I'd had my eye on Ryan for a few weeks, ever since I started working at that dumpy store by the beach, the summer I turned 21. Ryan had been there for a while. He was very familiar with the cheap screenprinted t-shirts, the nylon shorts, the beach chairs that would last one summer if you were lucky. So I was surprised when he didn't know how much the beach towel cost. He held it aloft from behind the cash register. “Hey Jacob,” he said to me, “how much is this?”
A large woman in hot pants stood at the register, waiting for the verdict. I could see the rack where the towel had come from across the store. It had a rectangular white sign on it with “$10.99” written in four-inch letters. “It's right there,” I said, pointing to the sign.
“I can't see that far,” squinting through his black-rimmed glasses. “How much is it?”
I looked back at the sign with my 20/20 vision and told him. “What do you mean you can't see that far?” I asked, as the woman walked out with her towel.
“Oh, I need new glasses,” he said. His glasses had already caught my eye, framing his blue eyes under the thicket of dirty-blonde hair that went every which way on his head. I had judged his glasses to be about -6, just strong enough to interest me, but now I was really curious.
“Yeah, well, you better get them,” was all I could think of to say. For the rest of the day, and for days afterward, I wondered how nearsighted Ryan had become. I had been enjoying the sight of Ryan sauntering around the store, always dressed in a t-shirt, knee-length shorts, and flip-flops, his hair seemingly bouncing with every step. I had enjoyed looking at the cut-in and concentric rings of his glasses, especially when he looked down at the cash register. But now I was trying to imagine what Ryan must be seeing! How blurry did everything look through those lenses that were now too weak for the ever-more-nearsighted eyes behind them?
“How many fingers?” I said from across the room, holding up three fingers.
“Fuck off,” Ryan said.
I got a few feet closer. “Now how many?”
“Fuck off,” Ryan said.
I wanted Ryan to get new glasses. I wanted to see what his new lenses would look like, how strong they would be. But weeks went by and he was still staring through the same old lenses.
I noticed how close to the computer screen Ryan would get, when he was entering orders in the back office. At least he didn't have a car. That would have been scary. He got around on a bike and the thought of that was frightening enough. I walked past him a few times outside of work and he didn't even notice me.
But I noticed Ryan. I noticed him the day, toward the end of summer, when he walked into the store wearing silver wire-rim frames.
“How many fingers?” I said, from a good distance away.
“Three,” he answered correctly. He broke into a broad grin, and I felt a kind of rush as he stood in front of the counter, arms crossed, legs wide apart, his red-and-white striped boxers spilling out between his t-shirt and his shorts.
I got a little closer. The frames were a gorgeous shape, sort of rectangular with round corners, wider at the temples than at the bridge. They suited his face perfectly. And the lenses—well, the lenses somehow reflected the light differently. I realized that unlike his previous lenses, these were completely flat. The cut-in had noticeably increased. It was completely unmistakeable, even when he looked straight at me. And when he turned his head, even just a tiny bit, the concentric rings came into view. And when he turned his head a lot a thick band of power rings appeared.
“Those are really strong,” I blurted out. For someone whose eyesight had gotten so bad, Ryan was very cheerful. “Yeah,” he said, “but I can see! God, I forgot what I was missing!” He turned and looked out the door. “Dude, I can read that sign!” Ryan pointed across the street as he read aloud “NO PARKING AT ANY TIME. VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED.” From behind, looking over his shoulder, the view through his glasses looked so warped. “Violators will be prosecuted, man!” Ryan said, his eyes looking tinier than ever behind his new powerful lenses. And under my nylon board shorts, my dick was harder than ever. If Ryan noticed, he didn't say anything.
For days afterward I could hardly take my eyes off Ryan. Of course I had to check out his glasses from every possible angle—my favorite was when he had his head down, and I could see his glasses from the top, the fat, flat-fronted lenses bulging in their frames. I began to fall for his cute smile and the way he shuffled around in his flip-flops. And those t-shirts...somehow they didn't seem very heterosexual. Did straight guys wear shirts that tight? Maybe. Maybe not.
I was staring at Ryan so much I would catch his eye about three or four times a day in the store. Ryan would just raise an eyebrow and say nothing. Finally, I invited him around to my apartment one night after work—I used my new Xbox as an excuse, as I recall. “Whoa,” Ryan said as we walked in my door. The apartment was roasting. Ryan took off his shirt. He was sporting green-and-white boxers that day, under his navy-blue Dickies barely held up by a red fabric belt. And those glasses flashing at me. Oh, those glasses. I felt that rush again. I thought I might pass out, but somehow I made it into the kitchen to grab a couple of beers.
We chatted and played games and laughed into the night. Ryan gave nothing away about his sexuality, which I found odd since a lot of straight guys, I thought, would have gotten around to talking about women by now. Not Ryan.
We fell asleep in the living room. I awoke in the wee hours and found Ryan on his side, on the sofa, still wearing his glasses which looked like they were getting crushed between his head and the cushion. I coaxed them off his head, and couldn't resist examining them closely. The lenses were almost half an inch thick. I tried them on and thought my eyes would pop out of their sockets, pulled by the force of these powerful lenses. Needless to say I couldn't see a damn thing through them.
I set the glasses on the end table and went to bed. A few hours later I was awakened by Ryan calling “Jacob! Jacob! Where are you? Wake up!” I ran into the living room. Ryan was on the floor, on his hands and knees, his shorts around his ankles, anxiously patting down the carpet, his hands moving in great swathes across the floor as he crawled slowly across the room.
“Hey,” I finally said.
“Dude, where are my glasses?” Ryan said, breathlessly.
“Over there,” I said, “on that table by the lamp.”
“What table? What lamp?” Ryan panicked. “Dude, I can't see ANYTHING.”
I walked over to the table, picked up his glasses, and crouched down in front of Ryan. He stared at me blankly. His eyes looked so big, so blue. “Hold still,” I said, as I slipped his glasses back on. Ryan sat on the carpet for a moment, in his boxers, catching his breath.
“Dude, don't ever hide my glasses again,” Ryan said.
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn't hide—“
“I can't see anything without them,” he shot back. I was a little shocked at the way gentle, easygoing, laid-back Ryan had been reduced to a panicky mess.
“How many fingers?” I said.
Ryan smiled and said, “three.”
“Correct,” I said.
I sat on the carpet in front of him. Neither of us said anything for a minute or two. Finally I took his hand. He looked into my perfect 20/20 eyes as I looked into his perfect 20/1200 eyes, as our lips moved together for what would be a very long time.