“Give me the lenses!” Fiero screamed with bloodshot eyes after hearing the suppressed and professional, “I’m sorry, but we just can’t let you walk out with them today,” for the thousandth time. Those words were fertilizer to the thicket of increasingly irritated red blood vessels within his sclera.
* * *
Monday afternoon. The young man had strolled into the modern optometrist office with his girlfriend Sheila, calm, collected, and anticipatorily glad to be coming home that evening with his first pair of contact lenses, a cleaner view of the world, and a nerdless identity.
From the leathery black exam chair, he studied the eyeball diagram poster taped to the wall and the eyeball model sitting atop the counter beside the desktop with his medical records in a fuchsia, yellow, and light teal spreadsheet.
After a few words of greetings and explanations, Dr. Wyatt loomed over the exam chair with a wet lens on his finger and pried Fiero’s right eyelid open, calmly commanding him to look straight ahead.
Two bams and they were on. They stung, but they were on. They fit.
“Blink lightly. It might feel uncomfortable for a bit.”
Fiero blinked disbelievingly at the chromatic aberration around the exam room. His hands reached for the bridge of his nose. No glasses.
He had new eyes. As he emerged from the office and entered the well-lit waiting area, he saw its walls lined with frames.
“Oh, they look good on you!” his girlfriend Sheila had said.
But Sheila was right–not because the lenses resembled much in themselves, but because they receded his dark lashes and better displayed his pearly scleras, shimmering under that modern blue light that’s always flooding those sorts of places.
It was in the waiting room Fiero heard his lecture: how to always wash his hands before putting them in, to store them in cleaning solution each night, to never sleep or nap with them in, how they were soft contacts, how to select and apply the correct eye drops, how to throw them away each month, how not to wear them during the peak of allergy season, and how not to swim in them because the chlorine would seep in and irritate his eyes and he’d probably get a horrible infection that would blind him for life…
He had nodded, smiled, agreed, and inquired–on autopilot. This is what Google and friends who wore contacts were for.
Finally, there’d be no more glare, no more dusty, foggy, or sweaty lenses, no more raindrop splatters, no more cringy photos—fewer cringy photos. He would wear his Gucci Chinatown sunglasses without his prescription ones underneath. He would face palm when he wanted to express embarrassment or dismay. He would watch Netflix while comfortably resting his head on a pillow.
It appeared to be the end of the visit when Dr. Wyatt’s assistant kindly suggested some helpful tips for removing the contacts without poking his eyes out. After having Fiero wash his hands, she professionally slid out a chair and took a seat.
“Now, before we can let you take these home, I’m going to watch you take them out. You just look straight ahead, and gently pull down from the center of your eye. I’m gonna have you watch me do it first, and then I’m gonna have you try.”
Why doesn’t she just call it the iris? Do I not look intelligent enough to know that word? I wear glasses!
The woman frightened him as she used both hands to pry back her upper and lower lids and reveal a shallow carmine crescent on the bottom and a gaping slit on top. Then, she used her pointer finger to enact the swiping downward motion that would remove the lens.
“You just slide it down and pinch it between your thumb and your pointer.” Easy.
Attempt followed attempt as Fiero stared in the mirror for an exasperating amount of time, wide-eyed and seemingly spasmodic. Eventually, the increasing eyes of the clients behind him prompted a plastic smile, and temperatures began to rise.
Slowing down for an angsty breath, Fiero nudged his seat closer to the mirror and peeped into his very own hazels. Do what I tell you! He tilted his head up to Sheila, who had made herself discreet, hoping some bashfulness would win him some pity and cover some irritation.
After he mumbled some sort of apology regarding the clock, he noticed she was saying something.
“It looks really hard. I wouldn’t be able to touch my eye.”
Fiero snapped to attention, determined.
Another hassle was futile.
“My eyelashes are getting in the way. They’re too thick!”
“You’re pulling up your eyebrow, hon. Pull up your eyelid by pinning up your eyelashes. Like this.” The assistant smiled gradually, but the man might as well have been pinning down a butterfly.
“Look straight ahead; at yourself.” There was another assistant now. Goodness.
“Lift your head up.”
“Open your other eye!”
His fingers frantically scratched as it crimped shut in embarrassment.
“LOOK straight ahead!”
That was it. The young man felt like a chastised child under the reign of an angry aunt that deep down, he knew loved him.
His thoughts yelled as his eyeballs attempted to take cover and his brain wondered how dumb he looked in front of all those people.
“They’re closing on their own!”
“I’m sorry, honey. You need to take a break now, though. Your eyes are getting very irritated.”
“Look how red they are.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll get them out later tonight.” He was nonchalant now.
Her response didn’t go over the best.
Less than an hour before, Fiero had been blinking in front of a crystal mirror, marveling at seeing his eye-glasses less face in full 1080p.
“Give me the lenses!” He now pled.
Having taken his last stand, and being completely out of ammunition, Fiero reluctantly lifted a white flag to his face, blew his nose, and wiped around his shuttering eyes.
“You’ll have to come back and try again on Friday,” said the assistant. “Sit down. I’m going to take them out for you.”
Elias Ferenczy is a 19-year-old senior English major at Covenant College, tucked into the often-misty clouds of Lookout Mountain, Georgia.