Upon reflection, I don’t think that driving with your eyes dilated is a good idea.
But no one had told me I couldn’t, so there I was, careening through a universe of harsh sunlight and fuzzy objects, my pupils expanded to big, black buttons under my sunglasses. My eyes take to those dilation drops like Sarah Palin to a crowd of screaming, right-wing thugs, and I knew I could count on another several hours of near-blindness.
My eyes had already been prodded and measured and peered into, and all I can say is that the way they now test for glaucoma isn’t nearly as bad as the medieval torture chamber of tricks they used to pull out. The ophthalmologist had suggested bifocals, but I figured I’d think about that later, when my pupils shrank back to normal. In the meantime, I was meeting my friend Bob for lunch and had to park my car. I kept blindly punching the green button to add time to my parking permit. By the time I put my nose up to the parking machine, I could barely make out that I’d bought enough parking time to stay till dark.
I walked to the restaurant, less dangerous as a pedestrian than a driver, but still. Aren’t your other senses supposed to improve when your sight is compromised? Not mine. I was trying so hard to see that I couldn’t hear, either. I told Bob all my problems and tried to make it funny, which is the dysfunctional way I try to handle my life when everything is crazy and painful. After all, in my convoluted view of the universe, you should always bring something to the table other than grief — and it was way too early for alcohol.
If Bob thought my pumped-up eyes made me look like a drug addict, he didn’t mention it, but he did say he was sorry about my friend Pat’s death earlier that day.
I drove home, thinking of Mr. Magoo and wondering whether anybody but me even remembered him, trying to concentrate on the overly bright, glaring, harshly lit world around me, hoping not to ram into any large, unmovable objects. Our house, newly on the market, was being shown twice that afternoon, so I couldn’t stay there long. These days, our house is so pristine and clean and streamlined it’s hardly ours any longer. I thought, once again, how real estate — which we invest with all our dreams and money and desperate hopes of stability and permanence — never really belongs to us the way we pretend it does. We’re all tenants and who knows when the damned lease is going to expire?
Somewhere in the living room, I could feel something, some presence, and I knew who it was. It was there, it was oddly soothing on a sad, tumultuous day, then it was gone. Just like that.
My eyes slowly began to lose their dilation as the sun went down. It was a funny thing to contemplate bifocals, to think about adjusting to them. Look up for distances, down for things that are closer; learn to ignore the line in the middle. When your pupils get back to normal, theoretically, the light around you shouldn’t be too blinding. But you never know. Sometimes, you just have to close your eyes when the world is too harsh.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)