Losing All Focus

In my continuing quest for cheap thrills and deeper insight into the theory of knowledge and the nature of consciousness, I have subjected my body and being to a variety of dangers. I have sustained abrasions and contusions major and minor. I have killed many brain cells. I have travelled to distant lands and walked many miles, sometimes in inclement weather. I have been bitten and stung by bugs, jellyfish, crabs and venemous plants. I have risked drowning in riptides, falls from great heights, muggings on deserted streets. I have experienced projectile vomiting and had panic attacks. More than once, I have felt myself to be on the brink of frostbite or hypothermia. My foot has played host to a worm and my blood and lymph systems to several infectious diseases requiring long convalsences and follow-up blood work to ensure their viral demise–all of these by-products of fun I have pursued. While my pursuit of fun has caused many malfunctions in my body, it never occured to me that the existing malfunctions in my body could actually help me pursue fun.

If you want to experience truly mind-altering entertainment, remove your glasses and walk around your neighborhood at 3:00 a.m. It’s like taking a twenty-minute hallucinogenic break. If you bring a friend along to babysit you and help you cross the street, it’s one of the safer ways to experience reality as a magical wonderland.

Without corrective lenses, I am legally blind. Though I am technically “nearsighted,” which means I should be able to see things that are near to me, my vision is so bad that I cannot read a book without my glasses, because in order to see the print the book has to be up my nose. When I am dating someone, it takes months for me to get comfortable sleeping without my contact lenses, because if I wake up from a strange dream I won’t be able to recognize who I am in bed with and will be scared. If I lose a contact lens and don’t have an extra, or break my glasses playing dodgeball, as I did in the sixth grade, I must be escorted to my home because I can’t find my own street, or identify my front door.

While my current pair of glasses are an improvement over my original blue shimmery plastic oversized satellite lenses (I got glasses in 1987), they aren’t really wearable in public. The prescription is so extreme that even though the lenses are the expensive extra-thin kind and the frames are an uber-hip nerd-chic two-tone plastic, they give my eyes that otherworldly effect of peering out from deep inside a glass bottle, no matter how much eye makeup I wear underneath and how diligently I attempt to dilate my pupils. I am currently working on several top-secret plots to amass the funds to have my eyes surgically lasered to fighter-pilot acuity. Then I will be applying to the Texas Air National Guard, which I see as a jumping off point to three things I think I would enjoy immensely: being AWOL, doing massive amounts of cocaine, and then becoming President of the United States. All of these things are within my grasp if only I can pass a vision test.

I’ve been correcting my vision for so long it occured to me that I haven’t really experienced it as it really is. I grope for my glasses while my eyes are still glued shut with sleep crud, and I wear my contact lenses for every waking moment after that. For the last seventeen years, I’ve had no idea what my eyes can really see on their own.

In the last half hour, I discovered that they can see all kinds of amazing things that boring 20/20 eyes can’t. My eyes can’t see people or cars or telephone poles or buildings or celestial objects. They can only see light. Big blobs of transparent, layered, shimmering, three-dimensional light. Anything that is lit up is so blurred around the edges that it looks like fireworks that never stop exploding. Anything that doesn’t give off it’s own light is only visible in relation to the light it blocks. A person walking is a bobbing blotch that blocks the light in a pattern I can eventually recognize is the rhythm of a walking person. The traffic lights on Metropolitan Avenue, the Walk/Don’t Walk signs–all of these are so fuzzy in every direction that they form an overlapping, constantly changing 3-D laser light show. The full moon is enormous, its light bleeds into the clouds and all over the sky. If only I could sell tickets to my confused optic nerves, trying to make sense of the misinformation my poor squashed God-given lenses are bouncing onto my retina, it would be like being a performance artist, or a drug dealer, but without the risk of NEA or DEA reproach.

Another cool thing about seeing only light and not individual objects or forms is that if you can’t see people, you can’t judge them or react to them based on their facial expressions as they pass you on the street. As we walked along in the strange and secret night, I discerned two transparent shapes coming towards us, and heard the sound of a bike being walked. Unable to see if the approaching people were aloof snobby types or pleasant-late-at-night types, I smiled in what I thought was their direction and walked on. I couldn’t see if they smiled back of looked askance. I suddenly realized why my blind physics teacher was always so cheerful–he was the only teacher in the high school who couldn’t see the looks of suicidal boredom on his students’ faces. When you can’t see people, if you’re an optomist, you assume they like you. You can imagine they are reflecting your goodwill back at you. You never see them scowl, or roll their eyes, or smirk. Of course, you can’t see them smile either, but after a while, you forget that people have faces anyway.

Maybe there really are no such things as disabilities, maybe the things we think are our biggest defects and deformities, the biological mistakes we must live with and if possible, rectify, are really just the gifts of an unusual view. Or at the very least, a way to amuse yourself on a Wednesday night without spending money or risking bodily harm.

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