Eye Exam

Hello. I am currently dictating my blog post to my parrot.* He is typing with his talons. I hope he is doing a good job. He probably is – he is basically human but very little and also green. His name is Birdbird.

parrot-with-laptop---macaw-birdbird

I thought my eye sensitivity would diminish at some point tonight (and I could more quickly write this post), but it has not. It turns out my eyes are dumb and one of them decided to be farsighted and the other decided to be nearsighted. So we had to put the extra dilating drops in them to figure out exactly how much. It’s funny — the doctors make you bleary blind and then you can’t even see the price stickers on the frames they try to sell you and then they give you film sunglasses in an envelope and say it’s perfectly safe to drive home.

The doctor put up the usual test — a chart on the far wall. I covered my left eye. I read all but the last row. I covered my right eye. Startled, I read the entire chart.  “I thought this was my bad eye.” Through a series of tests — flipping lenses, cards of letters, those stinging drops — I learned something about myself I had never known. My left eye is farsighted, and amblyopic.

Last night I sat in the hot tub in my parents’ backyard. They were out of town. I glimpsed my nude body below me — something I don’t see often. I am not familiar with my topography. I think we all find our own bodies strange to some degree. Yet, I am entirely comfortable in my strangeness. For 7 years of my life, I believed this body wasn’t mine, and so, I am used to my body feeling alien.

“This is why I tell parents to take their kids for eye exams,” my doctor said. “If we had caught this when you were 10 or 11, you could have had a chance.” Point blank, she told me, “You will never have normal vision in your left eye. It is what it is.” This eye had always been that way, the other compensated, and now that the dominant one is starting to change, I am noticing the discrepancy more and more. Luckily, for whatever reason, my brain continued to use partial information from this amblyopic, or lazy eye, and its vision is fairly ok. Just a little farsighted.

Younger, disinvested in my borrowed host body, I ignored inconsistencies. I took the eye tests and passed them robotically. I didn’t bother to explain that I often closed my “bad” eye so that I could see better. I didn’t mention my surprise at doing well for these simple readings of letters on flash cards. I was an alien, someday I would go home, and these things mattered little.

Now I’m here. I’m very much human. It might be nice to have better vision, yes? It might be comforting to recognize myself more often in the mirror. Oh, but the losses are small, in my case. I am glad to be learning my body like it is new. And glad to not have learned to suffer at its limitations, to assume ownership of flaws. So, now I’ll take these vision quirks, and the sense of wonder at still being able to find something new about my physical self, even at age 25. When my hair starts turning gray, I imagine I will feel the same.

It is what it is. At least now, I know.


*I love my bird. I got him when I was 4. For political reasons I have to say I don’t think it’s humane to own a pet parrot or exotic bird. They are wild animals and need to be able to fly, have friends all day, and eat a variety of foods. There are other pets more suited to domestic life. That said, he was born in captivity and has never been able to fly due to deformity. I think the life I give him is ok but could be better. Some parrots also have very little chance of being reconditioned to the wild and I support rescuing them. Please choose birds that could use a second or third or fourth home!

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