Friday, December 31, 2010

Second Sight

I knew that my sight was not as sharp as it had been, but I put off going to the doctor for about a year. Finally a month ago I had that long dreaded appointment. The doctor confirmed that I was nearsighted and needed glasses, I had been expecting to need reading glasses as well, so her verdict was slightly more positive than I'd allowed for. I was feeling okay. Then she put drops in my eyes to dilate the irises and told me to go look at frames while the drops took effect.

And there I stood, facing walls and walls of glasses. Panic set in. I randomly put a pair on my face. All I could see was a face with glasses, I didn’t even register how the glasses looked. I picked another pair. With each pair I got more freaked out. This was going to be a permanent part of my life now. When a shop assistant came over I told her I didn’t know what I wanted and I wasn’t going to buy glasses today anyways.

Maybe I didn’t really need glasses? The doctor said I would only really have to wear them when I drove, and I don’t have a car. I was functioning fine without glasses. Maybe I could get away without them for another year. How bad was my sight anyways?

I gave in and ordered a cheap pair online.

On Wednesday my first pair of glasses arrived in the mail. We were on our way to my parents house for a delayed Christmas dinner. I unwrapped them in the car and put them on. I had been told that I would really see the difference when I looked at trees. And there it was, instead of seeing a tree as a collection of branches, I could see every twig, every twist of bark and layer of snow, slight and thick. And not just with the trees closest to me, but all of them, everything I looked at was minutely detailed, as if I were looking at an exquisite engraving or a finely detailed miniature.

“Are you going to be okay?” Andrew asked.

“Probably. But this is really freaking me out.”

I couldn’t stop staring at everything. We drove over the bridge and the guardrail, a grid of steel bars was lit up by a streetlight which threw square shadows and was lined with glistening white snow all of which stretched into the distance, swelling in its approach.

“I can’t believe that I haven’t been seeing all of this. What else have I been missing?”

I look like a different person and feel like a different person, but that detail is addictive and the act of putting on glasses, of making one simple movement which instantly brings the world into clarity, is stunning.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


The cold February water shocked the breath right out of me. It felt good, really good, my blood was pumping, I was alive and young and crazy and alive, very very alive. We hadn’t jumped in for a swim, we’d jumped in for a shock, so as soon as the shock was over, we tried to pull ourselves out.

I had been a competitive swimmer and diver, and on the first pull I hadn’t been concerned. I firmly grabbed the icy, rough wooden boards of the float deck and pulled while kicking my feet as hard as I could. I managed to get my shoulders above the deck level, but not enough of my body to belly flop and tilt my weight out. I fell back into winter ocean. Alana, the friend I had convinced to come along, fell back by my side.

I could feel the cold in my knees. My hands were turning into claws. Alana and I gasped, breathing out in plumes of white. Neither of us said anything, but I was sure that Alana’s mind was running the same paths as mine. We were going to die if we didn’t get out. How long could an unprotected body survive in the glacial waters of Southeast Alaska? How long was it? I had been told a thousand times, five minute?  Ten?  Twenty?  It felt like we’d been in the water for an hour.

The view from the float.  From the CBJ webiste.
If we didn’t get out, we were going to die and the next morning our naked bodies would be found floating in the seaglass green water, bumping along the creosote soaked pilings of the dock.

We both grabbed the slippery deck with our cramped hands and this time, instead of kicking, we scrabbled our feet along the submerged base of the dock, ignoring the mussels and barnacles that sliced into the winter soft skin. This pull had to be the pull that brought me to safety, so instead of dropping back into the water when my arms felt like they were going to give out, I clung, and pulled with my fingers, and then my elbows, and then my chest.

We made it out.

We tugged our clothes on and ran up the ramp and back to the car. Once we were safely within the heated space, we started to laugh, and then howl, and tell each other how amazing that was, how crazy. We drove to a friend’s house where Alana told everyone gathered what crazy girls we were.

It wasn’t until I took my shoes off that I noticed that my socks were glued to my feet with dried blood. I washed out the stinging cuts. At the time I moaned and groaned until the cuts were fully healed and it stopped hurting to walk.

Now I think it was a small price to pay for living past 17.