I'm delayed in posting today because of my eyes. Looking at the computer screen is a bit like sitting a foot in front of a car with its high beams on. Twelve days have passed since I received the news about my infected corneas. I've been a good patient, lubricating my eyes with drops during the day and coating them with ointment before bed, ointment that's essentially Vaseline in a tube. The fear of going blind from this has been raging inside me in spite of the doctor's assurance that I won't. I can't be sure until my next appointment, but I think the eyes are getting better. They don't hurt, they don't itch, and the redness is gone, and although my vision still isn't good, I'm improving. Not surprisingly, the last week and a half of bumping around the house has caused me to wonder what it would be like to lose my sight.
Absent all of the obvious trauma of such a disastrous result, one tiny situation of blindness (though not so tiny as it turns out) is bugs. Specifically, mosquitoes. There is no insect I hate more than the mosquito, with its whining scree when near an ear. There has been a mosquito in my bedroom for the past three nights, torturing me after lights out. The ointment I'm squeezing into my eyes doesn't exactly cause blindness in the classic way (ie, total darkness), but it does nonetheless render me unable to see. Imagine peering through a bowl of mottled gelatin. The first night, after applying the ointment, I turned around and fell over the luggage rack, scrambled up and felt my way into bed. My lamp hadn't been turned off for more than a minute before I heard it...the unmistakable high pitch of a mosquito nearby. My first thought: what is a mosquito doing around in October? My second: there's nothing I can do about it. I can't see. I flailed my arms around for a few seconds and held my breath, knowing that mosquitoes are drawn to exhaled carbon dioxide. I turned on the light and blinked, trying to clear the ointment away for a few seconds, which of course didn't work. I couldn't see the dog much less a mosquito. Defeated, I shut off the light and buried my head under the covers until I fell asleep. The next morning I woke up with a bite on my forehead.
Night Two Of The Mosquito was pretty much the same. Ointment, stumbling, lights out, high-pitched scree, arm waving, breath holding, under the covers. Morning two: another bite, this one on my arm.
So last night I decided to forego the ointment. I got in bed, shut off the light, and waited. Sure enough he was back (he, or another of his brethren). I sprang out of bed and turned on the lamp, already armed with my fly swatter. There it was, the ghastly bug, perched on skinny legs clinging to my wall. I swatted him and he fell dead. Ha! I shouted triumphantly as Harry looked on, puzzled and frowning. I returned to bed and sighed with relief, muttering to the deceased bug I am NOT blind, buddy boy. You messed with the wrong girl.
What, though, would it be like if I were blind? I couldn't get the idea out of my head last night. Before now, when I thought of the blind I imagined the difficulty of travel, crossing the street, negotiating household duties, not being able to drive or use the computer or read. It never occurred to me that something as seemingly insignificant as a mosquito...which we sighted folks see, swat, and move past...might be such a huge issue. Before nodding off to sleep, I said a little thank you that I was born with sight, and still have it, my current blurry view of the world notwithstanding.
Stephen King, of whom I am a great fan, has a predisposition to macular degeneration. I read an interview once during which he made light of the situation, saying something like writers should be looking out of the corners of their eyes anyway. I'm not sure I could take such a diagnosis in stride, and let's hope I don't have to. I'm not sure how this problem is going to play out over the next six months, but I am sure of one thing: I'll never take my vision for granted again. I'm really not asking for much. I could live without seeing the stars clearly again, and would be greatly troubled if I couldn't drive. But please...never let my vision fail so completely that I'm unable to swat an October mosquito.