On a creative writing course that I describe here, we were asked to write about a precious object, a talisman. Some people chose jewellery – one had a wonderful wedding ring, full of mystery, that she’d bought (they’d bought) on eBay! But my Talisman is my glasses.
I have worn glasses since I was 16. At first I tried to avoid them, shamefacedly extracting them from my bag to check the bus number as it approached the stop. Later I had to put them on more, and now almost all the time. Instinctively, I usually remove them when eating. And also since getting an electric toothbrush, as I spatter them with Colgate, and I’m not the sort of person who can ever lay their hands on any of that special lens cleaner that organised spectacleers have.
Without my glasses my world would be less and yet over the years I have made my glasses less too. My statement style shouted “Here I Am!” in the 1980s: I had stripy frames and bright pink frames and lenses like the dog with waterwheel eyes in the Hans Anderson fairy tale. But now they’re inconspicuous. I don’t want to feel them on my nose ridging the skin red and sore; I don’t want them hiding my eye colour, my lashes (which due to the side effects of some medication are growing! Bat, flutter, bat flutter – a bit grotesque but funny too.) I want my expression to be visible. No dissimulation nowadays, no false confidence. What YOU see is what you get.My all singing, all dancing varifocal’d shatter proof surface protected lightweight tinted lenses darken in the sun, which is when my expression does become impenetrable. A school child told me my dark glasses make me look like a detective and I like that, for they do enable me to see what’s afoot. Add a trench coat and a pipe and I’d be set to go.
In our house we don’t shout goodbye when we leave for work or study in the morning. Instead the last I hear from my “children” (they are so grown-up and so much taller than I am) is: “Your glasses are on the piano / your glasses are in the bathroom,” or simply: “Fruit bowl!” If they don’t call I am lost, for without my glasses on I cannot find my glasses. Now, oddly, I can find no photos of me wearing them with which to illustrate this post. Perhaps I’m as vain as this peacock.
Two years ago I was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes at exactly the same age as my mother before me. She went blind. Treatments have moved on and I shall probably not go blind (although at the rate my eyelashes are going they may soon screen the world) but it was a sign of ageing, a pointer to depression and suddenly I became aware of how sight based my day is. I wake and look around the messy room in dismay; I read a book; I browse my bloody phone; I read my emails; I wander to the shops (or drive); inspect the garden, and if the gods of fate are on my side I write some prose using a screen. How without sight will I find new ways to see?