(This is Part 2 of a 2-part story. Part 1 is here.)
The day of the procedure, you have to have someone there to drive you home, either because your eyesight’s not at 100% until your corneas can heal over (which takes a few days), or because they give you Valium to mellow you out for your time in the chair, or I guess possibly because, you know, they’ve blinded you. So Kendra went with me. It was mid-afternoon, and several other people were also there, sitting around in the big, executive-looking waiting room, either to have their own eyes blasted or to drive their groggy loved ones home. We checked in, then strolled casually to some comfy chairs, each of us selecting a magazine to peruse while we waited.
During our previous visit here for the initial consultation, they had led us into a maze directly behind the waiting room, a kind of hodge-podge of doctor’s examining rooms and tiny negotiating rooms like they sometimes have at car dealerships. But today, when my time came, a young woman took me to a completely different part of the complex. This place was in a storefront-type building in a strip mall, so the entire front was a wide tinted glass wall that faced the parking lot. She led me down what was more or less a long hallway, the wall of windows immediately on my right. So they could regulate the temperature along that wall, the windows were covered floor to ceiling with copper-colored metal shades.
Where the hallway ended, we turned left and passed a couple of restrooms. She took me into a large, dark room where there were three or four permanently reclined chairs, the kind you lie in at the dentist. She directed me to a chair, then brought me a couple of Valiums and some water in a tiny Dixie cup, the same kind you’d use in the bathroom to swish after brushing when you were a kid. She said I’d need to wait for it to kick in, checked her watch, and promised she’d come back to get me in a few minutes. She left, and I lay back and closed my eyes.
I drifted there for several minutes, ruminating lazily about all those tiny details I’d be able to make out now, things I might have been missing before, and gradually it also dawned on me that my bladder was approaching its full holding capacity. You know what it’s like when you’re lying in bed and you realize you need to go; once you’ve had just that initial thought, you’re past the point of no return. When the girl returned a few minutes later, I sat up and asked her if I could use the restroom before we went back. She looked…concerned. “Uh, number one or number two?”
I chuckled. “One.”
Still she looked perplexed. “Do you think you could hold it until after?”
I chuckled again. “Not bloody likely.”
She furrowed her brow, contemplating. “Okay. Do you remember where it was? We passed it coming in.”
“Sure,” I said, dropping my feet to the floor, which seemed much spongier now than when we came in.
She lunged at me and slipped her arm under my armpit. “Whoa. A little wobbly. Do you need me to get you some help?”
I played it cool. “I’m fline. Smeally.” Outwardly, I was being polite, but inside I was thinking, Seriously? I’ve been going to the bathroom myself now for like, what? Three hundred years? And also, Wow. Her face is kind of melty.
In spite of my stubbornness, she insisted on helping me back out into the hall. As soon as I saw the men’s room there at the corner, I knew I’d be fine. I walked towards the door. And overshot. Badly. Although I managed to get my hand up to keep myself from falling—at first, anyway—in so doing I grabbed a handful of metal blinds. I then promptly raked down them as I crumpled to my knees there at the windows. And this in full sight of all the terrified people down the hallway in the waiting room.
Try to imagine the sound of dragging your hand ceiling to floor across metal blinds pressed against glass in a long hallway. This sound was not unlike that. You’d probably imagine this to be a very loud, very dramatic kind of noise. And you’d be right. Every face cranked towards me, wrenched in horror. I can only imagine their thoughts, What in the world’s going on back there?!?
The girl helped me up and wrangled me into the men’s room. “Are you sure you’re going to be all right? I can get somebody, a guy, to come help you.”
“Scromningulaind,” I assured her, waving her off dismissively. “Nit’s vend.”
She slipped out and closed the door, I think unconvinced. I placed a hand on the wall and conducted my business. In my memory, I had perfect aim, successfully navigated and with no undue overspray. Of course, for all I know, it was into a trash can or a sink or a drain in the floor or against the wall. But I’m sure it was fine. I finished up, I think put everything away and closed up, washed what I’m pretty sure were my hands, and staggered back out into the hall.
She was waiting there for me and helped me into another dark room, where I lay into yet another dentist chair. A doctor I couldn’t see gave me some instructions, which I obediently followed. Honestly, at that point, they could have handed me a gun, Jason-Bourne-style, and told me to shoot a hooded guy in the corner and I would absolutely have done it. (For all I know, they did.)
The actual procedure was kind of a blur, dark, with lots of popping noises and weird lights. The only part I remember vividly is that when they fired the laser into my eye, it looked like my eyeball filled with gray ashes—from the inside. That was the only moment I was frightened about losing my eyesight. But I was also very drowsy, so the feeling passed quickly.
I don’t remember leaving that day. I don’t remember whatever instructions they gave to me. What I do remember was awakening the next morning in my own bed, rolling over, and seeing my alarm clock—clearly—for perhaps the first time in my life. I cried a little. It was the best money I ever spent on myself.
Have you ever been high in public? What happened? Were authorities involved? When you write “gray,” do you spell it with an “a” or with an “e”? (I anguished over that decision today.)