Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Two of a Kind

by Bobby

The eye test was not going well. As soon as doctor Jablonsky told her to read the eye chart Lucie could see how much her eyes got worse during the last year. She could recognize the two biggest lines, the third line was quite bad, and the fourth line was a total blur. She was reading the letters slowly. V, P, O, Z, then she sighed.
„They aren’t clear, are they?“ asked the optician.
„No, doctor.“
„OK, Let’s try some stronger lenses.“
Lucie had experienced a situation like that for many times, although this time it looked worse than the year before. She had been seeing doctor Jablonsky for all her life. Anytime she stood up from the chair in the doctor’s test room she was given a new prescription. When she was a child the numbers did not tell her anything. New glasses were just new glasses and the diopters, the cylinder and axis were just numbers without any specific meaning. Small girls have never been into the technical stuff. Later, she realized that the higher the first number was, the thicker her lenses became. The thickness was not a problem until a schoolmate of her said something like „wow, they are ugly thick“. That day, Lucie was crying on her way home. She cried again when she was prescribed her next glasses, because the doctor told her not to play ball games as any injury could worsen her shortsightedness.

Time is a great healer. Lucie got used to wearing glasses with lenses that were thicker than the frames, and her family and schoolmates got used to the way she looked in them.
Lucie was quite a nice girl and she grew up in a nice family. Her parents had never spoken about her glasses in a bad way. Her grandmother was the only one who sometimes sighed and said she was sorry for Lucie because she had to wear glasses.

Lucie visited her doctor regularly once a year. When she was a little girl her mother used to go with her into the test room so that Lucie was not afraid. Later she made it by herself, as she knew both the doctor and the nurse very well. They always called her with a nice czech diminutive “Lucinka” even when she grew up into a young lady, tall and slim.
The test lenses clicked into the frame and Lucie could see more letters. She read N, C, hesitated for a moment, then said U and F.

„Lucinko,“ said doctor Jablonsky tenderly, as if she were still a little girl. „I know you remember all the letters that are in the chart, do not cheat, please, if it is not clear, we will go one step forward.“

He changed the lenses again. Of course, Lucie remembered all the letters except the smallest ones, as she had never been supposed to read them. She had been in that chair so many times that she could describe every detail of doctor Jablonsky's office.

The letters looked clearer. She read the fourth line. Then she read the fifth line through another pair of lenses. The doctor switched the lenses several times asking her „which is better“, filled in the form and handed it to Lucie.

„I am sure these will help you see better. Have a nice day, Lucinko, and come after six months just to get checked.“
„In six months?“ asked Lucie.
„Yes, you have quite a jump in your prescription, that is why I would like to check your eyes after six months. If you have any problems with your new glasses, come sooner, please.“

Lucie looked at the piece of paper in her hand. The prescription read: Right sph –11.50 cyl –2.00 axis 87, Left sph -11.00 cyl –2.25 axis 75. Oh my God, she thought, more than 10 diopters. One year before she had had about –9 diopters only, with some cylindric diopters. Now, the two digits before the decimal point scared her. She went to the optic shop near the medical center. The optician told her she’d rather choose a small frame, as the lenticular lenses look better in it. She did not know what the word lenticular meant, but it did not seem to be too important for her as she struggled to see herself in a mirror trying one pair after another. After a while she managed to choose with some help of the optician a nice wire frame of a light brown color and went to work.

The boss of her office wanted her to make up for the lost time so Lucie got home when it was dark. On her way from the tram station she noticed the other people walking faster than her. She realized she had needed to walk more carefully in the dark for several months, as she could not see well if there was little light. At home when making her dinner she was thinking about the test.

„How come, my vision deteriorated so much?“ she asked herself.
Four days later she went to pick up her new glasses.

When the shop assistant handed her the bag with the glasses, Lucie noticed there were small circles in the center of each lens. One part of the lens seemed to be like a plus lens, while the other part formed a small bowl that provided a miniature image of Lucie's hand. It looked horrible.

„What’s wrong with the lenses?“ she asked.
„Nothing, they are exactly as your prescription reads.“ said the optician and read the numbers. The last word was lenti.
„What does the word lenti mean?“ asked Lucie.
„Lenti means that your lenses are of the lenticular type, as you can see, this type of lenses is thinner as they have the dioptrical zone only in the central part.“
„I did not want any lenti,“ protested Lucie.
„That’s what the prescription says, you need lenti glasses. If standard lenses were fitted into your frame they would be too thick. Try them please.“

Lucie put the frame on. First thing she noticed was the clear vision she had not experienced for many months, the second thing was not too good. When she turned her eyes to the side a part of her peripheral vision was blocked by that part of the lens where the bowl ended and the surface of the lens turned the different direction. Lucie looked into a mirror. There was her face with nice frames and the dreadful small rings encircling small eyes. She felt like crying. The optician was saying something, but she was not listening. She jammed the new glasses into her purse, put her old glasses on and left the shop.

At home, she tried the glasses again. It did not look any better than it had in the shop. Small eyes, sunken within the stupid circles. She looked like a visually handicapped person. Later in the evening she used the new glasses to watch TV because she realized she needed to sit too close to the screen with the old pair. They helped, although it did not make her change the resolution not to wear them.

Lucie called her doctor the next day to ask him if there was any other option for lenses. The information she got did not make her too happy as the doctor said he could not recommend her the standard lenses, because they would be too thick. Special hi-index lenses were too expensive and her health insurance would not cover the extra costs. Contact lenses were not an option either, because her eyes were rather dry and too sensitive. It seemed there was not any other way for her, but wearing the glasses with the lenticular lenses.

She decided to wear her old glasses to work and anytime she went out of her apartment. The new frame was only for watching TV, the cinema or the theater. As the weeks went on her vision kept getting worse. She was clear about it.

One Saturday evening she was going home from the theater. She left her new glasses on, as it was already too dark. Suddenly somebody called her name as she was getting on the tram. Lucie turned back to see a colleague of her, a man who worked in the office next to hers. They talked for a while and then he had to get off. Lucie was really embarrasses, because she was wearing “the wrong glasses” and he obviously noticed them. While speaking he was not looking right into her eyes, he was looking at the circles. It was a really bad evening. The new glasses got hidden in their case and Lucie went to bed. She had a dream that she had to wear a pair of strange ugly glasses, thick lenses with tiny circles fitted in an ugly huge black frame and everybody at work stared at her in horror.

Six months passed and Lucie was to go to her doctor again. The lenses clicked, the chart was hanging on the wall, and Lucie was reading the lines. Then doctor Jablonsky changed the lenses. He did it twice.

“Well, well, just a little adjustment, I think this prescription will help you.” He handed her a new form.

Lucie looked at the numbers. It read: Right sph –12.25 cyl –2.00 axis 87, Left sph -11.75 cyl –2.25 axis 75 Lenti. It was 0.75 D more than six months before.

“Doctor, I do not want to wear the lenticular lenses.”

“You need them, young lady,“ answered the doctor seriously.

“I wore those you prescribed me a half year ago only for TV and to the theater, I could not go with them on to work.”

“Oh, my dear, that is not good, your eyes suffered from strain, this probably explains, why you needed one more diopter, although I prescribed you only 0.75 more.” He said.

“I look horrible in them.” Lucie almost shouted.

“I’m sorry but I can’t help you much. You should get used to wearing them.”

“I can’t, doctor. I did not wear these,” she pointed at her lenses with small circles, “only at home, I could not go out with them on, I have spent almost all my evenings at home since I got them, because I did not want anybody to see how strange glasses I have to wear.”

“Lucinko,” said the doctor calmly, “listen, you need not stay at home. I mean you should not stay at home thinking your glasses are ugly. Go out in the evening with friends; find an activity for the evening. There is no use feeling self-conscious.”

With this he handed her the prescription form and said her good-bye.

Lucie had her new frame fitted with the newest lenses, but she still kept wearing her old glasses to work. She used the new pair only to watch TV. She did not consider herself to be pretty any more. She stopped going to the theater. During the next year, her isolation was getting deeper and deeper. After a time people saw her only walking to the tram stop and back, with her head bent down. The vision the old glasses provided her with was so bad she started to have problems at work. After her manager had hauled her over the coals she took Golden Pages and found a phone number of a psychologist in the neighborhood.

The first session was the usual routine. Lucie was to fill in a form, describe her problems, and tell her story. During the next sessions, the doctor helped her find a way how to improve her performance at work and persuaded her to wear her glasses in the office. After a time he made her try to socialize.

The time for the next eye test came. Lucie first visited her psychologist, and the next day she went to her eye doctor. She sat down and let doctor Jablonsky to put the test frame on her nose. After he adjusted the temples and the distance of the lenses, she started reading the chart. The doctor switched the lenses for the first time than again and again. Four times. He inserted weaker lenses, than stronger ones again.

“Which is better?” he asked.

“The previous were better,“ answered Lucie.

Although she could cheat easily saying the weaker lenses were better, she did not do it, as she knew the 0.25 dptr would not make any significant difference in the thickness. The lenses were going to be the horrible lenticulars anyway. Leaving the office she was holding a prescription form that read: Right sph –13.50 cyl –2.00 axis 87, Left sph -13.00 cyl –2.25 axis 75. It was a big increase again.

The frame she chose later that day was very nice and fashionable. The shop assistant complimented her but she was not listening. On her way to work she looked at the blurred shapes around thinking: ‘I have to wear the ugliest and the strongest glasses in this town. Will I ever have a partner? Or will I go blind before I meet somebody who wanted me?’ As soon as she got into her office, she arranged another session with her psychologist.

“I’m very depressed, doctor.” she started her speech the afternoon just after she had sat down. “My glasses are getting stronger every year. I am not attractive any more. I’m down.“

„Do you think you could find any activity that would make your brain dealing with anything else than your glasses?“ asked the doctor.

„What activity?“ asked Lucie.
„I don’t know what would interest you.“
„Have you ever played squash?“
„Why do you think, the sport would help you?“
„Erm … just to do something.“
„All right. You can go playing squash with your colleagues. Is there any other activity? I mean something for your brain, something more intellectual.“
„I don’t know.“
„Can you speak English or German?“
„I studied English at school, but, you know how it is, you learn words, and read an article, and listen to a cassette, and then you forget everything because you do not use the language. No, I do not think I can really speak the language.“
„So, why don’t you find some school and try to study a language?“
„All the language schools are the same, doctor, a nervous Czech teacher for beginners and a backpacker for advanced students.“
„Give it a try, please. Your brain needs an activity. Find some lessons close to your home.“

The next day Lucie opened Golden Pages. As she was browsing the list of language schools her eyes stopped at an item. It read English with humor. It was near to her place, actually only 400 meters. She dialed the number.

„English with humor, how can I help you?“ said a male voice.
„Hello, I would like to ask if you have any lessons for, let’s say, intermediate students, well, I think I should be a kind of neglected intermediate student.“
„Yes, I have.“
„And …“ she hesitated, „do you enroll students after the lessons began?“
„Yes, we do.“
„Ok, I would like to subscribe. When are you it the office?“
„There is no office, just come to the classroom and say you want to join.“
„What shall I need, a book, an exercise book, a dictionary?“
„All you need is a smile and a good mood. The lessons for intermediate students are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. do you know the address?“
„Yes, I know the address. OK, I will come.“

Lucie was looking at the phone. This was not a clerk, she thought. The voice was too personal. Personal and friendly. Was he the teacher?

On Tuesday, she took a new exercise book, her old Headway for intermediate students textbook and went to her first lesson. When she opened the door to the classroom she saw several students sitting round a large desk, and a man standing at the blackboard, writing.

Lucie said: „Good evening, I called last week, if I could attend these lessons.“

The man turned. „Welcome to my lessons. Find a chair and join us.“ he said with a smile, „we are happy to have you here. When you called me yesterday I was just thinking I needed more students for this course.“

Lucie was looking at him in wonder. The teacher was wearing glasses with lenticular lenses.

One evening Lucie needed some extra explanation of a grammar issue. She stayed in the classroom after the lesson and asked the teacher how to form complex sentences with conditional clauses correctly. Marek explained her what she needed to know, giving several examples showing the differences:

„If you go with me for a dinner tomorrow I will be the happiest man in the town. If you went with me for a dinner today I would be the happiest man in the town. If you had gone with me for a dinner yesterday I would have been the happiest man in the town.“

Lucie suddenly realized he was not showing the difference, he was rather asking her for a date. She looked at the chart of tenses, and touching the appropriate rows and columns she said in English: „If you had invited me before I would not have refused. If you are serious, I will be happy to go with you.“

And Marek smiled at her.

- - - - -

Sitting at a table in the restaurant and talking to a person who was wearing glasses similar to hers was a new experience for Lucie. She had never seen anybody with lenticular lenses from such a close distance. It was quite different from the situation in the classroom. There were the other students, and the teacher stood far from her. At the table, Marek’s lenses and his eyes were just half meter far. The power rings, the bowls, the distorted image of his eyes, everything was very similar to what she saw when she looked into a mirror.

They made their orders. Marek kept pushing his glasses up his nose. She noticed that and smiled when he dropped a piece of potato while making the move.

„They are sliding down.“ he smiled.

He took the glasses and tried to adjust the temples. To see what he was doing he had to bring the temple very close to his eyes, about 3 centimeters. ‘Do I put things so close to my eyes when I am not wearing glasses, too?’ thought Lucie. Suddenly, she felt like helping him. When he was in the classroom, he was the teacher, a man who knows everything, however in the restaurant, holding the frame right in front of his right eye, he looked weak.

„Give them to me, I will help you,“ she said.

She took his glasses, slightly bent both temples and put them back on his face. As they needed more adjustment, she took them again. This time she looked at his naked face, too. His eyes were much bigger than she had thought. She looked at the lenses. They were plastic, the bowls looked smaller then the bowls of her glasses. Curious if they were as strong as hers, she put her glasses off for a moment and tried Marek’s glasses. Oh! She quickly put them off. They were even stronger than hers! When they were sitting firmly back on Marek’s nose making his eyes tiny and sunken, she thought that the man would probably not mind her wearing the horrible coke bottles. Marek blinked several times and thanked her for the help.

There was a moment of silence.

„How many diopters do you have?“ asked Marek suddenly.
She had never been asked this question. People usually just looked or stared, but nobody dared to ask her openly. Lucie blushed. She felt rather embarrassed.
„My eyes are really bad,“ she said, „I have minus thirteen diopters.“
„That is quite strong.“ he said. It sounded rather pointlessly.
„And you?“ asked Lucie.
„I have about minus nineteen diopters, plus some cylinders, and so, you know how it is, some more numbers on the paper.“
„It is a pain in the neck, isn’t it?“ she said.
„Well, not too much,“ he said slowly, „yes, of course, I had a slight inferiority complex because of my strong glasses when I was a young teenager. But it has not been any psychological problem for me since I turned adult.“
„You see, I do have the inferiority complex.“
Lucie suddenly remembered the hardship and stopped eating. „When I got the lenticular lenses for the first time - it was two years ago - I felt horrible. I did not want to wear the glasses at all. It was awesome. After some time my doctor gave me even more diopters and wearing the old glasses became useless, as they had been too weak for my bad eyes. I had to start wearing these,“ she pointed at the right lens, „these ugly, nasty, horrible things that … that make my eyes so hideous and my face unattractive. I hope you can understand what I feel when I look into a mirror. There are days when I feel like a deformed person.“

It was a relief for her as she said that.

Marek took her by the hand. Lucie was looking at the plate with the unfinished meal. He stroked her hand, and then he stroked her hair. She looked up.

„Lucie, you are neither deformed nor unattractive nor ugly. You are a beautiful young lady.“

- - - - -

Since that evening they started meeting regularly. Lucie fell in love with Marek after their second date. She kept on attending his lessons. Their weekends were nice; Marek loved biking, so Lucie often went with him for a trip. When they were together she felt very relaxed. The tension she had been experiencing for several years started fading away.

Lucie realized that fully the first evening she spent in Marek’s flat. They started kissing passionately after they had had dinner (Marek had proved to be quite a good cook). Their glasses were clicking. Lucie to took Mark’s glasses off, and then she did the same with hers. Soon they were making love passionately and wildly.

The next morning Lucie woke up earlier than Mark. She reached for her glasses, put them on to bring the blurred image of the room into focus and looked at the man who made love to her the night before so gently. He was sleeping quietly beside her. She was watching him for a while, and then slipped out of the bed slowly to have a shower. When she returned Marek was awake. She lay beside him and he covered them with the blanket. They were looking at one another. Mark slowly caressed her cheek. Lucie purred like a cat. Then they remained quiet holding their hands. Marek was looking at Lucie’s eyes; she was looking at his glasses. „How strange,“ she thought, „his glasses are even stronger than mine and they do not look bad at all.“

„What are you thinking about?“ asked Marek.
„That you have glasses like me.“ answered Lucie.
„And what does it feel like?“
„Good.“ said Lucie, „Like not being alone any more.“
„Like being the two of a kind.“ said Marek. „Like the same species.“
„Do you really feel the same?“ she asked.
„Yes, I do. I feel we belong together.“
„Because of the glasses?“
„Because I love you. But your glasses will always tell me you are the very special woman, the Miss Right, for me.“
„You know what …“ said Lucie quietly, „I do not hate my glasses any more.“

Marek caressed her small breast. Lucie smiled and hold his hand cuddled up.

„Will you make love with me while wearing glasses?“ asked Marek.
„Yes.“ Lucie started kissing him. „Yes, yes.“

This time it was even better than the night before. They were making love with their eyes wide open enjoying and reacting to the partner’s expressions. Then they fell asleep, dreaming about one another, complementing one another, and in all their dreams they wore strong thick myodisc glasses.

written in April 2006

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