I See the Light

By Harry Stoll

“He’s going to slit my eyeball!” screamed my mind, but the balm of the calm of Eye Guy Dr. Ivan Hwang soothed me. He does his good work at the California Eye Clinic on Sunset Lane in Antioch.

Over the past 10 years ophthalmologists told me I had slowly developing cataracts, so I should have seen it coming. Night driving became a horror movie nightmare with big caverns in the pavement ready to swallow and crunch me and  my Camry. Headlights in the mirror, ahead, and to the side, slashed and stabbed white flashes into my brain. Then came the evil halogens with an intense light so white it was blue.

In Dr. Ivan Hwang’s office I read the chart. “A-GR-C-14” and the next lowest line was “Man-Running Water-Tree-Friendship.” A line of Chinese pictographs. An eye dropper appeared and fingers held my eye still and open. My eye eyed the eye of the demon and I barely blinked a flinch when the drip hit.

Alone I waited. Knowing when my eye was ready, entered Dr, Ivan Hwang and I put my forehead against one curve and my chin against another. He wielded a white light saber. The eyes are the windows of the soul and his brilliantly bright white light saber looked deep into my soul. There was no escape. The eye drops had pulled back the curtain and every deed was recorded and shone brightly on the back of my eyeball.

I talked to several people who had the surgery, and they said, it wasn’t painful and recovery was rapid. So, let’s go. My Gatekeeper M.D. had to sign off and I had to come off my blood thinners a few days in advance.

Early in the morning we were all lined up in the waiting room. I looked for the take-a-number dispenser. A voice called my name, I mumbled me and walked numbly forward.

The engaging anesthesiologist, Dr. Vincent Sansoni, poked a needle into my arm, but he couldn’t get it to draw, which sucked. Bob seemed disappointed in me. But finally I went with the flow and entry was achieved. For some medical reason, he’s called Bob. Bob said, “Everything is going to be alright,” and ooh, it certainly was.

I could talk, be aware of my surroundings and all, but just as the anesthesiologist said, everything was OK. I knew this, but once more realized that people don’t take drugs to ruin their lives, they take drugs because it feels good.

Eye Guy Dr. Ivan Hwang strapped my head in to immobilize it, the way they did Dick Tracy in 1938 when the mad doctor was going to put a cat brain in him. My Eye Guy gave me some local pain killer in the eyeball but I was only aware of something going on there.

Soon, I heard a dental-like whirring, and thought, “That must be the emulsification the brochure talked about.” He was emulsifying my eye’s lens and I didn’t scream. Then more and different noises. I guessed, “Now he’s sucking it out,” and tried to say Eeeeew! But had no desire. More funny noises as he slipped in a plastic lens to replace the scattered shattered one.

Except for what they like to call a “sting” or a “poke,” when they slipped the IV in it was pain free.

Dr. Ivan Hwang (rhymes with gong) had patients lined-up for the surgery. He was calm and never seemed hurried, but wasted no time. He shook my hand, and while I was waiting to be helped off the gurney, I heard him giving the next patient the same pep talk he gave me.

When they took the bandage off the next day, I was getting bright flashes off to my right. All the medical people got that “Hmmm” attitude that I don’t find very comforting. It soon, but not soon enough, went away. “Hmmm,” I said. When they tested my eyes they were very pleased.

A pirate’s eye patch covered my eye at night to protect it and somebody who seemed to be me put in a row of drops, some to do certain things, other to do other things. It was all explained but who can remember?

I keep looking at an object, paintings, the tree across the street, … first with my so-so eye, then with my new-lens eye and delight at the sharp, well-defined edges of the grid over the heating duct and details of each vane.

Dr. Hwang told me to avoid rigorous exercise or heavy lifting for two weeks, so I restricted myself to pouring the wine. In two weeks I drove to the gym (how American to drive someplace to exercise) and resumed my routine amongst the grunting studs and women treadmilling with hair tied in back sweeping rhythmically shoulder-to-shoulder. Just like a little pony.

I passed my test of night driving. The caverns and the stabbings were gone.

This summer I’ll probably have the other eye done by my calm competent Eye Guy.

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