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I wore an eye patch once

I wore an eye patch once.

I wore an eye patch, per doctor's orders. At one point, when I was 3 or 4, I went through eye surgery. My one eye, you see, is weaker than the other eye, and that required corrective eye-muscle surgery.

And that corrective-eye surgery required an eye patch.

Maybe I wore it a few hours, or a couple days. I don't remember. I'm not sure if I wore it to cover the good eye to strengthen the other, or the corrected eye to aid its healing. The whole time -- or one point, at least -- my 3-or-4-year-old mind imagined me a pirate with a fastened peg leg, and a parrot perched over my right shoulder.

I don't remember that, though, either.

But I wore an eye patch for a few hours or a couple days, and that is what I remember.

At age 3 or 4, I remember my mom talking about my eyes with a friend, or the mother of a friend I had in pre-school. While they talked, my friend and I moved cars across a laminated mat, a sprawling labyrinth of miniature roads in the middle of my living room. I spent hours on hands and knees, managing the traffic of Matchboxes and Hot Wheels and fire engines -- whoa boy, did I ever love fire engines. I'd roll them around, pretending each second was the final leg of the greatest race in the history of civilization.

My parents talk about the time I ripped the whole IV out of my arm. That episode probably happened during the corrective-eye-surgery ordeal. I don't remember ripping out the IV, feeling its sting, or screaming and crying because I felt so scared and uncomfortable. My parents also talk about the tantrums I threw as a child. I'd get myself so worked up, they say, to a point where I threw up.

I don't remember that, either.

I do remember the toy fire engines I used to play with, the plastic fireman's hats I used to wear. The books I collected, and the VHS tapes I watched over and over and over. I loved fire fighting and fire engines. It all used to fascinate me. The big red trucks. Their lights and their whistles. I loved it so much that, to this day, I'll hear the distant squeal of a siren or a big, honking horn, and I'll feel the goosebumps racing up my arms.

I liked the progression. I enjoyed the idea of voracious flames succumbing to these behemoth machines and brave men wearing cool hats. At the end of the day, after I'd wheeled all the emergency vehicles around the sprawling sea of miniature roads and rolled up the mat and threw an ungodly temper tantrum over something irrelevant, the fires would all be extinguished.

I don't remember the first time the fire of reality melted those false notions away. I don't remember the last time I parked all of the Matchboxes and Hot Wheels and folded up the mat and all its roads. I don't recall the first time I thought to tell someone about wearing an eye patch because it's out of the ordinary and makes a good story.

It's a full two decades after I wore the eye patch, and now I wear glasses -- old glasses -- with scratched lenses and flimsy frames, and through those glasses, I see the world unfold around me.

I remember growing up, past 3 or 4, and looking forward to this point in my life. I looked forward to shedding the shackles of school and parental control, to picking a career and a wife and ending up with a few children (however that happens). Now I'm here, looking around through glasses that are scratched and flimsy, and longing for a few hours to spend with Matchboxes and Hot Wheels, to put out imaginary fires and to forget things like IVs and demonic tantrums.

Because now those IVs hurt, those fires are real, and all that time I spent playing with cars and toys, well, it isn't mine any more.

And I remember that, all of it, a lot better than I remember ever wearing an eye patch.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 4th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
Bummer topic, but handled deftly, with an unwavering tone. Nice piece of writing, Tim.
Apr. 4th, 2013 03:53 am (UTC)
Thank you. Writing it was very cathartic. It was a piece that was "in me and (had) to get out," if I can borrow a line I heard in Murphy more than a few times.

(Also, new glasses are on the way)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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