Author’s Note: “After a retinal tear took me dangerously close to blindness in my right eye, I was instructed to see an ophthalmologist twice a year to ensure the surgical repair that saved my sight was still working. A fair amount of anxiety accompanies each visit. Will everything be ok, will I still be able to write, paint, teach – in other words, do all the things I love? I wrote this essay after one of these visits, when I fantasized a bit about the doctor and how he might approach a story if he were a writer.”
SHE SAYS LEAN FORWARD, and I do what I’m told.
“Stare at the orange light. Don’t look for the flashes, or I’ll have to start the test all over again.”
It’s not easy to keep my eyes fixed, but I follow her instructions and glue my gaze to the small circle in the middle of the screen. I don’t want to do this twice.
Pinpoints of light flash randomly, some larger, some brighter, others fainter and more peripheral, like distant stars. I travel through the galaxies twice a year, always a little nervous about the trip.
Ten years ago, I was reading a book and noticed something was off. I covered my eyes, one then the other, and found the vision in my right eye made the letters bulge and beat like little hearts. A hole in the back of the eye was sucking the words through.
A frightening surgery corrected the retinal tear and prevented blindness. Now I can see well with both eyes. But whenever I look out of my right eye alone, like she’s asking me to do now, I’m reminded of the defect.
“Doctor will be with you shortly.” It’s always good to hear the test is over.
I like Dr. Levine. He wears his inner child on the outside. Intensely curious, probably gifted, ageless. He bounces into a room like the words I try to read when I close my left eye.
“So, what’s new?” he asks. Always the same question. This time, I think, I’ll tell him.
“I’ve been writing.”
Levine looks up from his notes and stares at me as though he’d found an anomaly in the imaging.
“I’ve always wanted to write fiction,” he says, pulling the phoropter toward me. “Chin in the cup, forehead against the bar.”
“Why don’t you try it?”
No answer. He just asks me to lean closer and starts flipping lenses. We’re close enough now to play pass the apple. Too close and too quiet. His silence and intensity remind me that all could turn to shit in an instant.
I distract myself wondering how he’d tackle the act of writing. Oh, yeah, I can see him doing it. Commandeering the visual field tester, taking the sum of all those eyeballs and floating into their spidery redness like an astronaut. Entering the unknown confidently and as quickly as the door slam of anesthesia. He would be lyrical and bold.
I stare into the hot light, one eye then the next. What will he find this time? I feel my muscles stiffen. He swings the phoropter away. He knows something I don’t. What will he do with it? Write a story? Will it have a happy ending?
He takes an overly long pause⎯already a writer, I think, deftly employing suspense to intensify the moment⎯before sharing the news.
Michele Rappoport is a writer and artist who divides her time between Arizona and a hill on the western slope in Colorado. Her writing and artwork have been published or are forthcoming in Delmarva Review, High Desert Journal, Right Hand Pointing and The Centifictionist. Michele also holds a certification in small animal massage and teaches basic calming techniques to volunteers at animal shelters.
Delmarva Review is a national literary journal with strong regional roots. It publishes compelling new creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction selected from thousands of submissions annually. As a result, the authors may be well established, or they may be students seeking discovery with their first significant publication. The Review is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit publication supported by individual contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. It is sold in paperback and electronic editions at Amazon.com and other online booksellers and at specialty regional bookstores. See the website for information: DelmarvaReview.org.