by Doreen F.
Ben cursed under his breath. He could not believe what had just happened to him. It was early in the morning and he had been about to put in his contact lenses, when he found out that he seemed to have squashed one of his lenses when putting them into the case the night before. It had been really late and he had been writing a paper for one of his classes. And now he could not go because not only had he a torn lens, in addition it had also been his last pair. He did not have glasses with his actual description either and he despised wearing them. He looked like a four-eyed geek and really hated the way he looked when he was wearing them. What was he supposed to do now? He certainly could not go to university and he really needed new contact lenses. So Ben put in his one intact contact lens and wanted to go to his contact lens specialist only to find out that the shop was closed. So he went to the nearest optician he could find. The optometrist tested his eyes and told him he would need another increase in his prescription, it was over -7.00 now. Great, Ben thought. I’ll soon be officially blind. At least the optician had contact lenses with his strength in stock. “With a prescription like yours, I’d recommend at least one pair of glasses in case of an emergency like today”, warned the optometrist’s when Ben left.
“Some other time, but right now I really have to go to university”, Ben said putting in the new contact lenses. Outside he noticed that everything was crystal clear now. He had not really been aware that he had needed another increase, but now he saw that he could see some things much better than before.
Ben caught the train and went to university. The day was really long and boring, but Ben was looking forward the evening since he and one of his friends wanted to go swimming. There was a discount in the evening. Ben was there early and waited for his friend to arrive. To his surprise Charley was wearing glasses. He knew that Charley wore contact lenses, but he had hardly ever seen him in glasses. And the frames looked quite new.
They said hello and while queuing for their tickets Ben complemented Charley on the frames. “Thanks, man. I just thought I’ll give my eyes a break from the contacts and so I won’t have to worry about losing my contacts. It’s a lot worse with hard lenses; you can lose them much more easily.”
“Too true, I remember when I still had them. I was always afraid I’d lose them. And swimming in goggles wasn’t much fun either. Everyone looks at you.”
They were in the locker room now. Charley took off his glasses and put them into his locker. “Lead the way Ben, I didn’t bring my white cane”, Charley joked.
“Ha-ha, your eyes aren’t half as bad as mine, I guess. I’m so looking forward to have them operated.”
“Really? Come on, that’s quite dangerous. I’d never do that.”
“But imagine being able to see without glasses or contacts. I can’t even remember what it was like. And on a day like today, when I tore one lens and had to get to an optician pronto to get new contacts, I really wish I didn’t need them.”
“It’s not that bad, I think. I mean I’m about -4.00 in contacts and it’s okay. I can see most things, I don’t really mind. Right now, for example, I only need to see the water, right?”
“You’re so relaxed. I really envy that, but I hate having bad eyes.”
They jumped into the water and started swimming. Charley was diving, but Ben did not dive much since he was afraid to lose his contact lenses since this didn’t seem to be his lucky day.
“See, what I mean?” Ben said. “I can’t even enjoy swimming because of my eyes.”
“Don’t be stupid. I can’t see people’s faces until they come close, but otherwise it’s fine. Thank God we’re not here for girls. I’d have a hard time spotting any girls” Charley laughed. “You should have come in glasses. We could have called it ‘blind swimming.’”
“I’m laughing my head off. I couldn’t have come in glasses anyway. Wearing the ones that I have I’d be under-corrected by at least 3 dioptres.”
“Why don’t you have them in your actual prescription?”
“I don’t wear them anyway.”
“Not even at night. Don’t you give your eyes time to relax?”
“They don’t complain and I wouldn’t show any girls I spend the night with that I have damn thick glasses.”
“You can be really stubborn, you know? But the key to a happy relationship is to be at ease with yourself, which you are not.”
“But you wear glasses and don’t have a girlfriend either.”
“Yes, but I would not hide the fact that I need them.”
“You’ve never seen me in glasses. I look like a real nerd.”
“Sooner or later you’ll have to wear them, trust me.”
“I hope you’re wrong.”
They spent their remaining time swimming talking about some recent sports events. In the locker room Charley put his glasses back on. “Actually it’s quite nice to be able to see clearly again.”
“You really missed some gorgeous girls in there.”
“I’ll get over it.”
Outside they said goodbye. Ben went home by bike and Charley decided to walk home. Suddenly he heard someone in high heels approaching behind him. He turned to look and saw a really cute girl. She smiled at him and he smiled back at her. To his surprise she started walking alongside him and started talking.
“Hi, excuse me, if this seems weird, but I’ve been swimming tonight, just like you. I saw you in the water, you may have noticed.”
“Well, actually I didn’t, because I wasn’t wearing my glasses. So that might be a reason for that. Otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have noticed you.”
“I thought so. I’ve been flashing you some pretty obvious smiles. When I saw you in glasses afterwards it dawned to me. But what I really wanted to ask you is, if you could walk me home. I don’t live far away, but in a really dark street and I’m kind of scared to go there all by myself.”
“Sure, no problem.”
They were walking next to each other. When they reached her door, she thanked him and as they were about to say goodbye, Charley found some courage and asked, “Well, always supposing you don’t ask any guy you’ve just seen in the pool to walk you home, is there a chance we could meet again?”
“Actually, you’re the first stranger ever I’ve asked to walk me home. But, yeah, I’d love to see you again. What about tomorrow night?”
They arranged to meet in one of the cafés and exchanged their phone numbers.
Back home Ben got a call from Charley who was really excited and told him what had just happened to him.
“Wow, that’s incredible. What does she look like? Maybe I’ve seen her in the water.”
As Charley described her Ben knew exactly who he meant. He had tried to flirt with her, but she had been looking at Charley all the time. Lucky guy!
That night Ben took out his contact lenses more carefully than usual so as not to tear a lens again.
In the morning, though, Ben had an unpleasant surprise. He got up squinting at his alarm clock. He was glad that he did not have such an early start that day. In the bathroom he put in his contact lenses, but immediately had to take them out again. His eyes were red and his lid swollen. There was no way to keep them inside. Walking around in his flat he found his old glasses and put them on. Things were a bit clearer now, but still blurred. Ben knew that he had some kind of infection. He went to the same optician he had been the day before. It took him quite long to get there since he did not see very well even with his old glasses. Once he had told the optician what the problem was, the optometrist examined his eyes and told him that he had probably got the infection while swimming. Great, Ben thought. When the optometrist told him that he could not wear contact lenses for at least a week, Ben was really angry. And how was he supposed to find frames that suited him, when he could not even see himself until he moved really close to the mirror. “Our assistant will be happy to give you some advice”, the optometrist told him. Now some old lady will make me look like Harry Potter, Ben thought and went to the front of the shop.
“How can I help you?” he heard the approaching blur ask.
“I need glasses. My old ones are completely out-dated and I can’t wear my contacts due to an infection.”
“I’m sure we’ll find some nice frames for you”, the assistant said in a pleasant voice.
She seemed quite young and Ben was wondering what she looked like.
She handed him some frames and asked him to try them in front of the mirror. He leaned really close, but couldn’t really tell whether they suited him or not. She seemed to have realised that he could not see all that much and said, “I could always tell you which ones I like best, if that is of any help.”
“Go ahead! I’ll only be wearing them until I go back to contacts anyway.”
“All right, could you try these once again, please? Ah, perfect, they really suit you.”
“I’ll take them then. When can I pick them up?”
“Well, let’s see. You’re in luck. They’ll be ready in about two hours. I can call you, if you like.”
“That’d be great, thanks.”
Ben left and went to a café not too far away from the optician. He started reading the newspaper, but had to hold it quite close to his eyes, which he thought looked odd and so he just sat there pretending to be able to see. After what seemed like an eternity his phone rang and the assistant told him that he could pick up his glasses. Ben went to the optician straight away looking forward to being able to see again, but not thrilled at all at the thought of wearing glasses. There was another customer and Ben had to wait for a while. Once the other customer had left, the assistant approached him. “Sorry, you had to wait, but you know what old people can be like, don’t you?”
“So, are you ready for your new glasses?” she asked. “Now don’t look like you’ve just had the worst day of your life.”
“Maybe I have.”
“Put on your glasses and let me see how they fit.”
She gently placed them onto his face and was leaning over him. He could see clearly again and was facing her décolleté. Ben felt himself blush. She took off his glasses again.
“I’ll be back in a second.”
And she was back really soon and put on his glasses again and checked their fit once again.
“Now they should hold. If they are too tight, you can come by anytime.”
Ben looked up and saw her face clearly for the very first time. She was a real beauty and not much older than him. A smile spread across his face.
“What is it?” she wanted to know.
“I’m just glad I can finally see you. I missed quite a lot.”
“I take that as a compliment. You can walk around the shop to get used to the glasses. At this strength you’ll notice that your vision is different to your vision in contacts. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.”
Doreen F. September 2008