For about a month I have been sightless.
That is how I feel, but it is an overstatement. My right eye does not see, but my left eye works. It is the combination that is so discombobulating. I can’t clearly make out the edge of the sidewalk, or even the edge of the cup of tea in my hand.
I was sent home after eye surgery, for months of impatient recovery. The instructions were iron-clad. The first week keep your head down. Always, even when you sleep. Don’t take a shower. Eat light. Use eye drops day and night. Don’t lift any weight. Don’t move fast. In short, just sit and vegetate.
I can’t read. I can’t use computers. I can’t watch television. Since I can’t see, I can’t walk or drive. I live alone. The thought occurred: it is an ideal time to go on a fast, for I can’t even buy groceries. Maybe I will finally achieve the slender look I crave but cannot attain.
The bell rang.
My daughter has come, from the other end of the town, skipping office, to help me out. She has brought some strange contraptions: a folding mirror, which can let me watch television with my head down, and a donut-shaped cushion that will let me sleep with my face down.
An hour later the bell rang again.
My neighbor. “We heard of your surgery,” he said. “Here are some caramel poppers I made last night. Do try them. And let me know what you need. Milk, eggs, whatever.”
His wife said, “While I am here, I might as well start you on your eye drops.” She put the two drops in succession, then gently wiped the trickle from my face with a tissue.
Before I could ponder my misery the next morning, the bell rang impatiently yet again.
It was the attorney I had worked with in Honduras. She remains a friend and now lives in a distant suburb. I can barely make out the huge package she is carrying.
“Was told of the mishap,” she says breathlessly, “and decided to bring you seven dinners for the week.” Seven! I peer at the mountain she is struggling to insert in my refrigerator. She has also brought some blueberry-laden dessert and a pot of coffee and milk. So much for my futile ambition to achieve slim stardom.
Two days later, with barely a dent in my culinary wealth, turns up the young couple I befriended months ago, who live half a mile from my home.
“We are going grocery shopping, and thought we would take you with us, in case you need something.”
In the store they wouldn’t let me touch anything. All I had to do was to point, and they would pick up an item and place it in the trolley. On the way back, they stopped at Starbucks and got me the giant-sized macchiato they know I drink.
They seem to do a lot of grocery shopping, for on three successive occasions they have dropped two types of bread and three doses of macchiato.
Thursday. A card from my daughter: “Daddy, I hope you are doing all right. And your eye is getting better. Love you.”
Friday. An anxious call from my friend in Hong Kong: “Take all precaution. Don’t work too hard and exert your eye.”
Saturday morning. I have received ‘composed’ manuscripts from two publishers of my books that are about to be printed. I am mulling dejectedly how to revise those, when another neighbor’s nine-year-old daughter comes around with a plate.
“Mama made pancakes this morning. She thought you might like some.”
Sunday afternoon. It is snowing. The flakes are coming down, slowly, beautifully, covering the ground, the bushes, the trees, even the leaves.
“We passed a Starbucks on the way back. Thought you might like a caramel macchiato.”
It is bitterly cold outside. But my heart is warm.