Rose-Colored, Looking In

My niece Lucy got glasses to better see the blackboard. I remember the moment so clearly, I remember walking out of the dark doctor’s room and looking out the window and being *slammed* with the visual articulation of every leaf on every tree. It was epiphantic, like getting ESP after years of hearing muffled voices.

But I think my brother is understandably troubled. We have a stack of average-to-bad traits we’re passing down to our kids and any time we dodge a bullet it feels like a miracle. Every time we saddle our kids with a bit of genetic baggage it feels like we’ve failed them.

I wish I could help my brother understand what glasses are to me. The same time I got my first pair (probably three years too late for it to have any impact on my abilities as a student) I began this relationship with the world *outside* my glasses. There was a world that existed on the far side of the lenses and a world that existed on this side – my world.

I would sit in class and look down at my hand holding a pencil. Then I would slip my glasses off and look down at my hand, the skin and baby hairs standing out, the paper and desk out of focus. And I realized that those lenses brought everything into focus, but also made everything smaller and further away. And on that side of the glasses, I was failing – I hadn’t copied the homework, hadn’t finished my test, was daydreaming… But on this side, because I was blind to those expectations, my daydreams were all that mattered.

I went years without any stage fright, without even understanding what my fellow actors were talking about when they said they were nervous. Because when I was on stage, without my glasses, I could see roughly where the other actors were and not a single face of the people in the audience. And when I could get close, when I could look in another actor’s face, then even the scenery disappeared. They were in my world.

And now there are only two times I take my glasses off. Every night before I get in bed, the very last thing I do is slip them off and set them on the nightstand before I wrap myself around my wife. She’s the only person who sees me without them on, she’s the only one who’s face I see clearly, but without being stretched and distorted away from me.

Or rather, she’s almost the only one – because my close vision has started to go too. I don’t need reading glasses yet, but I can’t see things up close with my glasses on. So now, when my little girl sits on my lap and puts her face right up to mine to tell me something, I slip my glasses up on my head. Or when my son is sad and wants to bury his head in my neck, I slip my glasses off and set them to the side so when he looks up at me I don’t have to lean back to see him.

I have always had this world that I was happily inside of, a place where I couldn’t see well enough to compare my clothes or catch a ball or even see the assignments on the blackboard. It was for me, it was a source of my real self. And I didn’t mean for it to happen, but now the three people who put their faces next to my face are the three people who live there with me. When I’m on stage and when I’m with them, it’s the only time I take the glasses off and I can be my real self.

I’m not a big believer in making the best of stuff, I’m not a big believer that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or something good can come of something bad. But I know what my glasses have always meant to me, I know why I didn’t get Lasik when the rest of my family did. I have an easy, secret place where I’m not *blind*, but where the lines are a little softer, where the colors blend in to one another, where I can be true to myself. And if I know Lucy, I’m sure she has it too.