DOMINIC’S STORY of JIMMY
Dominic was a regular contributor to EyeScene and other forums for some time, but he left this story unfinished. After a while Tony continued it
Why was my new roommate spending so long in the bathroom?
We were freshmen at a small private college in Maine. On the first night I was lounging on my bed when he bounded in: six foot two, haystack of strawberry-blond hair, long-lashed green eyes, turned-up nose, tight muscles, hairy legs sticking out of cut-off chinos. Apart from the absence of glasses, exactly my type. “Hi, man! I’m Jimmy”, he almost yelled at me, cheesy grin on his kid’s face. He shook my hand, then burrowed in the chinos for a wizened cigarette. “If we’re going to get to know each other we’re going to need to smoke this spliff,” he said firmly.
I didn’t feel like arguing. So I lay on the bed, laughing hysterically at his preppy tales of mooning out of car windows, driving his brother’s Porsche into a lake, cheating on his SAT.
I can’t remember crashing out, but when I woke at 8 the next morning I saw Jimmy leap out of bed, reach for a little leather bag, and disappear into the bathroom. He was there for at least 15 minutes, and from time to time I would hear him calling out, “Oh MAN! These fucking things!”. Then he bounded out, whooping his greetings, and was out of the door for football practice. He was crazy about sports.
Every morning it was the same: the little bag, the impatient grunting from the bathroom. As I lay in bed, playing surreptitiously with my hard-on, a little suspicion began to form. Could “these fucking things” be contacts? I didn’t have the nerve to ask.
By the end of the second week I didn’t need to. For once, I was up first, collecting my mail, and when I saw a letter marked “Urgent” for Jimmy I picked that up too. Back in the room, I addressed the shape under the bedclothes. “This looks important, Jim,” I said. “Perhaps you should read it now.”
The bedclothes slipped away, and Jimmy sat up, hair sticking up as if from an electric shock. To my surprise, he screwed up his eyes as if he was staring into the sun. His waved his hand around until he found the letter. Then he did something that produced an instant response from my pants.
He opened the letter, fished out a page of A4, and held it right up to his nose, closing one eye. As he read, his big tousled head moved from left to right. And when he looked up at me, it was as if his eyes missed their target. They looked dazed, empty.
That settled it.
“What’s the matter, Jim?”
“Nothing. It’s just some crap about fees.”
“No, I mean with your eyes.”
Jimmy shrugged his big shoulders, then grinned sheepishly.
“I guess if we’re going to be roommates all year I can’t keep it a secret. I’m really nearsighted, man. I need a white stick without my contacts.”
“Is that why you’re holding that up to your nose?”
Jimmy broke into a goofy smile, revealing a tooth chipped during a football game. He had never looked cuter.
“You’re, what, three feet away from me now? If I didn’t know who you were, I wouldn’t recognise you. That’s what it’s been like, ever since I was in first grade, but getting worse every year. You should see my glasses. Real Coke bottles.”
I was glad he couldn’t see right then; there was a hugely embarrassing lump in my khakis. “So let me look at them, Jim,” I said. “Your glasses.” I stopped, alarmed by the obsessive tone in my voice.
He puckered his lips mournfully. “I lost them, so if anything happens to my contacts I’m in deep shit. Deep, deep shit.”
And that was how we left it, until the week before we broke up for Christmas. Every morning, Jimmy would emerge from the bathroom, sometimes freshly showered, sometimes not, green eyes shining with plastic. He started leaving his contact paraphernalia on the counter; not once did he remember to put the top on. Maybe that was the problem.
At the start of the week I commented on how red his eyes were. “I know. I know. The fucking things’re killing me. But what choice have I got?”
Then, on the Friday morning, I was woken by a huge yell from the bathroom: not Jimmy’s usual grumbling, but a cry of pain. “FUCK! FUCK!” Then the door opened, and he blundered out, eyes viciously raw. “The contacts. I can’t put them in!”
He aimed his nearsighted eyes in my vague direction, helpless.
“You need to go to the optometrist, stupid, and get some glasses,” I said, trying to conceal my excitement.
“You don’t understand! I’m too fucking blind to get there on my own.”
He paused, and for a moment I thought he was going to cry.
“Will you help me? Will you take me there?”
“Sure thing, Jim,” I said. “We can go right now.”
I got dressed, pretty well breathless with excitement. Jimmy was already wearing a Gap T-shirt and jeans, but was still barefoot. His tan penny loafers and red socks were thrown in the middle of the floor, but now he couldn’t see them. “Help me find my socks, man,” he said mournfully.
We walked down the hall. Jimmy seemed fine until we got to the stairs; then he slowed down, grabbed the rail and took them at a stately one at a time: most unlike him. “Its like an obstacle course,” he grimaced.
We crossed the lawn. It was a lovely russet and gold Maine fall, the patchwork of the leaves offset by the creeper-covered redbrick walls of the college; the sort of thing New Yorkers drive hundreds of miles north to see. “It’s sooo beautiful right now,” said Jimmy. “The funny thing is that I can see colours just fine. It’s like an impressionist painting… Wooah!” He tripped as he missed a step.
As we left the campus he told me a bit about his eyesight. “At prep school, I wore these really thick glasses, the type that stick out of the side of the frame. I was tall but kind of geeky. I got bullied. There was this older kid who just loved grabbing my glasses off my face. He’d run away and of course I couldn’t see where he’d gone. He’d be standing ten feet away, snickering. Fucking jerk.
“So then, suddenly, I’m 16 and my parents let me get contacts. That’s when I really got into sports, the gym, weights. That’s when the jerk got a fist in his face. Course, when I took the contacts out I was even blinder than ever. Every trip to the optometrist, I got bumped up. But so long as I kept the contacts in, it didn’t matter too much.”
We had to cross a busy road to get to the bus stop. Jimmy grabbed my arm; my hard-on got stiffer. The kid was helpless. When the bus arrived, he screwed up his eyes to see the step, then fished into his pocket for a bill and stuck his nose into it to see what it was. Five minutes later, and we were in town. The optometrist was right next to the bus stop: one of those cheap one-hour places with a huge neon eyeglass logo that even Jimmy could see.
“Oh well, back to the Coke bottles,” he sighed.
Jimmy must have been in there for half an hour. Finally the door swung open and he emerged, followed by this ratty little eye doctor in a torn white coat. “Hi-index we can do in an hour. Rimless we can’t,” he told Jimmy.
Jimmy wandered over to me. “Good news and bad news. The good news is they can make my lenses a bit thinner.” It seemed to be the first he had heard of hi-index. “The bad news is I just got more nearsighted. Again.” He shrugged. “Too bad, Jim,” I clucked, secretly thrilled.
“Remember what I said about small frames looking better,” wheezed the doctor. “Janice will look after you.”
Janice was about our age, blowsy with big hair and pink nails. She took one look at Jimmy’s sturdy shoulders and fluttered her eyelashes. Then she watched him bump into a chair on his way to the mirror and decided not to bother; he couldn’t see her.
Jimmy was moving his head up, down and along the display, squinting painfully as he looked for frames, then arching forward to bring his face into focus. After a minute of this he called over to me. “Man, this is hopeless. You find me the frames.”
Wow! I already knew exactly what I wanted Jimmy to wear: preppy horn-rims. I grabbed a pair of Brooks Brothers’, ignoring what the optometrist said about small frames: I didn’t want to lose those concentric rings! I handed them to Jimmy and found him a hand-mirror he could hold right next to his face. He put them on, blinked his big green eyes at the glass and said, “Yeah, whatever. I mean, I’m going straight back to contacts, so I don’t care.”
He made the order; it was going to be expensive, but one thing Jimmy was never short of was money. Then we had an agonising hour to fill. Agonising for poor blind Jimmy; agonising for me, desperate to see that sweet boy’s face adorned with thick specs.
We sat in the diner across the street. I read the newspaper; Jimmy peered one-eyed at the funnies, then gave up and sipped his coffee morosely. After 45 minutes, my heart thumping, I suggested we go back to the shop.
“They’re ready!” sang out Janice as we entered. They were already lying on the counter. I wanted to rush up and grab them, but stopped myself: these were Jimmy’s glasses, his eyesight. He picked up the glasses and popped them on; then Janice fiddled self-importantly with them as they sat on his face. My view was blocked. Come on Jim! Until I saw his eyes through the lenses I wouldn’t know for sure how nearsighted he was.
Then he turned to face me and I caught my breath.
Wow! It was a different person looking at me: still wonderfully attractive, but bookish, vulnerable, even a tad geeky. Oh, man.
The heavy brown horn-rim of the frames faded into insignificance next to the lenses—big, strong, bursting with minus dioptres that made Jimmy’s big doe-eyes look small, fierce and twinkly. I was glad I had picked wide frames. The glass might be hi-index, but it couldn’t hide the strength of the prescription. Every time Jimmy’s head moved to the side, a great bank of concentric rings appeared. The special shiny glass packed them really tightly into the side of the lenses, showing up pure white against the freckled tan of Jimmy’s cheek. I moved round for a sideways view. Behind the frame, the glass jutted out, thinner than ordinary plastic but unpolished, thank God.
But the big thrill was seeing what had happened to the side of Jimmy’s face. The lens dragged it in drastically, reducing his ears to the size of peas. I loved that. This was serious myopia.
“I can see again,” said Jimmy; but he didn’t sound ecstatic. “Everything’s really sharp. And like really small. Jesus, what’s wrong with my eyes that I have to do this to them?” I didn’t tell him that, however small things looked to him, that was nothing compared to what his concave lenses were doing to things from my vantage point: big-haired Janice, standing right behind Jimmy, was reduced by his prescription to the size of a plastic Star Wars model.
I had a sudden inspiration. “Make sure you get a copy of your script, Jim.”
Janice copied it out onto a slip of paper. “My, it’s a high one,” she said cheerfully. And it was. Minus 11 in one eye, minus 13 in the other, with a fat dose of cyl in both. No wonder reading was such a problem.
It was difficult to disguise how excited I was. I had to try those glasses on! I could have asked Jimmy then and there: he wouldn’t have minded. But that wasn’t how I wanted to play it. I wanted to be on my own when I slipped those powerful specs onto my face; and I wanted to have them with me for a good long time.
The only question was: how?
Leaving the shop, Jimmy shot a glance at the mirror and visibly shuddered. “If these are supposed to be thin lenses, I’d love to see what thick ones are like. You can hardly see my eyes. They’re supposed to be my best feature.”
“You have lots of great features,” I blurted out, and then felt the blood rush to my face. Watch it. To my surprise, Jimmy blushed as well. “Hey, thanks,” he said. He had this way of looking shy and proud at the same time that was just irresistible.
On the bus back to the campus I couldn’t stop staring at him. I’d known for weeks how atrocious his eyesight was, but the powerful lenses made it tangible. Literally. I wanted to touch those glasses, run my hands over the plastic and feel the contrast between the curved backs of the lenses and the perfectly flat fronts, which even now were flashing away in the noonday sun. Of course, what I really wanted to do was gently lift the specs off Jimmy’s face and watch those eyes grow big and helpless. But if I couldn’t do that, then some time alone with the glasses would do instead.
That night I made sure I was already in bed when Jimmy got undressed. It meant I could watch unobtrusively from under the blankets. He sat down and pulled off his shoes and socks, wiggling his toes; even his feet were tanned and freckly from a summer in the Hamptons. Then he slid off his khaki pants and flung them into a heap on the floor. I loved the forest of wispy blond hairs on his legs, their beefiness offset by silly pink boxer shorts.
He reached down to pull his shirt over his head. Would he…? Yes! With his other hand he pulled off his glasses and set them down on the bedside table, intending to put them back on in a second. The shirt went whirling off into the shadows, and then he stood up. As he did so he knocked against the table, sending his glasses sliding to the floor. “Oh, Jesus,” he muttered to himself. He blinked uselessly, then sank heavily onto his knees, patting down the carpet like that girl in Scooby-Doo.
You can imagine how excited I was.
Eventually Jimmy’s hand brushed against the specs. He put them back on, leapt into bed, read a dog-eared paperback Western for minute or two, then put both book and glasses on the table and fumbled clumsily for the light switch.
Now all I had to do was wait for him to fall asleep.
Jimmy fell asleep really quickly; it was almost as if someone had slipped him a sleeping pill.
Nervously, I turned my light on. Now I could see Jimmy’s snub nose poking out from his bedclothes, twitching slightly.
Even from my bed I could see the horn-rims, half-folded carelessly on top of the paperback.
I set one foot on the carpet, then the other.
Damn! I was all tangled up with the wire from my lamp. Slowly does it.
Outside in the yard, I could just make out two cracked voices bellowing a football song, but the words were swallowed up by the wind.
I crept towards Jimmy’s bed, then just didn’t dare go any further. Could I reach the glasses from here? I leaned over, took a deep breath and—yes!—grabbed the nosepiece between my thumb and forefinger. I had them! Then, heart pounding with anticipation, I tiptoed back to the bed. I pulled the sheet up over my face, and with the other lifted the glasses towards the lamp. I turned the lenses slowly in the weak light. They were beautiful. With every tiny shift in angle, new concentric rings sprang to life. Dozens of them. “Power rings” I’d once heard an optician call them, and now I knew what he meant. The plastic was thin, all right, but packed tight with diopters: 11 in one and 13 in the other.
I held the glasses at arm’s length. Inside each lens, the huge Guns’N’Roses poster above Jimmy’s bed was reduced to the size of a postage stamp, just that tiny bit smaller in the stronger one. Then I slowly rotated the glasses and, as I expected, the posters twisted themselves out of shape. That’s astigmatism for you. Poor Jimmy: even when he gets a piece of paper close enough to read it, the letters are blurred.
And now for the moment of truth. Slowly, like a high priest performing an arcane ritual, I lifted the glasses to my face. I closed my eyes as I pressed the cool plastic up against my nose. It felt solid and heavy, but that was OK: this was some serious correction I was trying out. I opened my eyes.
Jesus, Jimmy. How blind do you have to be to see through THIS! Everything was small, dense and kind of furry. Normally I’ve got enough accommodation to see through even thick minus lenses, but this time there was nothing I could do to bring the room into focus.
Then I felt the oddest thing – a twinge of envy. Jimmy’s glasses were so damn strong; I wished I could see through them too.
I wished we could be blind together, in bed together, our hands touching as we both groped for our specs in the morning.
That was a nice thought. My eyes blinked happily in front of the blur.
“Hey man, what’s going on?”
“You can’t sleep either, huh?”
Damn. I could have sworn he was out for the count. His light snapped on, and I whipped off the glasses. No way could he see me, but best to be safe. “It’s OK, Jim,” I said. “I was just reading.”
“Good idea.” Oh fuck.
Now he was sitting up, hair in its usual haystack, patting down the nightstand with his big hand. No prizes for guessing what he was looking for: his thick glasses. And, of course, he couldn’t find them. That was because I had my sweaty fingers wrapped right round them.
“Fuck it!” But this time he didn’t get out of bed. Instead, he kind of leaned over and moved his face over the surface of the nightstand. He was three inches away from it, at a guess. His pretty freckled nose was almost touching the wood. It was hard to believe this was the same guy I had watched leaping around the baseball court like a hyperactive gazelle, sending ball after ball spinning through a distant hoop. I felt my hard-on coming back. I’m weird like that. But what the fuck was I going to do?
“You must have knocked them onto the floor,” I said helpfully. “Here, let me…”
“I don’t think so.”
“I think you have them.”
Jimmy aimed his myopic gaze in my direction; his eyes were big and empty, like fishes’ on a slab, but I felt them drawing me in all the same.
“I think you’ve been trying on my glasses.” I cleared my throat to deny the charge, but I left it a second too long.
“Come on! Admit it.” And then, damn it, his face broke into a big soppy grin. “Come on, you idiot, bring them back over here. I want to see the expression on your face.”
There was no point in arguing. I got out of bed, fiddled with my boxer shorts to make sure my dick wasn’t poking out of them, and walked over, spectacles in hand. Jimmy had pulled the bedclothes under his chin. I waved the glasses right in front of his nose, so he could see them, but he kept his hands hidden.
“I think it would be nice if you put them back on for me,” he said.
What on earth was he playing at?