It isn’t any one thing. It’s a bunch of things.
They do amazing things with prescription lenses. You have portions that you look through to read a book. Portions to see the computer. Portions to identify the hawk in the distance. Little sidecars up top for your mind’s eye. A fold-out bit for examining your conscience (optional for Republicans). Used to be your eyeballs did all that by themselves, but now that they’ve let themselves go, your glasses have had to step up.
And they’re still not enough. I have trifocals and still can’t read sheet music from the piano bench. So I got special piano glasses. And they never worked. I could see the top staff but not the middle one. I could see the bottom line if I held my glasses out a half-inch, which isn’t practical. I thought about wedging a tampon on the bridge of my nose. Theoretically I could just yank on the string when I got back up to the top line and reinsert the tampon on a held note.
And then my regular glasses came up short. I found myself peering over the top to read and having to take a step back from friendly people to get them in focus. My prescription was only a year old, so I just put all this down to old eyeballs. I figure parts of my eyeballs were petrifying and other parts were going slack like the skin on my inner thighs. Maybe my eyeballs had gone squishy too. Didn’t have enough structural integrity to hold a pose, and the lenses went rigid just to try to restore order. Throw in some elaborate floaters and it’s like seeing the world through soup. Also, the last time I was at the optometrist’s, he said I had a little cataract but there was no plan to discipline it until it was a teenager.
What the hell. I went in again, and this time I also measured the distance between my eyeballs and the sheet music. “Twenty-one inches,” I told my new doctor, and she made a note of it, and didn’t just assume some standard middle distance like the old doc probably did. I didn’t hold out much hope.
But I will be damned. I can see the music now. I can see GRACE NOTES! Grace notes are teeny tiny notes that the composer puts in out of a general lack of commitment to the real notes. They’re like the real notes’ pets. Now I can see their little noses and tails.
The optician placed my new trifocals on my face and asked how the distance was. I looked out the window at the newly crystalline West Hills and gave him a big thumbs-up. Then I read the teeny tiny print on his card. Then, because I had no idea how my glasses looked on me because I couldn’t see myself when I tried the frames on, I turned to the mirror EEK EEK a foot away EEEK. I still don’t know how they look. All I saw was my actual face EEK the way it apparently has been for a while. It was clear as hell. There was a dried-up mudflat cracking into plates, strands of gravel, a network of arroyos and drifts of rabbit-brush and prickly pear, lizards sunning themselves, tortoises lumbering through dry canyons. Pulled myself away just before the Lunar Rover hove into view.
“I see fine,” I told the optician. “They work way better than the old ones.”
I’m not saying that’s a good thing.