Monday, June 6, 2011

Willful Blindness

A week or two ago I was riding home on the train from work, and I'd had enough of the sting of my contact lenses, which were burning my dry and computer-dazzled eyes. So I plucked them out and threw them on the floor. (The lenses, not my eyes, silly readers...although I would have delighted in shouting "Out, vile jelly!" and causing the commuters to make hideous typos on their Blackberrys.)

Without my lenses to guide me home, I might as well have been legally blind. I walked off the train in a sort of daze, moving along with the stream of commuters. Surely, I would have been left for dead in the days before corrective eyewear, always stumbling to catch up with my sure-footed tribe, glaring through a water droplet on the edge of a plucked blossom, shouting "Hey, fellas! I can't see you. Is that you, Og?" Eventually they would have tipped me into a watering hole or failed to mention an approaching mammoth.

So I walked home blind through the dappled leaves, my face open to the world because I could not construct a symmetrical response to whomever or whatever was looking at me. My expression was as bland and naked as my hands, and my hands swept through the air. The pink house on the side street, a blur, looked like that Cezanne painting we had to turn upside-down in art class so very long ago, to look for the shapes and contours only. "Forget what you are seeing, for an instant," said the art teacher. "That is not a house. Look for the spaces between the houses; look for the colors, and the light."

Something glimmered on the edge of the sidewalk: A lost credit card? A candy wrapper? Whatever it was I could not tell. It flickered blue and metallic, like a strange fish swimming away before me through the hotness of green and the light all falling down.

The world seemed softer when I was blind. It seemed to cradle me, and I was a small thing moving safe and warm through it. And I remembered that as a child—as a teen, really—I hadn't wanted to wear my glasses at all, and sometimes hid them in my coat pocket upon arrival at school. I would mark the colors my friends were wearing in the morning, and spot them that way throughout the day. Sometimes I would make a pinhole lens of flesh by curling my forefinger tight next to my thumb, and sight the world through that. (More often than not I would be felled in gym class by the rubbery thump of a dodgeball to the side of the head, and wish I were not so vain.)

Now, on this walk home through a suburban spring, I heard birds, whispers, my own breath. I saw human shapes, walking, a distance away. Someone was coming up behind me, swinging a bag. Did I know him or her? I turned and framed a quick smile so I would not insult. A stranger, the person may have smiled back; I'll never know. Did it matter? I could assume love from the universe.

Trees seemed to be lit from within by their blossoms; honeysuckle, red rhododendron, pink azalea (dying when viewed closely, but still alive to the half-blind). And the patches of light, dancing on the green trees. Shadows of trees on the sides of houses, houses as big as barns. I looked and was amazed. I saw nothing. I saw everything. The world cast its gaze on me as I stumbled home unseeing and alive. 

17 comments:

greenwoman said...

As a fellow nearly-blind woman . . . love.

Marewolf said...

How do you write something so hilarious and yet beautiful? You must be some kind of sorcerer, my friend!

Also, I was laughing because I can really commiserate (did I spell that wrong?) I, too, am nearly blind and I don't wear my contacts anymore because they BUG the crap outta me.

But, in high school, I refused to wear my glasses in public, EVER.

Sometimes, it is nice to see the world through a blurry lens.

Kind of like beer goggles, but without the hangover. :)

Catherine Stine said...

What a beautiful piece of writing! I love it. You've captured the wonder of childhood with the sort of blind trust in the universe that we mostly don't have anymore, with the sensations one might feel if their senses were amplified fivefold.

Jenny Phresh said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm in a strange place right now (a little melancholy) and touched by your kind comments.

cherie said...

I love you. Completely. This is so lovely, and I too am a member of the half-blind ladies. I wear contact lenses though they drive me bonkers because glasses make me dizzy and feel as if I've got my head inside a fishbowl.

I saw your comment on my blog. You and I must be twins or something. I've been feeling melancholy and it doesn't help that personal matters are pummeling me inside out until my heart has fallen off, dropped on a grimy sidewalk for the world to trample on. See what I mean? *sigh*

I hope you recover from your funk. On the other hand, I love love love this poignant and inspiring side of you. You are so talented--so beautiful in the way you use words to make us laugh and cry at the same time.

<3

David Kazzie said...

All that said, I worry that I'll survive a global apocalypse and then be rendered defenseless when I crack my glasses and am left to survive on my own with my 20/400 vision.

Jack said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing, you! A poem of sorts, really. Am I somehow less manly for saying such things? No i ain't! Ouch. Hey who threw that dodgeball.

Sam Southworth said...

Delightful as always, surprising, unique visions filtered through one of the great brains, this ol' nag ain't just a one-trick Party Pony! Nope, our Jenny is a gift to the world, both high-larious and wistfully thoughtful. (And she ain't no old nag--I just threw that in to tweak her.) I been listening to her and reading her stuff for nigh on twenny-one years, and it has always been of the first water, and makes me cry when it doesn't make me spew onion dip through my nose at inconvenient times. It's great to see her gaining a wider audience--and seriously, people--this is just the tip of the iceberg! You ought to go canoeing in FAR northern Maine with her sometime! She plays games like "Pine Cone Toss" and "Bladder-Ball" (with the inside container of a box o' wine) for starters, then swims away across massive lakes as if spawning, throws a few knives and hatchets deftly, and affixes clumps of wildflowers to the bow of her canoe--pressing ever north! Then there's her guitar-slingin' husband who was at my house last Satiddy night RAGING on an SG through a Marshall amp with mega-overdrive, and her astounding, intelligent and cute chilluns, and her unusual and somewhat unkempt friends...what a world! And yes, she's a little anxious and melancholy now and then--goes with the territory, I is afeered. But never mind that--thank you for this piece! Reminded me of Thurber on the same subject, but much better.

chefmlkim said...

What a beautiful piece, Pony. It's amazing to me how often I'm able to see you in a different light even after we've known each other for so long.

The Rake said...

Hello. This is Hann.

Oh Awesome Pony of the Party you have such beauty poem. But no sinks. Please rite of beautiful granite awesome basin.

To be inspire: http://awesomesinks.com/

Enjoy in awe!

P.S. I imagine a swirly photopic of trees. May you post one! (And one of sinks.)

Kalen O'Donnell said...

Oh wow. Jenny, this is amazing. You have such a gift for eloquence, and to walk such a fine line between absurdity and surrealism the way you do - I expect great things from you, my friend. You have a gift. Let's leave it at that.

Bethany C. said...

I'm trying really hard to lose myself in your beautiful descriptions, but I can't stop laughing because the only image coming to mind is when Chris' friend in ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING is in the train station and, because sehs' lost her glasses, thinks a rat is a kitten.

I love that movie. And you, Phresh.

Anita said...

Ahh. Jenny, my lovely pony girl. I LOVE these posts when you teeter between eloquence and absurdity! I bow to you and your gift with words. You will be loved by the masses one day. MARK ME. <3

LisaAnn said...

Marewolf totally summed this post up before I could even think of words to describe it. Hilarious. Beautiful. And also random! I love the idea of being a fly on the wall and watching you wander around this day...

I'm a hater of contact lenses myself, so I definitely know how you feel. (I also stowed my glasses in my coat at school. They were horrendous, with pink, purple and blue speckles. They still haunt me when I think about them.)

Sophie Li said...

Beautiful writing! I REALLY enjoyed the read - thank you!

Carol Riggs said...

Oh my! I'm entranced by your writing style. Very nice indeed. I especially like: "My expression was as bland and naked as my hands" and "It flickered blue and metallic, like a strange fish swimming away before me through the hotness of green and the light all falling down."

I just love poetic writing styles in prose. :) I hope you're writing a novel or a short story, so we can see you in print someday!!!

Jenny Phresh said...

All your comments are so lovely. Yes, Carol, I am writing books! Books filled with poetry and absurdity!