by Edith Marks Road
Chapter 1 (Excerpt)
Wild unknowable fulgent figures exploding, fading, shimmering, unimaginable. Was this it? Sight? Light? Color? Damien Plumb closed his eye against this sudden assault; this field of teeming colored images and then slowly opened it again. Still there–this indescribable kinetic madness, chaotically challenging his untutored eye. His stomach tightened. His head ached. The cords on his neck stiffened. He swiveled his head to relieve the strain. Had he lost consciousness? Had he died? He closed his eye, heard the comforting drone of traffic on the street below, phone jangling, smelled the starch of Arons’ coat, the stringency of the antiseptic, clary sage–Moira. He was alive no doubt about it. He rubbed his temple and forehead to relieve the lingering discomfort of stripped off adhesive tape. Damn them, Moira and Arons. What had they done to him?
“Well?” Arons’ carefully controlled voice.
He opened his eye again and tried to root towards the direction of the voice. Face? Possibly a face? This mask of frantic colors? He reached out for verification and felt a familiar touch restraining his arm. He canted his head towards the arm and saw or thought he saw a similar blotch but of less chaotic color. He sneezed.
“Try not to sneeze,” Dr. Arons said.
“Do you see anything, anything at all?” Moira asked feeling her stomach wrench.
What was she getting so upset about? He was the one who….
Arons again. Did he detect an anxious note in her voice? He should tell her something. But how could he parse this incredible stuff into words? Find suitable language to reassure her that her prediction that this operation would open new vistas had what, failed? He had no words to describe the colors and forms that turmoiled his eye whenever he opened it? Christ, impossible to put voice to this entirely new experience, these exuberant shapes and forms he had not known existed. Improbably, he thought of a phrase from Beckett, “Above is the light, the element.” He was reduced to the element of color and form.
“Try to keep your eye open,” Dr. Arons said. “I know it’s difficult, but trust me, your eye will adjust.”
His left calf muscle seized and he bent to massage it.
“Don’t bend,” Dr. Arons cautioned.
“My leg cramped.” At least a cramp was concrete.
“Let me massage it for you,” Moira felt his calf. Solicitously, she asked, “Here?”
“You’re all tensed up,” Dr. Arons said now back to her brisk self. “Try to relax.”
“Is it scary?” Moira asked, her voice coming off his knee. Why didn’t he say something? She searched his face for a familiar expression but saw only an angry furrow creasing his forehead, compressed lips, and felt her stomach wrench again. Had she been wise to push this operation on him, overriding his objections, insisting it was for his own good, would benefit him? She sought Dr. Arons’ eyes. Arons nodded reassuringly and asked Damien, “Can you describe what you see?”
Describe? What did she want from him? He felt stupid, inept, bereft of descriptive language to provide an adequate response. A pool of anger boiled ominously in his gut threatening to eject its contents. He swallowed once, twice and then another time in an attempt to tamp down his rage and then waited until he could speak in neutral voice, “Color. At least I think it’s color, and light, jagged flashes of light, geometric. Everything’s ignited, moving around, pulsating.” There, he managed some descriptive words—words that now took on shades of meaning he had never envisioned.
Moira dropped her hands from his calf. He heard the squeal of her chair as she shifted her bottom. He reached over to pat her hand reassuringly, but he groped emptiness. Was she testing him, moving deliberately out of his range? She had never done this before, always at the ready with a reassuring touch. His skin prickled sensing unspoken communication traveling between Moira and his doctor. Moira had explained that people did this all the time, seeing, people that is.
“Damien,” Moira had said to him three months back afte she had finished reading an article from the newspaper to him.
Damien who had been comfortably slouched on the couch, his arm around Moira’s shoulders, sat upright, alerted. Oh, oh, that I’m going to tell you something for your own good voice.
“I happened to sit in on a meeting where an ophthalmologist talked about sight restoration. I spoke to her about you after the meeting and when I explained your condition she thought that perhaps you might be a candidate.”
A chill swept down the length of his spine, “A candidate for what?”
“An operation so that you’ll be able to see. Won’t that be wonderful?”
“I’m fine the way I am.”
“Oh, Damien,” that hard to resist persuasive voice. “There are such beautiful things to see. I want you to have the miracle of sight. This doctor, her name is Arons, sounded really confident when I explained that your problem involved congenital cataracts. She said if your retinas are intact, you’ll have sight once the cataracts are removed. She knows of case histories, conditions similar to yours. A colleague has performed this particular operation. She said she’d consult with him after she examined you.”
“I’ve been blind all my life and I get along fine. Are there some more articles you want to read to me?”
“But don’t you want to see?”
“I don’t know what seeing is.”
But bulldog Moira didn’t let go. That persistent, persuasive voice haunted him, entered his dreams and wove its way into his routines. Probably what made her successful at her job, he thought. He tried to deflect her enthusiasm, persuade her that he was perfectly comfortable in his world, didn’t feel deprived, that he had learned to deal with blindness. He reasoned that her experience with handicapped children should clue her in to the body’s ability to compensate for missing organs. In their fiery dialogues, she forced him to admit there were occsasions when he envied seeing people, when he wanted to be like everybody else, especially during his teens, but he insisted that he had outgrown that desire. Yet, in the end he was no match for Moira’s genius at eroding the concrete of his resistance until he no longer knew why he argued against of at least of submitting to an examination by Dr. Arons.
“It’s too soon to tell anything,” Dr. Arons back to her brisk, authoritative voice.
He stifled an impulse to shout at her. What have you done to me? Why didn’t you leave me alone? But, instead, he closed his eye.
“Do you see anything other than color?” Moira asked.
“Enough for now,” Dr. Arons said, addressing Moira. “In about a week the blood should reabsorb in Damien’s eye. That should diminish the fireworks he sees.”
“Am I bleeding? You told me you would do a no-stitch cataract surgery, a simple procedure.”
“Your case required additional surgery,” Dr. Arons said. “You know you’ve had that cataract for your entire lifetime and its removal required more intervention than the run-of-the-mill cataract, the kind that many older people get. We also needed to pay attention to the condition of your retina. You know, Damien, Moira, even in the best of circumstances, there are some cases where removal of a cataract does not always lead to instant vision.”
“Will Damien see?” Moira asked.
Ha, she’s not so sure of herself now, Damien thought noting the shadow of anxiety in her voice.
“Most likely although there is evidence that his macula, the area specialized for acuity and fixation is barely functioning, but we believe the paramacular that surrounds the macular is intact enough to provide vision.” She touched his shoulder, “We’ll hope for the best. As soon as the eye quiets down, we’ll be better able to judge the results.”
Moira took both of his hands in hers.
“I need my cane,” Damien withdrew his hands and eased himself out of the chair.
“Shall I?” Moira asked.
“Most certainly,” Dr. Arons said. “Damien can use his cane during this transition period, but when he has sight, out goes the cane.” She chuckled and gave Damien a playful slap on his arm. “Make an appointment with Laura for tomorrow.”
When they had left the office, Damien complained, “She should know better than to talk about me as if I were deaf or retarded.”
Edith Marks Road lost vision in one eye due to glaucoma and her other eye is failing. She is 89 years old and has just published her fourth book, second novel, called LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE. It is the story (taken from a true account) of a man blind from birth who has a cataract operation and gains the sight the in one eye. He is devastated because now he has to learn how to see. The book is now on sale (PublishAmerica and other on-line book stores(Amazon)). Other books by Edith Marks Road are: Living With Glaucoma, Glaucoma-Patient to Patient, and Ground Cover