Since conquering jock itch, I thought it was time to pay more attention to my aging carcass. Next on the agenda was my vision. More specifically, my right eye.
To understand the situation, we must set the wayback machine to 1990…
I was living in Bakersfield, California. One night, I went to my regular haunt, Guthrie’s Alley Cat. It’s one of those dive bars with a huge neon sign and a clientele that swings wildly between slumming lawyers and serious bikers. I was middle of the pack, but for the most part I hung out with the bikers because they took billiards as seriously as I did.
That night, my biker buddy and I were playing doubles against his old lady and some young punk. We were playing at this very table – the only one in the joint.
My partner’s old lady was making a shot at the 8 ball. I was leaning over the green, anticipating the final stroke. She missed the pocket and her pool cue swung wild and hit me dead square in the middle of my right eye.
I screeched like a little girl as waves of searing pain enveloped my head and rocketed up and down my spine. She took my arm and apologized, but I hardly remember her words; it felt like her cue had actually popped my eyeball. I was sure I’d lost the eye.
Running to the bathroom, I pryed open my eye in front of the mirror. I was whimpering like a wounded dog. The eye was intact, but it looked like a mass of blood vessels. I could hardly make out the iris.
Now I knew what they meant when they described certain pain as being “exquisite”. I was in such agony I felt like jumping out of my own skin. But somehow I had to keep my shit together. I was still in Guthrie’s and I was not a tourist; I was a regular. There was my moderate reputation to uphold.
I left the bathroom and told the assembled that my eye was sort of OK, but that my game was over and I best go home.
Somehow, squeezing my eye shut, I drove home sans any depth perception. My girlfriend was horrified – this is the very reason she didn’t like me going to that stupid bar, after all.
She gathered me up and hauled my ass to the hospital. The doctor put me in a dark room and surveyed the damage with a weird light-scope thingie. Now, doctors are trained not to gasp or tsk-tsk. But they’re only human, and the doctor couldn’t stifle a laugh.
He explained himself: “Your story checks out. You have a tiny rip in your cornea, and a perfectly round circle of blue chalk right in the center of your cornea. I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Glad as I was to make medical history, I was more interested in the prognosis. I was given some eyedrops that relieved the pain instantly and completely. They patched over the eye and told me to take it easy. It would heal itself in 3-4 days.
I shan’t forget the ensuing days. As soon as the hospital eyedrops wore off, I was in agony again. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think straight, couldn’t get the pain out of my head. I felt like tearing my hair out. My girlfriend was as comforting as she could be. I deserved some shit for yet another stupid barroom antic, but she was really cool about it. (Thanks, KC, baby – wherever you are).
On Day 2, I went back to he hospital and begged for more magic eyedrops. They hooked me up, but warned me that the drops might invite infection, so I needed to tough it out.
Tough it out I did. The eye healed, and the pain subsided.
But ever since that day, whenever I woke up in the morning and rubbed my right eye, I’d feel a tiny, subtle *click* and the vision in my right eye would get all smeary, as if I had been crying. I learned to stop rubbing my right eye.
As the years went by and my life progressed, I thought little about my eye injury. My vision was still 20/20. But something still bugged me: at night, oncoming headlights always looked kind of smeared, like the twinkling of stars. And if I was watching TV in a darkened room, the credits at the end of the movie looked kind of smeared, like this:
I used to think it was my crappy TV. But I’d blink my eye – especially my right eye – and it would get a bit better. Everything else was perfectly sharp and clear and had no smearing. The only objects that appeared smeared were bright objects with a sharp border on a black background.
Being a video genius for a living, I knew that bright-on-black images required a lot of processing to look clean. My brain doesn’t have a comb filter, but human eyes do have to process a lot to keep such edges sharp. Since everything else in life and on screen looked perfectly OK, I let it go.
Then, about 2 years ago, I gave in and bought a big fancy HDTV set. I don’t watch TV, but I like movies, so there ya go. I actually thought maybe an ultra-sharp high-contrast display would make a difference. It didn’t. The credits still looked smeared.
Finally, I gave in and visited an eye doctor. I told him my sad tale and he he seemed interested. I got the full battery of tests. We went through every weird machine and eye camera in his arsenal. We did a follow-up a month later, and the results were clear and conclusive:
There’s nothing wrong with my eyes. Not that he can find, anyway.
My vision is 20/20. I can read the smallest line on the eye chart. I could see all the little points of light in the glaucoma detector box. Intra-ocular photos show that my corneas, retinas, nerves, maculas and all that stuff are OK. My ocular pressure is a bit high. 10-20 is normal and I measured 25 and 26. But my corneal thickness is normal – even “nice and thick” so sayeth the eye guy.
So, what the fuck is wrong with my eyes? Neither of us is sure. He’s convinced my old injury healed fully and nicely and my cornea is not misshapen. He can’t explain the smeared bright-on-blacks. Seems like I’ll have to live with it.
I’m just glad I’m in my 40’s and have (otherwise) great vision. Nearly all my peers wear glasses or contacts.
So, kids: if you want to maintain good vision into middle age, I recommend the following: go into a biker bar and start swinging a pool cue at people. If you have the same serpentine luck I do, everything will turn out OK.