Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Eye Doctor

I was alone in the optometry office. The room was dimly lit and the professional equipment had an eerie quiet in the soft darkness. The various instruments were big and black and they protruded from the ceiling. Small orange lights blinked on and off and I felt like the waiting captive in a strange film. I studied the big E glowing softly on the wall, I stared at the vertical line and the three parallel lines that touched it, creating the shape I recognized as a letter, an English letter. In this room, in this context, it would be the first in a series of letters that would determine my ability to see and my subsequent prescription strength. I sat on a small black padded chair, it swiveled, and as the minutes turned into longer chunks, first 5, then 10, then 15, I swiveled softly on the smooth linoleum floor. On my right was the doctor’s desk. It was mostly bare except for an oversized model of the human eye and a Plexiglas brochure holder which had information about LASIK eye surgery. I picked up the large eye and held it in my hands. Slowly, I pulled of plastic pieces off, each new layer revealed another hidden section, the cornea, the retina, the iris, everything was there, exposed. Long ago, they had done dissections and cut into the mystery of sight. This was the eye wrapped up in an easy to understand package, easily labeled parts and functions. The eye, glorious in its wonder…I see…the orange blinking, the E, the darkness, the desk. How strange…
I looked at the clock again…time passed slowly in the small room. I heard the doctor’s voice out in the lobby. "Yes, those lenses will be great on him, lots of little boys like that style!" Her voice was booming, it was large enough to fill a small theatre. It was the authoritative voice that screamed for attention. Hidden beneath her obvious words, there was another audio track, it shouted with unformed words and syllables, but the point could not be missed, mixed up with her speech was the mantra, "listen to me…I know everything, I am important."
When the doctor had wrapped up her suggestions to the mother and son and quickly checked-in with the receptionist, she finally entered the exam room. She shook my hand firmly and seated herself on a little round chair next to the desk. Before asking me my medical history or checking my eyes, she launched into a history about LASIK eye surgery. She thought I would be a perfect candidate. She recited the entire history and assured me that it would be the best thing for me. She told me about her days in optometry school and how she met the people who invented LASIK and what her role would be in the surgery. She spared no detail, and I nodded my head obediently to each of her points when she paused to take a breath.
She spoke at length, but I had lost interest in her words and I studied her face as she talked and my occasional eye contact gave the impression I was listening. Her face…the crow’s feet around her eyes revealed she had reached middle age. Her eyelids were just a bit droopy and they covered some of her upper eye. I wondered if her eyelashes were real or fake, they were very thick and black and long. I studied them for I while, I looked at their shape and the way they fit within the context of her face, I decided they were real. Her thin lips were moving, she had a thin layer of pink lipstick which made me notice one side of her mouth was slightly lower than the other. Around her face was a pile of carefully curled and hairsprayed hair that reminded me of movie stars from the late 70s and early 80s. Covering her naked body was a professional dark blue pants suit, over her naked chest was a white shirt with thin black stripes. She had a string of pearls around her neck and two small pearl studs in her ears. I looked down at her hand, her wedding ring held a large diamond…I wondered about the husband that gave it to her. There were two seconds of silence, and then she asked if LASIK would be something I might be interested in. "Sure, but I’m unemployed at the moment, so $5,000 for the surgery isn't something I have right now."
"Oh," she said, just slightly disappointed. After hearing that, she got on with the exam. "Well, maybe LASIK is something you could consider in the future. I highly recommend it."

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