One of my favorite movies is the Shawshank Redemption, and possibly one of the most lasting pair of characters, for me, is Brooks and Red. Both toiled for years in prison, yearning to be free; remembering what it was like when they were young and carefree, and praying–secretly praying–to go “home” again. To be those younger carefree men they were, before they fucked up and went to prison.
The day came for them both–first Brooks, then Red; both stayed in the same room in the same halfway house, working the same job in the same grocery store; suddenly overwhelmed by their limited freedom, their work responsibilities, the disorienting spectre of new cars, fast-stepping people, the world moving on and speeding up without them.
If you’ve watched the movie, you know how Brooks responded to all of the new and scary input–he hung himself in that room; before carving “Brooks was here” on the beam he hung himself on. It would be the same room Red would move to later, the same beam he would write “so was Red” later.
But Red would not hang himself. No; instead he defeated his fear of this fast moving world, and made an escape.
I’ve been seeing myself as Red again lately; this time, because of my vision.
For more than 20 years, I have been partially blind in one eye from Multiple Sclerosis. I was completely blind in that eye for a while but slowly regained limited vision in the periphery; I could have that vision correct to finger counting in the far right peripheral area, and some movement on the bottom. The rest was a glare in the sunlight and a dark patch when indoors.
Still, I dreamt in panoramic vision.
I also dreamed what it would be like to have both my eyes back…or even just a little extra. Anything, just a little. Oh, how wonderful it would be, to see the world with a larger view, and not just the world with my left eye!
A few months ago, the impossible happened. I got some vision back. After more than 20 years, I got somewhere between 5-10% of my vision back.
The doctor is as a loss as to how this is, as my optic nerve is atrophied. However, I can now see things like the lines of my trifocals on some days. (I need trifocals for my left eye, and to keep things even they use the same prescription for my right eye.) No longer do I just see “something” to my right–I can tell if it is a person, or a car. I can actually close my left eye and walk around an unfamiliar room without hitting furniture (but I won’t consider trying to head down stairs that way.)
Finally. More vision.
But…it’s overwhelming sometimes. I refer to them as “high vision days,” when I see more panoramic than normal, as my brain starts making sense of the newer, added input. Some days I don’t see a haze at all on my right side, a faded area where my brain puts nothing but faint grey–some days, I see full, explosive, full-color, holy-shit-am-I-seeing_EVERYTHING panoramic everything.
And it scares the living shit out of me.
The world comes at me faster on those days, faster than I can process it–so like Red asking his grocery store supervisor “piss break, boss?” and running to the Men’s room for some quiet, I close my right eye to see the world in the way I’m used to–with one left eye. This is how I might read on that day, or crochet, or walk down the hallway. This is how I am typing this post. Closing my right is is like Red’s piss break.
But to paraphrase Red, I gotta get busy seeing, or get busy dying, so once I calm down a bit, I open my right eye again and try to adjust to a bigger, more colorful, faster world.
Maybe one day I’ll get to my eyes’ version of Mexico: instead of Andy Dufresne waiting with a boat on the shore, maybe I’ll be able to peer through a telescope with my right eye. Or hell, rub my left eye and not worrying about being temporarily blind while I do it. In the mean time, I’ll take those “piss breaks” when I need them, close my right eye, and focus…or maybe, just maybe, close my left eye..and try to focus.
Gotta get busy seeing.