Monday, December 30, 2013

Ann’s Business

By R.H. Hamilton

"Just let me check one more thing and we're finished."
"Okay Doc, what are you looking for now?"
"Just a routine check on the retina hold still...okay let me add this to your file and we can see about your new glasses."
"You mean lenses don't you? Contacts?"
"No I mean glasses, Ann for two years I've been warning you about this, I was afraid that if you continued to wear contacts you will lose what vision you have left. I'm sorry but it’s for your own good, go to another specialist if you want to but if they are any good they will say the same thing."

"Doc you don't understand if I have to wear glasses I can't do my work!"
"Ann I've known for a long time what type of work you do, don't you think its time to..."
"Doc just give me my bill, I don't need another sermon!"
"No you don't, and you won't get one from me. There's no charge, but please think about what I said."
Glasses...glasses...glasses the word pounded in her head while she waited for a cab. She visualized herself with thick 'coke bottles' opening the door to a clients room and having it closed on her. NO WAY!

The trip home was only a few blocks but why walk when you can ride? Her contract with the cab company was a fair buck but it meant she got the right drivers when and where she needed them. Their dispatch was number one on her cell phone. Besides, her retinal damage had prevented her from driving for the last five years so she saved a bundle on that. Last year she had tried to drive her friend Connie's car but stopped after two blocks.

"Its no good," she told Connie, the only person in town other than her eye doctor who knew how bad her eyes were, "I just can't see well enough."

These thoughts wandered through her mind on the short drive to her apartment. The eyestrain was getting worse all right but she could handle it, she had to. She would switch to her glasses when she was at home, that would help, and she would be okay.

"Thanks Gino, call for me about ten tonight?"
"You bet Miss Ann, need me to go to the door?"
"No, I'm fine this time." One of the extras she paid for was door-to-door service; it helped late at night and for other reasons.

First stop in her apartment was the answering machine. After listening to its usual burble she took down two appointments one for early the following night, good, and one for early the next morning, bad! She hated morning appointments! Well if Connie had booked it she must think it would be worth her while.

It was five hours until she needed to get ready and that would give her eyes a good rest. She took the contacts out and reached up to the top of her medicine cabinet for the bright yellow case, which held her hated old glasses. They were about -17 or -18 and now she needed much more than that. She put them on, turned to face the mirror and stared at the power rings circling her tiny eyes. "NEVER! Never! Never!" she sobbed to herself going towards her bedroom, she lay there trying to sleep but unable to stop the words...glasses glasses gla... .She was back in grade school, awkward and skinny always last to be picked for games, sitting in the front row and sometimes even having to stand closer to see the board. She looked at the world through thick glasses and a sad face. Later as her body changed into the proportions of a very well developed young lady her thick glasses continued to be her social weakness. The one boy at school who saw past them and asked her out became the happiest teenager in the state. He had found her secret, everyone else tried to get her glasses off, he left them on and worked on her clothes instead. She helped. She made him promise not to tell on penalty of never ever being with him again. He never told and she went out with him for three years. At college her skill with men improved and when she won a scholarship she used part of it to buy the contacts her parents could never afford. She never 'looked' back. She was just about to...

The loud alarm woke her and she took a minute to realize it had been a dream. "More like a nightmare," she sighed.

Her appointment that evening went well but took longer than expected. Her client was a good-looking, middle-aged man who was in town with a convention. She completed her work then accepted his invitation to stay for a drink.

"We don't get this kind of service in the country." He smiled. One had led to another and it was well after 2 am when she finally got home.
"Gino it's pretty late, would you mind coming to the front door just in case someone is looking for a girl?"
"Sure thing, its all part of the service, besides I get to walk with a beautiful lady." He smiled, getting out of the cab, opened her door and took her arm gently as they walked to her apartment building.
"Thanks Gino, can you pick me up at 9:30?"
"Sure, see you tomorrow night."
"No! In the morning!"
"Gee I didn't know you worked mornings... oh sorry." His big frame actually shrank at his discomfort.
"Its okay, I don't very often, 9:30?"
"Sure, have a good nights sleep."
"Thanks, good night."

She was tired and did little of her usual nightly routine just the basics and into bed. 3am, 3:30, 4am and she was still awake, every fifteen minutes she reached for her big alarm clock and held it to her face. The next thing she heard was her loud alarm at 7am. She fumbled to find it on her dresser then smacked it hard enough to make her feel better.

She felt for her glasses then into the shower and... God was she tired. She prayed her client would not need any 'extra effort,' she was just not up to that this morning.
The door buzzer went at exactly 9:30, she had just put her contacts in, and she grabbed her purse and her 'working bag' then headed for the door.

"Morning Gino."
"Good Morning, gosh you look good today! I mean..."
"Gino I don't care what you mean, thanks, I needed that today." She smiled and took his arm.

Her appointment was at the four-star hotel right downtown and the doorman looked surprised as she walked by.
"Good morning, working early today Ann?"
"Gotta make hay while the sun shines JoeJoe." He took her case and walked her over to the elevator. His practiced eye noted both her expensive clothes and the way she filled them. 

Forget 'Fox', he mused to himself this was a 'Cougar' on the loose. This was one very very hot looking lady.
Of course the client was one of those who needed some 'extra effort' but he was pleasant and the money was so damn good she didn't really mind. They finished up just after noon and he asked her to have lunch.

"Thanks but I have another appointment."
"Gosh that's too bad, the boys would have fallen out of their seats if you had come in with me. I look forward to seeing you again."
"So do I." So do I brother, but right now I need to rest my eyes she thought heading towards the elevator. If Gino isn't in the lobby I am in big trouble.

True to his word the burly cab driver was waiting for her. He took her case and she walked very close to him till they got to the car.
"Goin' shopping?"
"No straight home, I need you back at 7:30"
"Boy you sure are popular this week Miss Ann."
"Ya." Popular but how long can this go on. I want to rub my eyes so bad it hurts but I know that will only make it worse.

This time Gino took her right to the apartment door and she went in and into the bathroom in almost one motion. Out came the contacts then the eye drops, hell she hadn't checked the bottle. "Where are my stupid glasses?" she fumed, and then remembered they were on the sink. Carefully feeling for them she put them on, made sure the bottle was eye drops, stuffed one arm of the thick glasses through her blouse top then bathed her eyes in a cascade of soothing drops.

"Man that's better than sex." she laughed and repeated the process.
She stood still laughing at herself staring blindly into her mirror, " Well dressed lady, good body, great legs nice hair found giggling to herself over bottle of eye drops! God do I need a vacation!"

The next hour went by quickly as she made some lunch, laid out her clothes for tonight then sat with her glasses off. The phone rang and her plans changed totally.
"Ann can you come down right away I need to see you."
"What's up Connie?"
"Can you?"
She held her watch close to her better eye, without her glasses she could just barely read the big dial. "Sure, see you in half an hour."
"She dressed and called for her cab, Gino wasn't available but she knew the other driver and that was no problem. She put her contacts back in and left, returning almost immediately to get her working bag.

The meeting turned out to be nothing serious, just the forms for her yearly medical. "You could have mailed them Connie!" Frustrated, but unwilling to have an argument with her friend.
"Yes I could have Ann, but I haven't seen you in three weeks! Just want to make sure you are keeping up appearances." Connie was ten years older but could pass for Ann's sister; they had worked together for over seven years. Connie was taller by four inches Ann was wider by a cup size and thinner by several dress sizes. "Ann you look tired, are your eyes bothering you?"
"No more than usual, I still do my job don't I?"
"Of course, of course."

Returning to her apartment she knew it was no use trying to get any rest, so she got dressed and headed out for her '7:30.' 
On the way over Gino looked into the rear view mirror and said with a concerned voice, "Miss Ann, I hope you don't mind but your eyes are sure red, you got a cold or something?"
"Thanks Gino its just hay fever," she lied, "Thanks for asking okay?"
"Ya okay."

Just hay fever, her eyes were screaming, why had Connie called her in today, she needed those hours to rest her eyes now she could barely see the back of Gino's head. He took her into the hotel where her client was staying and made sure she found the right elevator.

"Call me when you need me, I'm close by."
"Thanks, I hope this won't take too long."

Thank God she was the only one in the elevator, it had the floor lights on the side and she could see them, the door numbers were harder but she found 1427 and knocked.
"Hello, you must be Ann, please come in."

All she could see was a red blur as she put her hand out and he shook it firmly then stood back to let her in.

She was helpless! How could she tell the guy "I can't really see you, I'm almost blind?"

She thought of the hay fever and sneezed! Again and again, apologizing between sneezes, she almost fell over.

"Allergies, I need my needle, its just here in my purse." She fumbled then "Oh my God I don't have it. I have to go, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Look call Connie and tell her please!"
This all came out between the most professional sneezing fit anyone had ever witnessed.
"Can I call a doctor,"
"No, really I just have to get home." 

She was out the door going down the hall still sneezing and trying to remember where the damned elevator was! She turned a corner and almost bumped into an elderly couple.

"Sorry, sorry."
"My dear what's wrong?"

Fast thinking again, "I just found my boy friend with another woman." She dissolved in tears.
"Oh you poor thing, here's the elevator."

They went to the lobby and she knew the ladies room was just to the right. She found it and called Gino.
He was there in less than ten minutes.

"Bad call, are you okay?"
"Yes, just my hay fever, please lets just go.” She made no pretence this time she just took his arm and let him lead her. Dabbing at her face close to her eyes she hoped he would think she couldn't see because of the tears. He made her apartment in record time, she was sure he ignored every sign and speed limit. There was a fifty in his hand when she said good night at her door.

The contacts really hurt when they came out and she stood there close to real tears till the pain subsided. Fumbling again for her glasses she made sure she had the right bottle and once again the soothing liquid hit her tender eyes. Sitting on the toilet alternately sobbing then putting in more drops. Later in bed she had no trouble sleeping, the two painkillers did their job.

The next morning she put her glasses on then went to the phone to get her messages. The first two were from last night. Connie was worried, call her. The next three were from this morning, every thirty minutes Connie had called. Ann was a very sound sleeper, and never but never heard her phone from the bedroom.

"Connie it’s Ann, hi."
"Ann I was just leaving for your place, what the hell happened, are you all right!"
"Yes, yes yes I'm all right, I just had a bad hay fever attack okay, sorry about that guy, did you look after him?"
"Judy took the call, she hates short notice like that but she said she owed you."
"Ya she did, I guess we're square."
"Was he happy?"
"Booked again for six weeks, we got him."
"Look Connie I need some time off, say a week, okay?"
"No its not, what's wrong Ann."

What's wrong you stupid woman is that I can't see my face in the mirror without looking through these stupid 'coke bottles'. "Connie I just need some time, I'll call you."

Later that morning she called the cab company and said she was taking some time off, they could re-assign Gino and she would call when she needed him. She checked her messages then unplugged the machine and went back to bed. This was a rule between Connie and her 'girls', no machine meant she wasn't working period full stop. Her friend would respect that, she had only done it once before in seven years.

She slept almost the whole day, getting up to put drops in her eyes and nibble on some cold Chinese food. She took two more pills at 8:30 and didn't wake up until noon the next day.
She made coffee and her mind drifted back to her early days in the business. She had some bad times before she finally laid out her own guidelines. Twice she had stayed too long with clients and had to take her contacts out and feel her way back to the bed. Neither had realized that they were making love to a blind woman. In both cases she left before they woke up, feeling her way to the bathroom to put her lenses in then find her clothes and leave. Now she limited her time and her drinks, it was more 'professional'.

Feeling much better, she got dressed and thought about a little shopping trip to pick up her spirits. Ann called Gino and he sounded happy to hear from his favorite fare. "Be right there Miss Ann, ten minutes tops." What did he do live ten minutes away, it was almost always "ten minutes tops."

Just before Gino arrived she put her contacts in and almost screamed in pain. She gasped as she tried to get the bloody thing out. Holding the sink she stamped her foot willing the pain to stop. Oh no not now not NOW!

Gino! Got to call him can't go. Where did I put that phone? She found her purse, got her cell and felt for the right button.

"Gino I'm sorry something has come up, just bill me on the contract okay?" she tried not to gasp.
"Sure, thanks for calling most people don't."
"Ya good bye."

She almost cried the eye hurt so much. What had she done wrong? She went over all the steps while she sat pouring drops into the injured eye. She tried to look at the eye with her glasses on but couldn't see clearly. She wedged a magnifying glass between her glasses and the mirror and gasped at the red slash across her eye ball. This was serious.
She phoned her eye doctor and pleaded with his receptionist to let her talk to him.

"Ann what's the matter?"
She told him between sobs. "Get in a cab and come here now! Close that eye and put some gauze over it, tape it and don't take the tape off."
"But I can't.."
"Ann do you want to be blind in that eye?"
The word shocked her. "No."
"Then do it."

She had started to shake at his words. Now she calmed herself and did as she was told. She fit her glasses on awkwardly over the patch and called a different cab company to pick her up outside the building. She had to give her credit card because she would not give her apartment number.

"Just hurry, I have to get to my doctor right now!"

When she reached her Doctor's office the receptionist met her at the door. "Forget the coat, come this way they're waiting"
"Dr. Brown called his best friend, he teaches at the hospital they want you right away."

The next several hours were the longest of her life. Finally she sat facing the two Doctors, "Ann I have the best news possible, the damage was on the surface. Two weeks and the eye should be back to normal. You are one lucky woman. Come see me in a month , you need those new glasses."
"Two weeks what will I do... the tears started and lasted until they gave her a sedative. Later one of the assistants drove her home. "Take two of these every four hours for the pain, as soon as you can cut down to one then try aspirin." She put the pills in Ann's hand at the door of the apartment. "Get lots of sleep, bye."

Two days later she called Connie and told her she was out of the business for at least five weeks. She hung up before Connie could start. The days passed, she wore the light patch they had given her for two weeks then just let the eye heal by itself. They had given her a plastic insert to cover her glasses on that side. At the end of the fourth week she made the appointment with her eye doctor. This time she was resigned to glasses but that didn't mean she had to like it!

"Ann these glasses must be five years old, why didn't you get a new pair?"
"Doc, I just didn't okay, I know it was wrong and from now on I play by your rules."
"Okay we start fresh, lets see what you can see with these."

The time-honored tradition of 'better now or now' went on for almost thirty minutes. When they had finished he faxed the numbers to a lab in Chicago which specialized in very high prescriptions.
"Ann I won't try to fool you, with your vision you should be using some aids, but you've gotten along so far without them lets see if you still can okay?"
"Thanks doc, how bad are they?'

Well everything beyond ten feet will be a little blurry, in the dark or a poorly lit room you will see even less. On the positive side your reading vision will be better for a while at least."

A week later she came back for her glasses. She waited in fear for what they would look like.
"All right Ann, close your eyes." He put the glasses on her face and she could feel the weight, not much worse than her others. "Now open them."
She blinked then squinted moving her eyes then her head. "What's wrong I can only see straight ahead. What's wrong!"
"Ann just relax a minute, these are a different type of glasses, look." He held the mirror in front of her face.
"What are they, they're weird."
"Yes they are, they're called blended myodiscs and they are much stronger than they look, but you can only see through the middle of the lens."
"Yes, if I move my eyes you blur out."
"Okay now try these." He handed her a pair of the thickest glasses she had ever seen.
"Who's are these?" She put them on and could see as well as with the others.
"Yours, these are regular glasses with the same prescription. You can wear the myodiscs when you work, but I want you to wear these as often as possible, they are much easier on your eyes."
"Doc I said before I would play by your rules, okay I will."
"Good, we need to help those eyes as much as we can, you know your limits just stay within them. Call me any time, you will be put right through."

It took three days for Ann to get up the courage to go and see Connie. She called Gino and set up a time.

He was there smiling and holding his hand out for her bag. "No bag today Gino just to the office please."
"Yes Miss Ann."

Several minutes later he stopped at a red light. "They look real impressive Miss Ann, makes you look like a banker."

She laughed for the first time in two months.

"Gino you should be a headshrinker you always say the right things. Now you know why I stayed so close to you and took your arm, I have real trouble seeing, especially at night."
"Uh huh and here I thought it was my natural good looks."

They both laughed at that one.

Ann stood before the office building where Connie had her place. She wished she had Gino beside her. She knocked on the door, opened it and went in.

"Well there you are at last, how are you Ann?" Connie embraced her, you look good kid."
"Ya I'll just bet I do. How do you like my new look?" She had decided on the thick regular glasses, might as well get the full impact.
"They're pretty thick all right, turn sideways, mmm they almost touch your eyes. Wow you can see half the side of your hair from the front."
"Connie how can I work wearing these. Who would...
"Look Ann, one third of your clients can't take their eyes off those wonderful long legs. The third who can can't see anything above your chest, especially when you wear one of your tight outfits. The last third who cares? You are a damn good looking woman who needs to wear thick glasses, and just happens to make over 300k a year selling mutual funds to Doctors and Lawyers. Who the hell cares what they think!

Robert and my SNL

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