Today is my two-year anniversary with my company.
I schedule an eye exam to celebrate. Get the kazoo; it’s time to have FUN!
At the clinic, I am tested for color blindness. “49, 57. 63.” I read stippled numbers and grin at the nurse. “I love this one. I actually know the answers.”
I’ve worn glasses since kindergarten. Even at age 6 I was enough of a perfectionist to hate the eye doctor visits, chiefly due to my inability to answer his questions correctly.
“This next exam measures your visual acuity,” the nurse says.
Here we go.
I lean into the machine and see a little red farmhouse at the end of a long dirt road. I fantasize about living there, cleaning clothes on a tin washboard, tending sheep the size of dandelion fluffs.
The nurse murmurs like a teacher’s. “20/80 isn’t so bad.” (I have since learned that 20/80 qualifies one for special educational assistance.) “This is better than a Snellen chart, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. That E gets me every time.”
She clears her throat. Lose the sarcasm. “Now if you’ll place your chin here,” she says, “we’ll get started on the glaucoma screening.”
An audible whimper.
“Do you not like the puff test?” Her voice raises a few keys, as though talking to a small child. I fight the urge to suck my thumb.
“I had a bad experience when I was younger.”
“OK,” she mollifies.
“They set the air pressure too high.”
“It scared me.”
“OK.” She hands me my glasses, which I immediately shove on. Self-defense. “You don’t have to take it with the puff. I’ll let doctor know you want drops instead.”
“Thank you.” I struggle to lower my shoulders from up near my ears. “Does it matter that I’m having that test where they dilate my pupils?”
She shakes her head. “She’ll give you one set of drops, then another. You shouldn’t have any problems.”
* * *
The doctor leans back and lowers her flashlight.
“Sorry.” I try to control my giggling. “You’re just so close to my face.”
She sighs. “I have to be close to examine the back of the eye.”
“I really can’t see.” I blink and imagine my pupils wide as dinner plates.
“The blurriness will wear off in a few hours.” She leans in, searing my retinas with a blue pin light.
“What time is it?” I ask.
She closes her flashlight. “Almost 7.” That’s a long day on the eye farm, no doubt. “And you are all finished.”
Blink, blink. “That’s it?”
“You’re healthy.” I think she smiles.
“Really? Hasn’t my prescription changed? I’ve worked in front of a computer every day for two years now.” Par-tay!
“Your prescription is the same as it was. You’re in the clear, so to speak.”
I can’t tell if she’s laughing when I stand. I reach for her hand which wavers like koi in murky depths. “Thank you,” I say.
“Thank you. Enjoy your night.”
I give her a thumbs-up and nearly trip on the doorjamb.
“Don’t hurt yourself!” she calls.
Why do people keep telling me that?
* * *
“Can I get you anything to drink?” My friend Susanne holds out a menu.
“Just water.” I feel her stare amid the hustle of the local café, and I suddenly wonder what I look like. “I had an eye exam,” I explain.
“Ohh.” She sounds relieved. “I was curious because your eyes are red and glassy and—”
“My pupils are huge?”
“Just the eye drops.”
“As long as you aren’t addicted to meth.”
“I don’t know. Maybe you’re, like, living in a cardboard box now.”
“You know what—give me that.” I snatch the menu out of her hands.
She laughs and walks away. I spend the next five minutes adjusting the menu in front of my face, holding it at arm’s length before bringing it under my nose. I squint and touch the paper in case it’s written in Braille. No dice.
I sigh, sit back in my chair. The girl at the table next to me stares.
“Eye exam,” I say in her general direction.
She doesn’t say anything.
“I thought my vision had gotten worse, doing computer stuff all day long,” I babble. “I figured the strain maybe got to me.”
“It’s actually been two years with my company.” I gesture to the empty chair across from me. “Just goes to show how little our relationship means. Our anniversary night and I have to eat alone!”
Yeah, maybe that joke falls a little flat.
Susanne appears at my side. “Who are you talking to?”
“Uh…” Awkward. “This girl sitting next to me.”
“Derby, that’s a plant.”
“Well, crazy lady, do you know what you want to eat?”
“I’ll have that,” I say, pointing to a blur on the menu.
“You’ll have our Hours of Operation?”
She tilts her head and tucks the menu under her arm. After a second she realizes: “Oh my God, you’re blind!”
“Apparently.” I try to ignore her hysterical laughter. “It’s a perk of group health insurance.”
I can barely see the edges of her face, the hand wiping away tears. Whatever. With any luck, I’ll make it another two years and hit 20/200. I hear that qualifies for tax benefits.