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“Did you hear? Dr. Hall, died this morning!” said Mary, his wife.
“I heard. You know he’s been my optometrist since I first got glasses?”
“Didn’t you have an appointment with him soon? What’ll you do?”
“Go to the new one I suppose” Paul walked into the kitchen and looked at his calendar. Then he talked to the new optometrist, and confirmed.
“Monday after next.” He said with a quick look at his wife as he sat down again on the couch next to her.
“Alright then. Shame though, about Dr. Hall.”
“Damn shame.” He said, going back to his paper.
The Monday after next came and Paul got in his car and drove to his appointment with the new optometrist. He sat down in the chair. First one eye was covered with a black, plastic cup, then the other. He read the chart with lines of letters and numbers. The new optometrist shone a strong blue light in his eyes and made some notes on her notepad.
“Now go out and pick some new frames and the secretary will fill out the rest your order sheet”, the new optometrist said.
Looking at the selection rack, Paul was almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of frames, that all looked more or less the same. He picked out a pair of gray, aluminum frames and showed them to the man behind the desk. After measuring the length of the ear pieces on Paul’s old glasses he wrote a few numbers on a sheet, filled in the new optometrist’s prescription, and gave Paul a slip of carbon paper.
“Two weeks okay?” said the man. Paul nodded and walked out the door.
Paul opened the same door and walked into the new optometrist’s front room after two weeks time. He gave the man behind the counter his credit card. The man handed him a receipt and a paper bag in which were Paul’s new glasses, nestled safely in a faux-leather case.
They exchanged polite business thanks and Paul walked through the same door for the fourth time in two weeks.
He got into his car. He reached into the bag with his hand, which came out with the glasses’ case clenched in it. He opened the case to make sure that he had the glasses in the frames he ordered. He gave the mental equivalent of a grunt of satisfaction. He closed the case and put his hand back into the bag. This time, when it came back out, there was no glasses’ case clenched in it.
He sat down at home. He was alone, as his wife was out with friends for the evening. He reached into the bag and grabbed his new case. He opened it and saw, with a mild sense of satisfaction, as if they were some doubt that the case would contain something, a pair of gray, aluminum glasses. He took off his old glasses and the world exploded. Every object expanded into rays and lost all detail. Colors and shapes blurred, leaving only a sense of perspective for him to determine the nature of any object by sight alone. Lights became stars, doors became monolithic wall discolorations, and wall art become infinitely more complex than anything to come out of great minds like Picasso or Pollock. In essence, the world melted into a solid entity.
The unfolded the ear pieces of his new glasses, and slid them over his closed eyes. He opened his eyes and let the light from the world filter through the curved glass and into his eyes. His brain stumbled as he tried to register what the light conveyed. Everything was the same as always, but it was different.
Mary opened the door and walked into the living room, talking off her coat and shoes as she did.
“What are you looking at?” she continued. Paul was sitting in on the couch, staring, even though the television was off. He did not reply at first, he only turned to look at her. For several seconds tears rolled down his face silently. Then he jumped up, ran to her, and grabbed her shoulders. In a quiet scream he said:
“You!” He said, tilting his head up slightly. “You are so beautiful!”
She recoiled slightly. He released her shoulders and stumbled back to the couch.
He gazed at the wall paper. It was the same as before, but yet so much better. Everything was perfect in its detail. Edges: precise and crisp, shapes: perfectly proportioned, colors…he couldn’t describe them. They were full and rich, and displayed subtleties in shade that he had never fathomed before. Every color was a universe in itself; galaxies and suns swirling in patterns leaving streaks in the void; colliding and rebounding. And exploding into patterns he couldn’t begin to think about. He felt like God, gazing at his creation and truly seeing for the first time. He no longer saw the radiation of phenomena. Instead his gaze pierced to the very numena which lay inside everything. The ding-an-sich, the thing in itself, so long sought by or denied by men deemed “wise”, lay at his very fingertips, and all held in a pair of glasses.
Then his wife entered.
He had always thought her beautiful, even as the years wore on. But now, as she entered, he realized that she was not beautiful. She was beauty itself. She could no more be described by the word ‘beauty’ than he could be described by the name ‘Paul’. She radiated. He had heard things such as this said in poems of pining poets, but had taken it as poetic license. Now he knew that it was not. She was, like the colors which surrounded him, a universe of herself. She was etched into every line on her face, every hair on her head, and every point of her eye. It was as if, with just a lock of her hair, he could find his way through the darkest cave by the staggering radiance of every inch of her.
“…looking at?” He realized that she was talking to him.
So strange he thought. Her voice, which had always seemed to be her most beautiful quality, now seemed only to match the beauty which she now possessed.
Feeling weak, he stumbled to his feet and walked towards her. He grasped her shoulders partially for support, but also to see if his wife now burned with beauty, as well as shone with it. She did not. She was still cold from the air outside.
“You-” he said. He then realized that nothing he could say would adequately convey what she now seemed to her. Groping for words in the darkness of his mind he looked to her hair, which only moments earlier seemed bright enough to bring him through the darkness of the darkest cave. It did, and he had a second realization that carried as much impact, if not more than the first.
“You are so beautiful!”
Sometimes, he thought, you have to call a spade a spade, and call beauty beauty.
They talked for several hours, during which time Paul described to Mary what he was seeing. She began to wonder if he was crazy, or was under the effect of some hallucinogenic drug. After much protesting, permittance of searches, and suggestions as to what one might do to oneself, it was established that Paul was of sound mind.
“Give me your new glasses”
“We need to test something”.
“What if it breaks whatever is happening to me?”
“It won’t. I promise.” He could not doubt a promise from such beauty. It was as of a deity had stepped off of a cloud and gave him their word as a god. He slowly pulled off his glasses and watched as the world exploded back into the boring normalcy he had always known. She handed him his old glasses. With the air of a man being forced to pull the lever at his own gallows, he put them on. She took off her own glasses, and put on his new ones.
For both of them it was exactly the same as it was not six hours ago. He cried. She thought, as she often did. She noticed no difference, and they had almost identical eye problems. She replaced his old glasses with his new ones, and put her own back on. She stood up and walked into the kitchen, where she picked up the telephone and arranged an appointment.
He almost cried again as he took off his new glasses before he crawled into bed. That night he dreamt of a cat and of glasses.
The next morning his wife left early for work and he called in sick. That morning he had the best breakfast he had ever eaten. To start he ate the sky. The azure was especially delicious. Then, for a second course, he ate the most beautiful birds in the sky, seasoned lightly with the explosive colors of the plants in the backyard. He drank the clouds and finished with his kitchen. With his eyes full he walked into his room and dressed himself. Two hours later he left his room, wearing the clothes that he was able to look at without having to pause for ten minutes, just to absorb all of the patterns and colors. He drove to the optometrists with lots of stops for a snack.
As he walked into the front room of the new optometrist’s building he noticed the man behind the counter. He recognized the man. He was Adonis. He was Narcissus. He was Odysseus. He was a secretary, a virtual Atlas, a role which he now not only played, but looked and was. After staring at the secretary for several seconds, he continued into the new optometrist’s office again.
Once inside he removed from his pocket the glasses’ case which now held his old glasses. The new optometrist removed the old pair of glasses from the case and placed them in front of him. From the drawer on the desk, the new optometrist produced a variety of highly specialized tools which were kept in the office only. After several minutes of examination the new optometrist put the tools back in the case and looked back at Paul.
“These are very strange glasses Paul.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that they are precisely crafted with the utmost care.”
“Then why don’t they let me see like these ones?”
“Because, as I said before, they were crafted with the utmost care, probably by Dr. Hall himself, to ensure that everything you saw was dulled. The glass has several components which I cannot recognize. These components make colors dull. They glass is cut so that shapes appear to be blurred slightly. Nothing is precise through these glasses. Everything is dull.”
Paul had nothing to say. He and the new optometrist arranged another date on which they could examine older pairs of Paul’s glasses. Paul left again.
Five more times Paul returned to the office of the new optometrist. Each time they discussed pairs of glasses that Paul had owned. All of them had been handmade by Dr. Hall. All of them made everything dull. Soon it became winter.
After the fifth visit Paul made to the new optometrist, he returned home to find a letter addressed to him in the mailbox. This was unusual because it was from a dead man. The letter read:
If you are reading this, then I am dead right now (please pardon my cliché). You probably are in the midst of an epiphany of the senses, on which I am loathe to encroach, but nonetheless, I feel it necessary to explain myself. You, amongst all of my other patients, are very special. You, Paul, know something that millions of people miss each day. You, Paul, have now attained amazement at the ordinary. While I am not one to brag, I still marvel at the genius of my on plan. I required a youth, one who has not yet become indoctrinated by the society which can face miracles in the face and look for more. Furthermore, I needed one who would keep coming to me for all of your optometric needs, and one who was not likely to change doctors. I do not mean to offend you Paul, but you were perfect. As a longtime resident of small towns I quickly attained a knack for recognizing those who would leave town and seek their fortune, and those who stay. You are, obviously, part of the latter group. You were a one in a million chance Paul. I knew that by giving you a pair of my “dull glasses” I would be able to convince you that the world was like that. Now I become slightly morbid. Being the “enlightened” soul that I am, I knew that I would die eventually, and thus I decided that should the crux of my experiment. My own death would be my greatest triumph, the unveiling of my masterpiece- years in the making. After my death you would eventually find the need to attain a new pair of glasses. Unaware, that your new glasses allowed you to see the world as it truly was, not as how I presented it to you, you would put the glasses on and suddenly be faced with sheer awareness of the world. You would be reduced to a veritable infant whose curiosity, combined with the wisdom of an adult (if such a thing exists) would, I hope, create one who constantly thirsts for knowledge. Your new glasses would be a divine calling to join the ranks of the living.
I apologize for the many years of lies Paul (and that is partly why I write this letter, the gift of the ever popular Deus Ex Machina). However, I hope that you understand that by lying for many years, I have also given you many years of joy and discovery. I have done what so many wish was possible. I have given you your childhood back. Enjoy.
Dr. H. Hall
Paul finished the letter and placed it on the table. Soberly he stared at the ceiling as he leaned back in his chair. He looked out the window. A childlike grin cracked across his face. He sank into discovery.
Mary came home several hours later. He pointed to the letter. It was still open on the table. She understood his request. She picked it up and read it. She put it down. She hugged him and went into the living room. Later, he reread the letter. He was still grinning.
The next morning they walked around town. Paul saw many things which were both strange and beautiful. He did not cry this time. He learned this time. After a while, they began to near their house. They reached the driveway. With his hand still holding Mary’s, Paul tripped.
He landed on the ground. He caught himself with his free hands and let go of Mary with the other. Only his palms were hurt. Much to his grief, however, his glasses skittered off of his face and into a drain grate. Crying out, not in pain, but in anguish, Paul leapt forward and pushed his hand between the bars in an attempt to regain his new glasses. He could not reach them.
Gently, Mary pulled him away from the drain grate. First she checked over his hands, lovingly making sure they were okay. Then she held his hands loosely in hers and looked up at his face.
“It’s okay” she said. “I still have all your current prescription information on file. I can order a new pair of glasses for you. Two weeks okay?”
Paul grinned and kissed his wife and his new optometrist.