Sunday, January 30, 2011


When we were living in our first apartment (a second story walk-up bordered on the north by the junior college campus and on the south by twin seedy apartment complexes), Will experienced a brief moment of clarity.

Let me explain.

Will has poor vision, which is putting it kindly. He's worn glasses as long as he can remember, a fact borne out by childhood photos, where he's a happy, tow-headed, four-eyed kid. Contacts don't work for him; ditto, Lasix. He's something of a celebrity when he visits his optometrist. Once I overheard the receptionist whisper to another: "You see that one? He's a negative twelve." She caught my glare and hushed up immediately. Please, there's nothing wrong with his hearing -- or mine, either.

Anyway, this isn't a sob story. Will wears expensive glasses in even more expensive frames, and never thinks about it. He drives, he writes, he makes a fabulous stromboli, he rereads Mario Puzo novels. He's used to his few moments of blindness each day - fumbling for his glasses on the nightstand, reaching for the shampoo in the shower. With his glasses on, we're nearly ocular equals. I only get to show off my perfect vision when I spot road signs miles in advance.

But on one otherwise inauspicious day, Will had his moment of clarity.

He was standing at the bathroom sink in our apartment, his glasses on the vanity. If he had looked out the window over the sink -- if he had been able to see out the window, that is -- he wouldn't have been greeted by a pretty sight. Our bathroom overlooked the corrugated roof of our carport, a huge dumpster that attracted rats, flies and the occasional diver, and the canal where once, after a cerveza-feuled Cinco de Mayo celebration, a dinky Geo Metro missed the turn, crashed through the railing and dangled crazily over the water. All of this was watched over by a massive, seldom-updated billboard which for years boasted 59 cent cheeseburgers on Wednesday. The golden arches were our very own version of Doctor T. J. Eckelburg (fittingly, an oculist).

In other words, Will wasn't missing much.

And then it happened - a chest-wracking, body-shaking cough that rattled him so deeply that for the briefest of moments, he could see clearly. 20/20 vision, without his glasses.

"Wow," I said, when he told me the story, a towel wrapped around his waist, his reapplied glasses fogged. "So, what did you see?"

He had looked out over the canal and spotted the row of delivery trucks for a linen service; he could read every single word detailed on their trucks. As proof, he repeated the company tag line to me.

"Huh," I said, impressed and depressed at the same time. I'd once coughed so hard that I literally saw stars, but this was a new one. In a way, I felt sorry for him. A single moment of clarity, and this was what he saw?

When we talk about it now, we have different theories.

Maybe there hadn't really been clarity -- maybe it was just his memory filling in the blanks. After all, with his glasses on, he'd probably seen those trucks a few hundred times.

"Or it was a mini-stroke," Will suggested.

"Or a mini-stroke," I agreed.

Either way, we both shy away from the word miracle, which today means the moldy figure of Elvis or Mary on a tortilla. But "mini-stroke" seems unlikely and too cold, the clinical explanation of a medical textbook. I like to think of it instead as Will's one moment of clarity.


  1. Ok. So I have a theory. Will coughed SO hard that his eyeballs actually changed shape in his head, over compensating for whatever, and.... presto. He could see.
    Also possible, he coughed so hard that he had such a teary mass of ... tears, that the light was massively refracted before hitting his malformed (not that there's anything WRONG with that) natural lenses, and presto... he could see.
    I'll try to work up some more possibilities.