I’ve been wearing drugstore reading glasses for years. Working in low lighting and squinting at computer screens have screwed up my vision. Without them I can’t read. Refusing to pay for prescription lenses I keep buying cheap spectacles at the rate of one per month. Since I’m constantly taking them on and off I’m always breaking them. Drugstore glasses don’t do much for my appearance. They make me look ten years older. Beth, one of our waitresses, is always hounding me to get a real pair. She says my readers make me look dorky.
So, dreading eternal dorkiness, I go to the optometrist. He tells me my eyes are healthy and some vision loss is normal for my age. But I’m shocked when he tells me I need glasses to drive.
“You’re kidding me!” I exclaim.
“No,” the optometrist says. “You failed the vision test for both New York and New Jersey.”
“How long have I been like this?” I ask.
“Probably a while.”
That’s not good. Having bad vision shaves a second off my reaction time. That single second can mean the difference between getting home or crushed under an eighteen wheeler. The optometrist writes me a prescription. I go to the optician next door and try on some frames. I’m smart enough to let the pretty salesgirl pick them out for me. I have no sense of style. I’d probably get something that’d make me look like Mr. Magoo. The girl selects something conservative with a bit of flair. They make me look good. Admiring my reflection in the store window I walk out with a spring in my step. I head straight to work.
To my surprise no one, not even Beth, notices my new glasses. I’m disappointed. My roommate later tells me that’s a good thing – it means the frames are perfect for my face. That may be, but I feel cheated – even angry. I shouldn’t be feeling angry over people not noticing my glasses. What’s up with that?
I finish work and go home. The contract for my book arrived in the mail. I sign all the pages, slip them in a manila envelope, and walk down to the mailbox in front of my house. I note with curiosity that I have no feelings as I push the envelope through the slot. You’d think I was mailing out bills instead of the most important document of my life. I go back in the house, pour myself a stiff drink, and go to bed.
As I sleep I dream about my dog. In my dream Buster’s riding on the back of a German Shepherd. That’s funny. He doesn’t like German Shepherds. Buster’s smiling. He’s having a great time. I notice he’s wearing a pair of glasses. Why’s my dog wearing glasses? Suddenly the German Shepherd comes to a halt. Buster’s thrown to the ground. The Shepherd turns vicious and chases Buster. I move in to help but my legs have turned to lead. People around me are laughing. No one notices. No one tries to help. Buster runs into the street. An eighteen wheeler appears out of nowhere.
“STOP!” I scream. The truck, implacable and uncaring, runs Buster down.
I sit bolt upright in bed, sobbing as I struggle in the twilight between sleep and wakefulness. I frantically look for Buster. He’s sleeping at my feet. He’s fine. I get out of bed and rub the tears out of my eyes. Buster wakes up and looks at me curiously. I walk into the kitchen and come back with a treat. He eats it, yawns, curls himself into a little ball, and falls back asleep. I stare at him for a long time. I look at the clock. It’s four AM. I’m wide awake. I go into the living room and turn on the TV. Time passes. I listen to the traffic on the street below. Trucks and buses thunder past. I let the TV lull me to sleep with garish promises and flickers of empty glory. I don’t think about my dream.
I already know what it means.