Monday, January 10, 2011

Drive between the Screaming People

I don't know if it's karma, fate or mockery, but I find it absolutely ironic that after I decide on the title of my first collection of essays my glasses snap in half.  The book, "Hey, Four Eyes!” is a collection of essays based on my growing up years, in which I wore thick glasses for the majority of my puberty.  I decided on this title two days ago and suddenly I find myself in need of a new pair of eyes.  Even glasses, it seems, don't like being the brunt of jokes.  I know I hated it growing up.

I can't even Super Glue them back together as I have so many of my artificial eyes in the past.  And trust me; I've had to rig some glasses in the past twenty years.  When it's a choice between food for hungry children and glasses, you choose to eat.  So, some of my glasses of the past have had mounds of Super Glue that added size to my lenses as well as deformity.  My current frames are already frail and thin not leaving a whole lot for the glue to work with.  They hold fast for as long as it takes to get from the table to my nose and then, it's like lovers just quit holding hands and let their arms dangle.  The lenses hang by my cheeks, swinging back and forth until, like children on a swing, they just leap off of my ears for the ground below hoping not to shatter.

My world is now a blurry blob of colored shapes like a modern artist's rendition of love and pain.  I can't see to make my coffee, which is life-threatening itself, and I'm typing this with the screen four inches from my face.  I've already had to take one of the girls to work with a lens resting on one eye and the other squinted shut.

"How on earth did you see to get her to work?"  Char asked.

"It was easy.  I just turned opposite the people screaming and the horns blowing."

This is going to be a long day.

Truth is I'm as hard on my glasses as I am on my cars and I usually get the same amount of miles out of each.  You would think that I'd learn to be more careful considering I need them to get out of bed in the morning.  To be honest, I need glasses to find my glasses but then how I would find those I haven't a clue.  They say I'm near-sighted but the truth is I'm inches-sighted, like four inches, which is how close the iPod Touch is to my face right now.

Those of you with perfect eyesight can't possibly understand what it’s like to live in a fuzzy world.  It's like having to gum your steak.  By the end of the day my head is going to ache like fifteen migraines combined.  I can't tell you how many times I've reached for my glasses only to remember they're not anywhere close.  The lenses aren't even close to each other as one rests in my shirt pocket and the other on a dresser.

I've worn glasses since I was nine, and I hated every minute of it.  My frames were thick plastic and black and I really looked like a science nerd and I hated science.  Biology, however, I liked, or rather anatomy, but this is about glasses so skip that.

As I said, I hated wearing glasses.  It was bad enough being called four-eyes, but combining that with my last name and the jokes were endless.  Too many bullies liked to say my middle name was “sucks” or “likes” and the sad part was that it took a year before I figured out what was supposedly so damn funny.

I wasn’t about to change my last name so, somehow, I had to get rid of the glasses.  As soon as my parents could afford contacts I pushed, no shoved, at the chance.  No more four-eyes jokes!

Contacts, however, turned out to be a giant pain in the ass.  Every morning and every night, my fingers had to touch my eyeballs, which women and actors might have no issue with, but twelve-year old boys do.  Solutions, cases, don’t swim in them, don’t sleep in them – the list of things I was required to keep up with ruined my chances of success.  Eventually, as I did everything, I lost one.  Contacts were expensive and I believe my first pair ripped my parents out of $600. All I could see was the return of four-eyes and I couldn’t allow that to happen.  So, I kept the one in and just faked that I could see.  When necessary I squinted, feigning that some stray eye lash had crept onto my lens, but I would be fine in a moment.  I wasn’t fine for at least a year when I had to go back in for a check-up and my ruse was exposed.  It was the return of glasses.

A few years after I was married, I tried contacts again.  They had progressed and you could now sleep, swim and have sex with them in and they’d last for a week at least.  They went onto my eye fine but always came out missing a portion.

“Um, Char, is it supposed to look like this?”

“I know you’d eat anything, Robbie, but really, your contacts?”

We went through six different brands and each one had the same problems.  Like Alka-Seltzer in water, they’d dissolve in my eyes.  One disappeared completely!

I finally surrendered and put the glasses back on, secure in the fact that the bullies were busy pumping gas.

I don't remember when I lost my eyesight or how long I had needed glasses.  It had to be quite awhile before I was actually tested at the school because my mom said once I put the glasses on I was like an ostrich straining my neck around trying to see everything.  It had to have been a whole elaborate well-defined world with sharpness and vividness.  I know this because of what I see now.  There are no lines as everything blurs into each other.  Walls and doors and floors  all ooze into a shady semblance of watery structure, flowing into stove and furniture, never seeing the change in solidarity, no lines to say this ends and this begins.

Lines are important for without them I'd be fumbling forever for the door.  It’s like trying to find the handle in a dark room and stumbling over the furniture.  We need to know where one thing ends and another begins so that severance can form before something new can take hold.  The reason many people trip and fall is because they can't see the lines and I can't really fault them because the lines change with every group, even within political parties or various faiths, even within the same denominations.  Lines even change within families.

My oldest son, Nathan, wears glasses, the two youngest, Heather and Zac, each wear contacts and Char is starting to need her reading glasses more and more with the passing of time.  Each has their own pair because for each the lines blur at different distances. 

We also have our own “glasses”; our friends and family that help us see those lines.  Accountability increases our visibility.  I surround myself with people who help me duck or sidestep some obstruction in my life when I need to.  These people I keep close like my glasses, and with them I can walk straight and confidant.

One day, Nathan tried my glasses on and quickly took them off, rubbing his eyes. "Your blind pops."

Not yet, but probably one day.  For now though, I can still see the lines, because my glasses are faithful.

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