As I finished reading the form, I’m not sure I fully comprehended the scope of what it was saying. My visual acuity would be decreased to a minimum prescription of either +4.00 or -5.00? Any astigmatic condition would remain unchanged? I was required to choose the desired amount and check the box before signing the form in agreement. I chose -5.00, completed the form, and handed it to the guard sitting behind the desk. I assumed the minimum amount of myopia would be a good starting point for me.
“This security card will be valid throughout the entire day,” the guard said. “It will allow access to all public areas. As you ascend above the lobby, your vision will be adjusted as you have chosen, in fact, Mrs. Johnson has just entered your data” he said directing my gaze to a lady behind the desk. “The optical shop is on the second floor. Since your stay will be for only a short time, stop there first and they can give you complimentary glasses to use for the day. Mr. Johnson’s office is on floor 6. Just see the receptionist. Please return the glasses and security card to this desk. It will be open until midnight . . . and enjoy your stay, Ms. Blevins.”
I thanked him and headed towards the elevator. I was required to swipe the security card before entering a floor number. It immediately recognized my card and ascended directly to the second floor without waiting for me to press the button. When the door opened, I realized that everything had turned into a blurry haze. I was now seeing with -5.00 eyes. Fortunately, large signs marked the path to the entrance of the optical shop. I followed the route, entered the doors, and was welcomed by a receptionist.
“Ms. Blevins? Please sit down. We’ve been expecting you. I understand you need complimentary loaner glasses. Many visitors do. You will have to wait a few moments for the next available optical associate. May I get you a cup of coffee while you wait?”
“Yes, please” I responded.
“French roast or espresso?”
“Could I have one of each?”
“Of course” she said as she disappeared into the blur.
Coffee sounded great. As excited as I was about this assignment, I really needed to get “juiced up” to go. This was like nothing I had ever experienced in my 29 years and I was already feeling the full effect of less than normal vision. This was not easy. I could barely read the magazine titles on the table next to the sofa where I was sitting. Upon grasping a magazine, I realized that I could not read it at my normal distance. I had to hold it much closer than what seemed comfortable. I didn’t realize that’s how myopia worked. I had expected to have trouble seeing only things in the distance.
“Here’s your coffee, Ms. Blevins” the receptionist said as she set the two cups on the table. “It should be just another minute.”
I gazed around the room but there was little that I could identify. I heard voices and could detect some movement but honestly could barely see anyone. I could not even recognize gender. This myopia thing is not easy at all. When my editor asked me to take this assignment, I did so without hesitation. Since my youth, I had been fascinated with eyeglasses. I’d never known why and I especially never knew if it was a normal preoccupation. But it was my preoccupation, nonetheless. I remembered the jealousness I felt when my best friend at age eleven got glasses. I so wanted to wear glasses like hers. How lucky I thought she was. When my boyfriend at age fourteen got glasses, he felt so inadequate. I helped him get past his embarrassment but thought at the time that I would be better able to help him with his situation if I, too, wore glasses. Each time one of my girlfriends in high school got glasses, the jealousy resurfaced. Perhaps now, as an adult, I could understand that their visual maladies were more than a cosmetic issue. It really was a struggle not being able to see well without glasses.
Finally, I saw two bodies stand and move. Eventually, I realized they were heading towards me. One body turned and disappeared through the doorway while the other began to speak.
I nodded “yes”.
“This way, please.”
She seated me then retrieved two large trays of eyeglasses.
“We normally are a full-service optical shop with a large selection of frames and contacts. Our optometrist has to be on the premises to complete thorough exams and follow-ups. The lenses are made and fitted elsewhere. Because of the nature of our situation, we have to maintain a large selection of complimentary glasses to be used on loan for new residents and guests. New residents also have the option of wearing contacts if we have their prescription in stock. We still encourage them to pick a pair of glasses to keep for a backup. As you can see, we have a wide variety in the -5.00 prescription you chose. That’s the starting point for a majority of folks. Is there any style in particular you would like to try?”
“I’ve always liked the way that simple rectangular frames look on me when I wear sunglasses. Usually black or a dark tortoise color is good.”
We poked around for a few minutes until we found a pair of frames that looked nice on me. They were conservative in style, but then . . . hey . . . these were complimentary glasses meant to be used for a short time then returned for selection by the next user. Choosing the frame was nothing compared to the feeling I got when I realized how much better I could see. The power of the lenses was incredible and wonderful. The sensation of going from a perception of near-blindness to such focus was beyond words. It was intense. And yet, it had only been a matter of minutes since my eyes had become so short-sighted.
The optical associate made adjustments to the frames to fit them to my face. That, too, was a revelation as I was used to “one-size-fits-all” sunglasses that had never been adjusted. They either fit, sort of, off the rack or they don’t. When she was finished, the glasses felt comfortable and inviting.
“The prescription in these glasses may not be exactly correct for you, Ms. Blevins. However, they should be pretty close to get you by for today. If you were a permanent resident, you would be fitted with your exact prescription after a thorough examination. Well . . . . . you’re good to go. If you have any trouble with these glasses, feel free to stop by.”
I thanked her and the receptionist as I proceeded back to the elevator lobby. My vision was restored nearly perfectly as far as I could tell. I couldn’t resist playing with “my” glasses to compare the difference between looking through the lenses and without. I had never had this incredible sense of nearsightedness before . . . . . and I loved it. I was amazed at how unfocused objects, that were so near, could actually be. I never realized how short-sighted I would feel with a relatively moderate prescription. What must it be like to try seeing with a really strong prescription?
I pressed the button labeled “6”. When the doors opened, I headed directly to the receptionist’s desk. Unlike when I had disembarked from the elevator on the second floor, I was walking with confidence knowing that I could now see where I was going. I loved the feeling of the glasses on my face. Looking through the soft glare of the slightly thick lenses was fascinating. The incredible sensation of focus in my eyes was almost arousing. I felt as though I was special, more powerful, and somehow smarter than when I had entered the building at 9:00 a.m.
“My name is Ms. Blevins,” I told the receptionist, “I have an appointment with Mr. Clark.”
“Good morning,” she replied, “he’s been expecting you. Please follow me.”
She was wearing a lovely pair of translucent orange glasses with wide temple pieces. They looked incredible on her. And it dawned on me that everyone I had seen since ascending from the first floor had been wearing glasses . . . including me. As we approached, Mr. Clark looked up from his work, stood and smiled, then stepped around his desk to greet me.
“Geoffrey Clark, Ms. Blevins. Please sit,” he said while motioning to a fat leather chair.
“Trevor Blevins,” I said while extending my hand. He shook it firmly before we both sat preparing to begin.
“If I may be so forward, Ms. Blevins, you look stunning in glasses.”
I felt my face blush. The compliment caught me off guard.
“Thank you. Let’s get started, Mr. Clark.”
“Please, call me Geoff.”
He was a handsome man in his early forties. Wearing a sharp charcoal suit, he had that typical confidence that most wealthy, powerful men possess. He was thin, fit, tanned, and, of course, wore a trendy pair a rectangular rimless glasses. They appeared to have a fairly strong prescription based on my knowledge of plus lenses. He was unquestionably very sexy. I thought so, anyway.
“Geoff, if you would, please begin by giving me an overview of the amenities offered here at Aberration Gardens.”
“Trevor, the Gardens was designed and built to offer an entire community experience for optically obsessive persons. If one can afford it, there is very little reason to leave the building and its grounds unless one chooses to do so. We have extensive options for housing, business, recreation, and shopping. We offer private education from preschool Montessori through grade five. We even have a well staffed clinic.”
He paused for a second to think.
“Basically, the first six floors of the three towers contain retail areas and schools. We have stores, services, office spaces, a hotel, a fitness center, and park areas. We have many of the services that residents may need such as law offices, small firms that do accounting, book keeping, and taxes . . . in time we hope that many residents will be able to find and create jobs right here within Aberration Gardens. A revolving restaurant and a nightclub are housed on the top two floors of Tower 3. All remaining floors are residential. There are dozens of floor plans and configurations for our condominiums.”
“And the point of all this, Geoff, is to give people who are interested to experience life as an optically challenged person?”
“I guess you could put it that way, Trevor, though I prefer to think of it more as an opportunity to allow them to express themselves optically. Remember, these are people who refer to themselves as optically obsessed. Many of them have “come out of the closet” so to speak. Some have experienced a lifetime of guilt just for being different. They feel that they have always been misunderstood as though they possess some odd character flaw or an uncommon hereditary gene. They simply want a chance to live honestly as they are with similar people who will not perceive them as dissimilar.”
The journalist, Trevor, asked the question. The Trevor with whom I was more familiar actually understood everything that Geoff was saying. I totally related to being an OO. I understood even more than the average glasses wearer about lens types, lens materials, requirements for various eye conditions . . . . . everything! I could explain anything about the fashion aspects of frame shapes, materials, colors, and their relationships to create the best affects for the wearer. On top of that, I could discuss with confidence the differences in contact lenses, their purposes and their suitability. I even understood what happens in the various stages of an eye exam. I knew what and why a doctor was doing any procedure. I could write a paper on the history of the Snellen chart and its descendants. To say that I was optically obsessed was an understatement.
To openly admit that I was optically obsessed was not likely. But, when my editor asked for a volunteer to do this interview and write the story, I didn’t hesitate a bit. When he explained that the reporter who accepted would be induced to become optically challenged, my associates at work were appalled by the very thought of that idea. I nearly became wet. It was an opportunity I had wanted to experience all of my life. Sure, I had tried some things such as GOC, and though the visual defects seemed realistic, I knew that at any moment a contact lens could be popped out and my eyesight restored. This opportunity sounded much more realistic. It could only be undone by leaving the premises.
And still, I would not have been able to admit to Geoff or anyone else that I was optically obsessed, at that moment. I casually expressed to my editor that I would gladly accept the challenge of being given less than perfect vision. I would do it for the story, for the magazine, for the pursuit of excellent journalism. I had hoped that he bought my act, though I feared that I might have been fairly transparent. I don’t claim to have any thespian ability. But as I said previously, I wanted glasses since I was very young.
Why does that always seem like such a dark secret? Why can’t I express openly the fact that I want glasses? Or that I prefer men with glasses? Why is that any different than liking men with pectorals and abs? Or having a preference for men with cute butts? Or liking men that are well dressed? Each is a legitimate quality of men. Why is it so odd to feel sexually stimulated by the qualities of eyewear? Perhaps that was the very reason I was here doing this interview.
“Trevor, let’s send you on a tour of the complex,” Geoff suggested. “Perhaps you will gain a better perspective of what we have to offer.”
He made a quick call, hung up, and said, “Let’s go.”
A handsome lady met us in the reception area. Geoff introduced her as Paula, the facilities manager of the retail space. She was wearing a gorgeous pair of slightly large tortoise colored frames with executive bifocal lenses. We started in the shopping mall area. Though not remarkably different than most others, it was quiet and seemed a bit more upscale than usual. All of the typical stores and restaurant chains were represented. Paula explained the visual requirements had been a “hard sell” in the early negotiations until the managing companies did some employee surveys. It was quickly found that there were plenty of employees willing to work under the unusual conditions.
Next Paula took me to the hotel. It was a gorgeous facility with all of the amenities one would expect in a top hotel. It managed to maintain the distinct feel of two separate personalities; one as a resort destination for couples and families and the other as a business class destination with meeting and conference rooms. It certainly was well done and inviting.
We returned to the corporate reception area where Paula explained to me that we were to meet Geoff. He was planning to take us to lunch. We were joined by Tim, the Vice President of Finance and Operations. He was wearing gunmetal wire-rims with transition lenses that had an incredible amount of cut-in. My guess was that on top of being very nearsighted, he had strong correction for astigmatism. That’s the thing. As the day progressed, I realized that the few people who were not wearing glasses stood out and most of them were squinting.
We had a lengthy lunch in a posh restaurant in the mall. Though the food and service was exquisite, our real purpose was to discuss matters concerning Aberration Gardens. When I asked how the visual impairments were handled, Tim explained.
“It was a process commissioned by Geoff and developed by contract employees over a period of several years. Geoff owns the patent and it is licensed only to the corporation which is the holding company of Aberration Gardens. Obviously, I can’t explain exactly how it works but I can tell you what it does. Each of the three tall buildings is located in a triangulated formation. The entire complex is fenced and gated and the only public access is through the lobby areas of the tower building. The lobbies are below the level of the grounds but are actually on the street level. The grounds and all facilities are above that level and receive electronic signals which induce the myopic or hyperopic condition as predetermined for each individual on the premises. All residents and employees are required to choose a minimum prescription. If one already exists, then they are not required to change it.”
“But I’ve seen a few people who are not wearing glasses,” I interjected.
“That’s true. We do allow outside professionals such as workmen, firemen, and inspectors. However, anyone staying for even a short term such as contractors are required to choose a prescription. It is our way to help share the experience with those that want it. Trevor, you will see some residents and employees that prefer to wear contacts or enjoy trying to see unaided. Struggling to see when “bare-eyed” is but one of the many experiences enjoyed by out clientele. The entire complex has been designed to provide opportunities to gain familiarity and knowledge of many types of visually impaired circumstances.”
“Why did you choose the minimum prescriptions of -5.00 and +4.00?” I asked.
“After considerable research, we determined that anything less was not enough to satisfy the vast majority of optical obsessives. Many choose stronger prescriptions even when starting with perfect vision. Aberration Gardens does not exist because of the casually impaired.”
When lunch was over, Paula and Tim excused themselves to return to work. Geoff called his receptionist and asked her to “clear his calendar” for the afternoon. His plans were to show me the remaining highlights of the complex. We started with the school and daycare which were located in Tower 2. He explained to me that children were never forcibly induced with vision changes since they had not chosen to live in the complex. Any optical occurrences they experienced were natural. However, at age eighteen, they were allowed to make their own decisions without parental approval. Outside of that, the school was like most other private institutions except that classes were held on the forth and fifth floors of a high-rise building. The school had two express elevators that were dedicated for access strictly to the field level floor. This allowed direct access for the children to the grounds for activities and for travel between Towers 1 and 3. The daycare center and Montessori school were located on the sixth floor.
Geoff commandeered a golf cart to show me the grounds. There were paths for walking and jogging. There were ponds, fountains, and a swimming pool with a small water park. There were fields for baseball and softball, and tennis courts. The landscaping was beautifully done and seemed to me to be a perfect place for reading, daydreaming, and especially for experimenting with visual impairments.
And for the first time since that morning, I realized that my glasses were smudged probably from something during lunch. I took them off and cleaned the lenses. It had begun to feel so natural that I had not really given them a thought since morning. I had forgotten how short-sighted I was without them as well. I’m apparently one of those people that have little tolerance for the blur as at that point I simply could not imagine how I would function well without glasses. It was odd to be outdoors with so much to see and yet with so little capability bare-eyed. I loved it.
Our final destination on the grounds was the Recreation Center which was a building separate from the three towers. Housed within several floors was almost everything a person could want for exercise and recreation. There was an indoor track, a 50 meter lap pool with a separate diving tank, a swimming and wading pool for other activities, handball courts, racquetball courts, squash courts, basketball courts, weight rooms, exercise rooms, saunas, and whirlpools. There were even game rooms and multipurpose recreational rooms for classes, meetings, and card games.
While at the Recreation Center, Geoff suggested that we work out. He said that was one of the most valuable lessons in learning how visually challenged people deal with their surroundings. I agreed to give that a try. At the main desk, I was given complimentary work out clothes and a swim suit. After changing, I met Geoff in the exercise room. Boy was he right. Everything I did in there had its challenges. Running on the treadmill was fine if I wanted to “zone out” but once I tried to watch the television to escape the boredom, I realized I could not even see the screen much less anything on it. But when I wore my glasses, they were constantly bouncing on my nose and slipping from perspiration. As we walked into the swimming pool, my lenses suddenly fogged over. But without glasses, I felt very vulnerable trying to find my way around the large pool area with so many hard and slippery surfaces. With Geoff’s assistance I eventually made my way to the right end of the pool to swim laps. But, that was nearly impossible because without glasses I couldn’t judge the distance to the wall at each end of the pool. I might as well have been swimming in murky water. I stroked until I bounced off the wall at each end, and then turned around to repeat the process. I quickly realized that it would be a much more comfortable workout to have prescription goggles. I was beginning to understand that contact lenses had useful purposes beyond a cure for vanity. But despite the frustration, I enjoyed the feeling of such absolute dependence.
Though exhausted from the workout and challenges, Geoff was right. Though I had always been jealous of friends and acquaintances that got to wear glasses, I had romanticized what I thought it would feel like to be visually dependent. It was much more challenging than I had ever known. But yet, I still wanted to be a member of the optical club with all rights and privileges. And I was beginning to think that living at Aberration Gardens might be an option for me.
As we left the Recreation Center it was nearly 5:30. Geoff turned to me and said, “Trevor, would you like to join me for happy hour?”
“Actually, I would love to do that. I think I have everything I need for the story, so yeah, let’s quit.” I responded happily. It was Friday evening. I was through for week and ready to relax. I couldn’t think of a better way to start the weekend.
He took me to Tower 3 where we rode the elevator to the top floor. There the lobby led to the hostess’ podium. Of course, Geoff was immediately waived past with a smile as we headed for the bar. He directed me to two chairs near his “favorite” bartender and immediately ordered. The bartender had a bohemian look with short black hair, a goatee, and, naturally, very edgy looking small-lensed glasses in an unusual gray color.
“Good evening, Sam. I’ll have Jamison’s, straight up, make it a double, and give the lady anything she’d like” he said with a wink.
“Hi, Sam, I’m Trevor. I’ll take a martini made with Tanqueray.”
“Dirty?” he replied with the most devilish Australian accent.
“Nice to meet you, Trevor. Let me know when this guy bores you.” Sam goaded while motioning to Geoff. “I’ll show you a good time.” he added with a wink of his own.
Through the course of the evening, it was easy to see why Geoff liked Sam. He could carry a conversation about the latest events with aplomb. He was knowledgeable, informed, and courteous. I felt like I had the two most attentive men in the world listening and tending to my needs.
And for the first time in my life, I got to be “the girl fidgeting with her glasses”. It was such a neat way to talk and flirt. There were so many things for me to try. Put them in your hair, lay them on the bar giving your partner the sense that you were focused on nothing else, twirl them in your hand, squint in the distance trying to hopelessly see something, then put them back on to look. I had always been envious of the girls that got to flirt that way and now I could. It felt so natural that it seemed like I had been doing it for years.
We were having such a good time at the bar that we decided to have dinner. But as soon as we finished we went right back to the bar, found the same two seats, and continued our conversations with Sam. It was a magical evening. From high above the city, we had watched the sunset. For the past several hours we had been observing the lights on all the buildings and streets below. And best of all, the lights in the dark were nothing but a fuzzy haze when I took off my glasses.
Having consumed “several” martinis I was feeling pretty loose and relaxed. To be honest, Geoff was an impressive sight. Not only was he gorgeous and self-assured but I had spent hours gazing into those beautifully enlarged eyes behind his sexy glasses.
At one point in the conversation I confessed to Geoff, that I loved my nearsighted eyes and wished they would stay that way forever. He simply said, “I understand.” When he asked if I would like to go to his penthouse to “let my hair down”, there was no way I would have refused. It was on the top of Tower 1. The view was just as spectacular as in the bar except that it was privately ours. And of course, I could only enjoy it while wearing glasses. Geoff’s condominium was breathtaking. Not only was it large, it was furnished extravagantly.
One thing led to another and eventually we ended up in bed. I know that was unprofessional, but I was a little drunk. A girl deserves a life as well as a career. When I removed my glasses, I loved how the large lighted numbers on the bedside alarm clock disappeared into a greenish blob. That was a new sensation for me. Of course there were better sensations waiting to be had as the night progressed.
I awoke to the rays of light from the sunrise beaming through the un-curtained windows. I felt wonderfully recharged and could smell freshly brewed coffee. I jumped out of bed to look at the city below before I remembered that I could not see all that well. It was my first myopic morning. I found my glasses on the nightstand and returned to the window able to see clearly. Little cars and tiny people were scurrying below. I imagined them enjoying their Saturday morning doing the things that they had chosen to do. Geoff greeted me at the bedroom door with hot cup of French roast. In a terry cloth bathrobe, he was wearing a gorgeous pair of thick-framed black plastic glasses with a very sharp rectangular shape.
“How did you sleep, Trevor?”
“Wonderfully” I replied while stretching.
“I’ve always enjoyed the view of the street. It’s one of my favorite pastimes since moving here. Of course, it requires the use of glasses which makes the sensation even greater.”
“I just realized that, Geoff. It is so incredible. I don’t know what makes people like us the way we are, but I totally love this. I’ve always wanted to be unable to see like this. To look through my own corrective lenses. To be seen wearing them. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wished for my eyes to be nearsighted.”
“And now they are.” he replied casually.
“They are what?” I asked.
“I don’t understand.”
“You are permanently nearsighted, now.”
“By choosing to stay in the building past 2:00 a.m. last night. Your eyes have been permanently set to the prescription you requested.”
“What? I’m permanently nearsighted with a -5.00 prescription? Are you for real, Geoff?”
“It was in the form you signed yesterday morning. I thought you knew. I thought that’s what you were hinting at when you told me you wished you could be nearsighted forever. Stay the night, and permanently set your eyes. Many people do that here at Aberration Gardens.”
“Really?” I replied in disbelief. “I stayed the night because I wanted to make love to you.”
Geoff smiled happily and started to approach me but stopped suddenly with a frightened look on his face.
“Oh god, Trevor, it’s not reversible. Our process can make your prescription stronger but the only way to reverse the existing affects is through common surgical procedures such as lasix or lens replacements.”
“Geoff, are you telling me that even when I leave the premises of Aberration Gardens, my eyes will continue to be myopic?”
“That is exactly what I have been saying.” Emphasizing each word slowly, he added, “I am so sorry for any misunderstanding”.
“Misunderstanding? This is the happiest day of my life, Geoff. I think I love you. What do I have to do to make my eyes worse?”