Monday, March 16, 2009

New eyes

Got some new spectacles today. They even have little lions etched into the sides of them. :-) I tried to take a picture of that, but they looked more like creepy skeleton heads than cool lions, so I opted not to share!

When I put them on, I remembered putting on my first pair of glasses when I was seven. I didn't know what I hadn't been seeing until that first pair went on and leaves and blades of grass and clouds with shapes appeared. I'm a 34-year veteran of glasses now. I began wearing contact lenses in eighth grade. I had to wear the hard ones because of my astigmatism. Many painful panicked moments occurred when I popped them out of my eyes only to have them bounce and land somewhere on the carpet. When gas permeable lenses became available for astigmatism, I thought nothing could be any better! But then, sigh, Toric lenses became available, and I have worn those for the past ten years or so.

Since my eyewear runs upwards of $800-$1000 if I buy both glasses and contacts, I put off the optometrist's visit as long as possible. I always wore contacts primarily, so I skimped on the glasses as much as I could. Alas, as I inch above forty years old, my eyes are no longer terribly excited to be on the computer ten hours a day in contact lenses. I'm not seeing as well, and every once in awhile things are cloudy. So, I went to the optometrist a few weeks ago. I bought both glasses and (omg!) disposable contact lenses. Apparently, they now make disposable lenses for people who can't see! Those aren't in yet, but my eyeglasses arrived today. (Never can I be the "we'll have your lenses ready in a hour girl!") This time, I didn't skimp on them. I got the frames I wanted. I paid the price of a small computer for the fabulously-super-light-weight plastic. I got the UV coating. The scotch guard. The anti-glare. The everything.

You get what you pay for --- at least with glasses. I put them on and they didn't feel like I was wearing anything. Now, those of you who don't wear glasses, or who have a reasonable prescription, may not know how awful it is to wear glasses all the time that are falling down your nose, affecting your peripheral vision, pinching the back of your ears and fogging up all the time. It's awful. These were not awful. These were amazing. I drove home with them on (in the middle of the day, in Arizona) -- no glare, no sun issues, no reflection. I haven't taken them off yet. Oh yeah -- and I actually see better!

Which brings me to the more serious part of the blog ...

Keith and I went to Tucson this past weekend for the Tucson Festival of Books. I gave a presentation and held a mini Q&A session. The festival was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed chatting with people about writing.

But Tucson itself has a sticky hold on me. I went to college at the University of Arizona, which was the site of the festival. I lived there in the three years immediately following my dad's death. I wanted Tucson to be everything, but it wasn't. I wanted Tucson to make it so dad hadn't died, but it couldn't. I wanted Tucson to allow me to slip out of my old life and make a completely new one, but it didn't.

Each time I return to Tucson, I wander around looking for myself. I feel like I've left parts of myself there. This trip was no different. Being back on the U of A campus again brought back the orange blossom smells of grief. Much of the campus looks completely different from the way it looked in 1987. But the old stalwart Modern Languages Building, where I spent the majority of my time, looks the same. Even the bathrooms have the same yellow and brown tiny tile from the 1960s. The signage in the breezeway is still the same white stick on letters style. The shadows that dance inside the breezeway still recognized me.

We snuck around the building, reading bulletin boards and looking up familiar names of professors. A few still remained. (I corrected an apostrophe error on a sign on the door of the chair of the graduate school -- I couldn't help myself. The English department! Sigh.) We walked up and down the mall. One of the workshops I attended was in the old chemistry building. Not much changed in there either. (Except the chemistry department had a nice new state of the art hermetically sealed bar code entry only building next door to the vintage chemistry building, whereas the modern languages building had ... just the modern languages building.)

I thought about how much was on campus then that has vanished entirely. The clock tower. Gentle Ben's. Space to walk around in. And then I thought about why I could never find the parts of myself that I left in Tucson whenever I visited. And then... new eyes.

I moved to Tucson with only part of myself. I had nothing of myself to leave here. When I lived in Tucson, I was the ghost. I didn't fracture in Tucson. I arrived fractured. Now, when I visit, I can't pick up the part of me that's been wandering the streets because only a spectre walked them. She has to keep walking the streets because that's what ghosts do. I can't pick her back up and bring her to Prescott with me. I can't even do more than almost touch her as I walk down 4th Avenue. I feel her, and I see her, but she lives there. Maybe not for always. I don't know. But for now, all I can do is honor her -- the little nineteen year old girl-shell who came to Tucson with no skin. The little nineteen year old girl-shell who had enough of something to start everything over. Who had enough grief to channel into rage which became at last motion and now stillness. The little nineteen year old girl-shell who showed me that there is nothing I can not survive. Nothing.


JDN said...

I get your blog because you used the word "barcode" and I I'm in that business and blog on that topic. Just want to express my appreciation of how you express yourself...stuff like "girl shell" and your by-line "...awake...dedicated to knowing and not knowing" The transparency and honesty is refreshing to the point of breath-taking. Thank you.

Laraine Herring said...

wow, thank you so much. The wonders of Google Alert! :-)

Be well,

msb said...

now those are happy dance glasses. O lordy, can I relate.. to glasses/contacts. 48 years for me.

Tayray* said...

Hey Laraine,
Nice blog.
I believe this is your best of the most recent ones (they're all fantastic, however.)
I love your new glasses and maybe I could see them in person sometime before the week passes?
Love to you and the cats.