By Reg Tolentino
Like at First Sight
You were the first thing I’d look for in the morning, the last thing I’d hold at night, the silent partner who always kept my world in focus.
We have been together for a while now, you and I. I was 9 when we first met. I found myself liking you the moment you caressed my face. I liked how you look. I liked how I looked with you. Then my classmates started teasing me when they saw us together. I loathed every mocking glance thrown our way, along with the spat-out “nerds,” “dorks,” and “geeks” (there were a few “grandpas” in there as well). Ironically, you not only caused those looks, but showed them to me clearly.
Yet it wasn’t your fault, and I didn’t care. I needed you. So we met each invective with grit teeth, and our relationship survived innumerable tests. My grades got higher; so did yours. We found refuge in the library, where people were more like us, and we clung tighter with each book we dove into. We met interesting characters, explored old worlds with new words, and new worlds with old words. Those hot days in cool air-conditioning were enlightening. I caught a glimpse of who I wanted to become.
The years rolled by, and we grew up together. We changed styles, and we learned more about each other. You dislike swimming, and showers, and saunas. I had to ease you from warm to cold temperatures. You’d always leave an impression if I got sweaty when we played basketball. You made me look hard when I misplace you. The world always seemed less gay when I failed to take care of you. Almost every photograph of my childhood places us together, inseparable.
The Hot Kiss of Focused Light
I will never forget that goodbye. The door sighed closed and the room’s chill embraced me. Two man-sized steel machines sat unmoving, waiting for me to lie on a bed between them. Before I entered, half a dozen smaller machines stared into me and flashed lights at me, blinding me, all to gauge my eyes’ capabilities.
None of those compared to these two. Looking up into the first felt like looking into the gaping maw of an alien mothership. Rings of light lined up, then descended. I felt the pressure building steadily. A terrible vacuuming sound filled the air and the world turned dark. I’m convinced the doctor has begun shouting “Abort!” as her attendants slowly step backwards, heads shaking at something gone horribly wrong.
The procedure is repeated for the other eye. Within seconds that seem like hours, it’s over. I learn that this first laser is meant to shear a sliver of my cornea, opening a flap for the second laser to enter. The bed swings from under one machine to the next. This part is crucial. I am instructed to focus on a tiny blinking green light just above me. I imagine how Dorothy felt while looking at Oz.
The doctor opens the flap in my eye and the emerald light scatters. A shrill scream rises as multicolored lights dance around the center green light. I’m curious about what they look like. “Focus on the green light!” reminds the surgeon. With the hot kiss of focused light comes the smell of burning flesh. I realize it’s mine. My imperfect corneas are being corrected with the perfect pulses of laser energy and I think back to my eyeglasses, how our relationship will change.
A World in HD
I’ve read that 70% of our brains are occupied by what we see, equivalent to 13 terrabytes of raw data a second.
But all I can think of is, I’ve never seen myself in the mirror clearly without glasses. Thirty years ago I was born, blinking into a blurry world and just last week, that happened again. Except this time, instead of a permanently hazy picture, someone smacked the TV set just right and everything’s in HD.
It’s rather disorienting. Bright lights are ringed by rainbow haloes, and I need to irrigate my eyes every few hours, but the convenience of waking up and jumping out of bed, being able to pick up a book and read, or lie in bed and sleep, is strange.
I’ve also never seen my glasses sitting there, clearly…useless. And that is a downside.
I owe my spectacles immensely for becoming a writer. They’ve helped me understand every book’s story. They’ve insisted I was intelligent to everyone. They’ve demonstrated the value of seeing things from a different perspective, just as Mendel and Galileo used instruments to augment their sight under candle and starlight. Me glasses revealed exciting possibilities of the future, via appearances on Star Trek and Dragon Ball Z.
People always cite a book, or a sport, a person, or an event, that changes them forever, something that defines their life. Well, spectacles, you’ve defined all of them for me.
Now let’s turn you into shades.