I wanted new glasses for Christmas. The kind that I had seen some girls wearing on Instagram, that made them look intelligent, pretty and bookish all at the same time. I used to have glasses like that, from my favorite brand called Moscot, but I lost them ages ago on a bus from Monterrey to San Francisco airport. It was back when I had gotten fired from my tech job and I thought that going to visit my family friend, Mable, and attending AA meetings out of curiosity was a good use of my time.
I have naturally terrible eyesight. When I went to the optometrist a couple weeks ago, my prescription had gotten worse, again, though the pace of the decline has slowed a lot. I’m now-5.50 in both eyes for my contacts, and -6 in both eyes in my glasses. If you’re blessed with perfect eyes, and have no idea what these numbers mean, it’s hard to describe exactly what it’s like to not be able to see anything. Without glasses or contacts, I can’t recognize anyone unless they’re 2 feet away from my face. Have you ever watched a romantic movie, when they start zoomed out along a waterfront at night, and the lights are all big and bright and hazy, but then they zoom in and it’s actually just little lights on the front of each boat? That’s what it looks like when you’re almost legally blind. The zoomed out part. The colors awash part.
I’ve often considered becoming an impressionist-style painter. I wouldn’t even have to try. I wouldn’t have to abstract the trees into a wash of colors from where they meet the muddied earth. I could just paint the clusterfuck of indiscernible colors I see in front of me. Maybe then I can be like Jimi Hendrix, playing the right-handed guitar upside down. Playing things in his own way, I could paint things in my own way too.
Sight is something a lot of people take for granted. Whenever I have conversations with people about modern medicine, and child mortality, I often point out that I wouldn’t have survived into adulthood if glasses had never been invented. I would have been eaten by a wolf in minutes or fallen down a mountain because I couldn’t see the cliff in front of me. It’s disorienting, sure, but I’ve gotten used to it. These days I always have glasses or contacts anyway, because then I really can’t see.
The saddest part of it for me is not being able to read other people’s faces without my glasses or contacts. If I look at them, ablur, I can’t tell whether they’re looking out the window, or smiling at me kindly, or picking their nose. If they were picking their nose, I would see the shape of their arm, but I wouldn’t be able to tell what they were doing with their hand. You could flip me off and I wouldn’t notice. Come to think of it, I’d probably be a much less angry person if I couldn’t see all day. When you can’t see anything, you just kind of accept things as they are.
Somehow I’ve lasted these recent months with a pair of cheap Warby Parker glasses that slip off my nose and don’t fit my face, and a pair of contact lenses that I was only supposed to wear for two weeks before I should have thrown them away. It all kind of culminated when I ran out of contact lens solution, so I had to use tap water that is much harder and rougher on the eyes. That’s when I made my New Year’s Resolution: Damn, I should probably look after my eyes better. But then the optometrist was closed for two weeks over Christmas, so I couldn’t order my glasses. Then I called them, and the woman said she couldn’t read the other woman’s handwriting on my report, so she’d call me back in 10 minutes, but she never did, so I had to call her back 20 minutes later, and I was late for a work meeting, i.e. I called her twice even though I was the one who wanted to pay her a lot of money to manufacture these frames. God, customer service in the UK is terrible. This would never have happened in the US.
When I finally put in my new contacts, the finer details of the world suddenly came alive to me again. When your eyes are getting slowly, gradually worse all the time, you can’t even tell after a while what you’re missing out on. But when they fixed my prescription, wow, I could see the knobby bits on the top of the winter trees, the jagged wood of the stubs where they’d been trimmed, barren of leaves. I saw the gold cockerel-shaped antenna at the top of the church on the hill next to my parent’s house. It glistened in the overcast sky like a beacon of clarity and brightness. It was mesmerizing to watch. To think I’d passed that church multiple times a day since I’d gotten back to London, and never noticed until now that there was anything to see up there. Ignorance can be sad sometimes, too. It’s not always bliss.
This all happened, by the way, after I had told my parents that I wanted glasses for Christmas. I gave them the specifications weeks earlier, but neither of them ended up doing it, so I had to do it myself. Sometimes, I wish I was my sister. I feel like when she does things like get a parking ticket or shows up at the house without a coat when it’s cold outside, my parents do things for her. They’ll go online and pay for the ticket, or they’ll let her borrow a coat. They would let me borrow a coat too, but I would never show up at someone’s house without a coat in winter. Who goes anywhere without a coat in winter? How does that even make sense?
I can tell you one thing about being an independent adult: it really doesn’t pay off. If people can depend on you, you just end up taking care of everyone, and it’s really not fun at all. Then you get more practice doing stuff, like ordering food for delivery for everyone in the house for dinner, and then you become the best at it. But then when it comes times for dinner the next day, the other people in the house stare around sheepishly, waiting for something to happen. So then you end up ordering the food, because you’re the one who knows how to do it. And then the very same sister who borrowed your mum’s coat complains because you didn’t order enough options for her. She’s vegan, she reminds you for the millionth time. It makes you want to rip your hair out.
I ended up ordering my own glasses from Moscot. I got two pairs, the flesh and the sapphire-colored frames in the Lemtosh style. I hope they serve me well, as I return to New York and resume pursuing my dreams as some bad-ass career lady who has her shit together. But this bad-ass career lady, independent as she is, really needs to be taken care of a bit more. She needs help. It’s been so long since she asked for help. She’s grown so accustomed to not depending on others that she doesn’t even know what help she could ask for, or what it would look like to rely on other people. She can depend on herself, at least, but that probably means she’ll end up dying alone. That’s what they say in the romantic movies, anyway. When the lights were blurry along the moonlit waterfront of the city, and she couldn’t see anything, the bad-ass career lady didn’t notice that there was a French guy standing next to her, leaning in to kiss her. Instead, she slipped and fell straight into the water. Poor her.