I only gave myself 16 minutes to get up Central Entrance and to my long-overdue eye appointment. Mid-afternoon, too. As much of a rush hour as this city has. I squandered 5 minutes just getting to Mesaba and by the time I hit my third red light I knew it was awash. I was just going to have to own my lateness. When bad luck strikes once, I get agitated. Twice, a little more. But as the streak continues this morphs into a certain glee. I get giddy as the universe throws another absurd block.
It's been so long, so there is paperwork. No glaucoma in the immediate family, no. I do not have AIDS. Once again I stare at a blank space and try to find a way to define my relationship of almost six years. It's hilarious to say "Life partner" but writing it feels like a commercial for Reunite on Ice. Recently I had to write a brief bio blurb and I referred to Chuck as my "Emergency Contact." But here on a space marked "Emergency Contact," that is redundant. "Partner," I write, shuddering at the turtleneck-ness of the word.
Speaking of glaucoma, the machine that tests for it by blowing a puff of air into a nervous eyeball is on the fritz. The girl futzes with it, decides it's broken, futzes some more and then fixes it. This appointment is starting to take longer than I planned.
I seem to recall there are two options for doctor here: One boyish, cute and charming. One Wizard of Oz-like, older and quirky. Just the latter is on duty and he settles me into a chair. Before he begins testing me on letter combinations he stops, looks at me and says: "What are you into? What do you do for fun?"
"Wait," he says. "I guess I should read your file."
He scoots across the floor on a rolling chair.
"Reading, I guess," I tell him.
"Ah! What do you like? What are you reading now?" he asks.
"'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,'" I tell him. "I'm loving it."
"Joseph Conrad ..."
"No," I say, "That's 'Heart of Darkness.'"
"Yes. Joseph Conrad is 'Heart of Darkness,'" he agrees. "I've read 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.' Meh. I wasn't into it. I think I gave it away."
"Huh," I say.
And we begin testing.
These tests confuse me. It's a lot of "Which is more clear, Slide 1 or Slide 2?"
Sometimes it's obvious. Sometimes it's a crap shoot and I expect I'm answering wrong.
"I guess I like historical fiction," he tells me.
"Have you read 'Wolf Hall'?" I ask him. I repeat the title again because when you say it fast it sounds like "Whoa-Fall."
This has gone from "taking a long time" to "taking a super long time."
"I hope you don't take offense at me saying this," he says staring into my eyeball. "You have interesting eyes. You have epicanthal folds. This is typically found in Asians. It's also a trait of mongoloids (1)."
He defines this by making a swooping gesture to indicate the way my eyelid curves toward the bridge of my nose. As he speaks I've already begun Googling. Sure enough, I do have epicanthal folds. As I try to formulate a Facebook status around this new development, I realize this sounds dirty -- no matter how I phrase it. "Ask me about my epicanthal folds," "Turns out I have epicanthal folds," "Let me show you my epicanthal folds." Most people out-grow their epicanthal folds after childhood. Also: Epicanthal folds are common in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Anyway, then he told me that I don't need bifocals. But:
"If I were going to hang a painting on that wall, I'd just use a hammer," he said. "But if I were a carpenter, I'd have a $300 hammer. If I worked at Schmitt Music and had to haul pianos, I'd own a lifting belt. But if I'm just moving stuff around in my garage, I probably won't need one.
"So you just have to decide: Do you want that tool that will make your life easier? Or are you okay without it?"
1. His word, not mine.