign, but Beth figured it was just because doctors were trained to stay calm under any circumstances. After the doctor looked into Nancy’s eyes with a series of instruments, he announced:
“This is most extraordinary. It appears you have a very severe case of adult onset myopia.”
Nancy gasped, thinking this was some horrible disease, but Beth breathed a sigh of relief.
“He just means you’re very nearsighted, Nance.”
“But, how …“ Nancy started.
“I’m not sure how it happened, either, but I have seen one other case like yours. Oddly, she was a teacher, too” said the doctor.
“Now, it’s time to figure out what strength lenses you’ll need.”
He swung the phoropter in front of Nancy’s face and as he started clicking the lenses into place, she was near tears again, this time tears of gratitude.
“Oh, I can see the letters now! I don’t care if I have to wear glasses, I’m just so glad to be able to see!”
“What prescription does she need?” asked Beth curiously.
“Well, I have to say she’s one of the strongest first glasses I’ve ever prescribed at –27 D.”
“I don’t believe this” Beth said.
“Is that really bad?” Nancy asked.
“My prescription is only –5” Beth answered.
The ophthalmologist told Nancy she couldn’t get lenses of that strength just anywhere, but he knew of an optical shop that had a reputation for being very good with high prescriptions. The optician was also surprised by Nancy’s strange story, but the ophthalmologist had referred the other teacher with this problem to this optician, so she also mentioned what a strange coincidence it was. Since Nancy couldn’t see a thing, she had to trust Beth’s judgment on frame style. She wound up choosing a deep rose-colored plastic drop temple frame with a pretty large eye size.
“I think we can have these ready in about a week” said the optician.
“A week!” cried Nancy. “But, what am I supposed to do till then!? I mean, I’m blind here!”
The optician thought for a moment.
“Ah, I’ve got it! Boy, are you in luck! We just made up a pair with a mistake-the rx was R-27 L-24 and we got it backwards, R-24 L-27. We told the costumer we could fix the problem, but she was quite irate and decided to take her business elsewhere. We were just going to throw the lenses out and put the frames back on sale, but you can borrow them, if you like. Since your eyes are both –27, the left should be just right, and although the right’ll be a bit weak, it should be close enough.”
“Oh, thank you!” Nancy said.
When the optician came back with the glasses, she put them on Nancy’s face and Nancy said: “Oh, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be able to see again! I never realized how I took that for granted!”
So overjoyed was she that she didn’t notice right away that she could really only see clearly through the very centers of the lenses. And, strange as they were to look through, these were no ordinary glasses to look AT, either. The frames were fairly typical, chunky black plastic rectangles, of the type that was currently fashionable, but the lenses …
“What is up with those little circles in the lenses? It looks like a lens within a lens or something,“ Beth said.
“Ah” said the optician “You hit the nail right on the head. That is called a “myodisc” design, or more properly, a lenticular lens. It is a special way of making extremely strong lenses while reducing some of the thickness.”
“This is REDUCED thickness!?” asked Nancy, looking in a mirror. “I’ve never seen such huge chunks of glass on someone’s face!”
“But, the important thing is, you can see, right?” Beth reminded.
“I guess, but this is really going to take some getting used to.“ sighed Nancy.
“I think the frames I picked out for you are much prettier.“ said Beth proudly.
Nancy took a look at them (now that she could see) and had to admit she also rather liked them. But she couldn’t picture these horribly thick and funny-looking lenses in them.
Nancy was uncharacteristically quiet on the way back home.
“Look, Nance, I know this is awfully sudden and strange for you. Are you gonna be OK?” Beth asked.
“I guess once I adjust to it. I think I’m just sort of in shock right now. But at least this is Friday, so I have the weekend to get used to it myself before I have to face people at school.”
After Beth dropped her off, Nancy sat in her bedroom staring at her reflection in the mirror.
“Why did this happen to me!?” she asked.
“I’ll tell you why” came a voice from behind.
Nancy turned around and saw a beautiful woman sitting on her bed. She was wearing a long, blinding white dress and had an intense, iridescent glow radiating from her entire being. On her back was a pair of wings, clear yet with a rainbow-like prismatic effect, as though they were made of diamonds or at least some very well made glass. Nancy gasped at her beauty and at the oddity of her sudden appearance.
“Are you an angel?” she whispered, awestruck.
“Well, technically I’m a fairy (Lana’s my name), but the difference between fairies and angels is really just a matter of theology. If you had believed in angels but not in fairies, I’m sure the Department would have sent you an angel, though they’ve got quite enough to do working for the All-Departments Head.”
“Yes, I was sent here from the Department of Vengeance, otherwise known as the Karma Police and Defenders of the Golden Rule. More toe-may-toes/ta-ma-toes theological quibbling, but it’s really the same no matter what you call it. We are the Department in charge of seeing to it that everyone gets what they have earned, and gets taught the lessons they need to learn in understanding others.”
“So you’re saying I brought this on myself, somehow? That this is some kind of punishment?”
“I wouldn’t call it a punishment so much as a lesson. As far as visual problems are concerned, you’ve really been in the dark, so to speak.”
“Well, I admit when I was younger I used to tease all the kids at school who wore glasses, but that was a long time ago. Why am I being punished for it now?”
“Like I said, it’s not really a punishment, and I think soon you will come to see that. But anyway, the Department of Vengeance does deal with minors and it was very tempted to give you what you’d earned then, but I pleaded on your behalf that since you were so young and would surely outgrow such immature behavior, action was not necessary at that time. And, your acceptance of your friend Beth’s glasses seemed to suggest you were making progress. However, I continued to be assigned to observe you and I have seen that you still truly did not understand what it means to be myopic.”
“And just how did you figure that out?” “Close your eyes and hold my hand. I’ve something to show you.”
When Nancy opened her eyes, she and Lana were standing in Nancy’s classroom, witnessing a scene from earlier that Thursday when Nancy’s myopia began. Nancy saw herself standing at the front of the room in front of her students.
“Colin!” she heard herself say, “What do you mean you can’t see the board? You’re sitting in the first row!”
“I know, Miss Stewart” the boy replied “But I just can’t see it.”
“Well, you’ll just have to get the notes from someone else, then.” she said impatiently. “And sit up straight and get your nose out of that book! What are you doing, sniffing bookbinders glue?”
At the time, Nancy had thought “Clearly this kid just enjoys getting attention and disrupting class; he’s always complaining he can’t see the board, even though he can’t be 5 feet away, and he’s always making odd faces, squinting up his eyes. It’s troublemakers like him that sometimes make me rue the day I decided to become a teacher. That girl beside him, Kathy, is almost as bad, but at least she’s content to be moved to the front row. They’re always whispering and passing papers back and forth. If there’s anything worse than two problem kids in one class, it’s having them egg each other on!” As this was going on, the Nancy at the back of the room was hanging her head in shame.
“I think you’ve seen enough. Take my hand again, please.” Lana said and then they were back in Nancy’s room.
“OK, Lana, I understand why you’ve done this to me. I just have one question: Why –27?”
“Well, you see, you’ve been given three years of teaching, that is, three chances to learn, and each year we have sent you a myopic student to see if you would respond appropriately. The first year you had a –1.50 student who found it a bit difficult to see from the back of the room. The second year we sent a –3.00 student who could barely see from the front. Since you still weren’t getting it, this year we sent you two nearsighted kids, a girl with –2.00 and a boy with –7.00. But, of course, this didn’t teach you, either, so I had to step in. We at the Department were debating how much myopia to give you. One person said you should get the combined total of the diopters of each of your students plus all the kids you made fun of as a girl, but since this came to –68, the rest of us decided this was a bit harsh. It was also suggested that you have simply the combined diopters of your students, which would have come to –13.50, but the consensus was that this was too little. So we finally settled on making your prescription match your age, one diopter for each year of ignorance. Are there any other questions?”
“No, I think I understand. I’m beginning to see now” with that Nancy laughed a bit.
“Excellent! You’re even developing a sense of humor about all this. I think you’ll do just fine.”
And then Nancy was once again alone, as Lana disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as she had appeared.
Nancy did have a lot to learn about living as a high myope. As that first evening wore on she found the lack of peripheral vision through her myodisc lenses took an awful lot of adjustment. She had to turn her head so much it felt a bit like watching a perpetual tennis match. Also, she became conscious of the undercorrection of her right eye. While it was certainly much better than what she saw (or rather didn’t see) in the eye without the lens, it fell quite short of what she was used to seeing or even what she could now see with her fully corrected left eye. She thought back to her second year of teaching, when she had had a girl named Joan who had been the same sort of “trouble maker” Colin and Kathy now were. “So this is how Joan saw.” Nancy thought as she looked around her apartment and out the window with her left eye closed. Later that night, Furball jumped up on her lap, took his paw and swatted at her glasses, knocking them off her face. As the world suddenly melted away into the fog, Nancy panicked, until she managed to get down on the floor and find them with her hands. The next morning she again was panic-stricken trying to find her glasses on the nightstand. “I will have to be very careful to always put my glasses down in the exact same spot and remember where I put them.” she noted. Showering uncorrected proved to be very little different from trying to do it blindfolded, so she wound up wearing her myodiscs into the shower. She did feel a little silly, standing under the water with nothing but these very strange glasses on, and she of course had to give them a good cleaning afterwards, but she was beginning to accept that some things were just going to have to be different from now on. The doctor had assured her that she would have adequate vision for most of her activities, including driving, but that she might want to take things easy for a few days to get fully adjusted to her new way of seeing before she tackled the more visually challenging tasks. Nancy now felt that was very sage advice indeed, especially considering that she was only partially corrected in the one eye at present.
By Monday she felt confident enough to go back to work, though she decided to take the bus instead of drive, at least until she got her real glasses with the proper prescription for both eyes. To her surprise, no one really seemed to notice her new look. “Maybe they just assume I’ve always worn contacts that I’m now having trouble with.” she thought. That was her cover story in case anyone asked her about her sudden appearance in obviously very strong spectacles. When she taught the days’ lesson, she was careful to explain everything she wrote on the board and not ask Colin or Kathy to answer questions written there. At the end of class, she asked them to stay and speak with her a moment.
“Kathy, Colin, I think I see what’s going on here” she said as they stood in front of her, wondering what they’d done wrong.
“I’ve noticed that you seem to need to sit in the front row to read the blackboard, Kathy. And, Colin, you seem to be having a very hard time seeing altogether. I think both of you are nearsighted and if you tell your parents about it and get them to take you to get glasses you’ll be able to see much better and have an easier time with your schoolwork. I’m nearsighted, too, but much, much more than either of you are. So don’t worry, Kathy.” she said with a smile, seeing the horrified look on the girl’s face when Nancy told her she needed glasses, too.
“Your glasses won’t be nearly as thick as mine or have the funny little bowls inside the lenses.”
The children were a bit puzzled as to why their teacher, who had not seemed to understand the problem at all before, was suddenly speaking about it, so sympathetically and wearing glasses herself. But then, they knew grown-ups were strange sometimes.
“I’d kinda suspected that maybe I needed glasses,“ said Colin, ashamedly, “but whenever I think about telling my parents about it, I get really embarrassed and nervous for some reason and I just can’t do it.”
“I really think it will be worth the effort to work up the courage to do it, though. It’s an amazing experience, getting glasses for the first time. I think you’ll be blown away by how much better you’ll see. You too, Kathy. Would it be easier if I wrote a note for you to give your folks, so you don’t have to say anything?”
Colin sighed with relief and said, “Yes, definitely that would be better.”
“I can just tell my parents I need glasses, if you think that’s true” said Kathy dubiously. “But let me get this straight - you’re saying other people don’t have to sit up front to see the board?”
“No, Kathy, people who don’t need glasses can read it from the very last row.”
“Wow” Kathy said, astounded by the idea and still not convinced it was true. Nancy wrote notes for both students and felt she was well on the way to making her amends. It was a good feeling, really.
A couple days later, Colin and Kathy both came to class wearing glasses. At the end of class that day, Colin came up to Nancy and said: “I just wanted to thank you for writing that note to my parents. I just cannot believe how much I was missing! I can see a million times better now, and I don’t know if I ever would have had the guts to say anything about the problem I was having. It was a little scary, giving my Mom the note, but after I’d done it she just said ‘I thought I’d noticed you squinting a lot’ and took me to an eye doctor who gave me my glasses, that I just love now because everything just looks so great!”
“Well, that’s wonderful, Colin! I’m glad things worked out so well for you.”
“Thanks to you, they did!” and with that he bounced out, all smiles.
As she was leaving the classroom, Nancy bumped into Mike Anderson.
“Hey, Nancy, how’s your class been going?” he asked.
She felt awful standing there in front of this gorgeous man in these terrible glasses, but she found her voice:
“Oh, it’s been going great. All my kids are really smart and well behaved. Yours?”
“I’ve got a couple motor-mouths and class-clowns I need to calm down, but other than that it’s pretty good. Hey, listen, I was thinking, if you’re not doing anything Friday night, there’s going to be a great concert at the park. A new group, think they’re called the Micro Phonies or something, but I hear they’re getting rave reviews. I’ve got two tickets if you’d like to go. We could grab some supper after.”
“Uh, wow, yeah, sure, I mean, I’d love to go with you!” Nancy said. What she thought was ‘What!? This guy hasn’t so much as smiled at me once and now I come to school in these crazy specs and he asks me out!? I never will understand men!’ When she got home Friday afternoon, she had a message on her answering machine from the optical shop, saying her glasses were ready. She went and picked them up and was thrilled to see that the frames Beth had chosen really did suit her. The optician said she could keep the first pair for just the price of the frames, since the lenses were just going to be tossed anyhow and it was a very good idea to have a back-up pair. She could see the sense of that, but now that she had a pair of glasses with both eyes fully corrected, she didn’t think she could go back the other way, so she asked if they could put another –27 lens in the right side for half the price of both and the optician agreed. When she got home, Nancy spent a lot of time carefully deciding what to wear for her date with Mike. Finally she settled on a simple dress in a deep rose color to match her new frames.
When Mike came to pick her up, he said, “Wow, Nancy, you look great! Are those new glasses? They really suit you.”
“Thank you for the compliment, Mike. Yes, they are new. You don’t think they are too strange-looking, though?”
“Why, not at all! Don’t you know what a lovely effect they have on your facial contours? And those frames really bring out your coloring. Anyway, I’ve always found something really special and appealing about women in glasses - like a certain air of mystery, and the glasses themselves are almost like jewelry, the way they sparkle and shine.”
She had never thought about it that way, but now that she did, she could see what he meant. It was an interesting and novel idea - glasses as a positive, aesthetically pleasing feature. They had a great time at the concert (the Micro Phonies were terrible, but the kissing was incredible) and an even better time at dinner. When Mike took Nancy back home, she made the bold move of asking him if he’d like to come in for some coffee. He accepted enthusiastically and as she was closing her door, she took a moment to lift her very myopic eyes upwards towards the Department and whisper “Thank you, Lana.”
... to be continued
written in June 2006 by All4Eyes
The second part of this story was written by Specs4ever and is available here: The Myopia Fairy 2