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Reality by Rothko

You know that moment in the old movies when they take the bandage off the patient’s eye? He blinks once, twice and as his vision resolves, he sees the beautiful nurse smiling at him.

That’s not how it happened for me.

As the medical resident took the bandages off me, I saw nothing but a yellow cloud. She covered my good eye, and asked me to tell her how many fingers she was holding up. I saw nothing, not even her hand.

The main feature of the surgery I had midday on Tuesday was the removal of the vitreous humor from my right eye. That’s the clear jelly that your eyes are filled with. That jelly had turned fibrous in my eyes and was acting as a trellis for blood vessels to grow on. So the surgeon removed the vitreous, the bad blood vessels, the scar tissue and refilled the eye with saline.

So far, so good. But there’s a lot of blood, tissue and crap in the eye, and that’s all mixed with the saline, resulting in a fluid much like muddy water.

Muddy water settles, but it takes a while. I used to carry a small vial of water and sand – the centerpiece from an art piece I installed my junior year – from apartment to apartment early in my life. Each time I packed my things, the water would turn dark and muddy. I’d put it in a place of pride in the new apartment and wait for it to settle. One day, I’d glance at it and it would be clear water and sand again.

And that’s what’s happening right now in my right eye. One day away from the surgery, the world through my right eye looked like a Mark Rothko painting. Yesterday, I’d made it as far as later Monet. Today, the world through my right eye looks like a 1950s Playboy shoot, the kind with heavy vaseline on the lens.

I’d figured that the challenge of healing would be forcing myself not to be dumb, not to race right back into reading and writing email. Truth be told, it simply hasn’t been possible. I can’t read at all without closing my right eye, and that’s painful to do more than a few minutes at a time.

And so… I’ve spent the last three days watching the first season of The Wire, and playing Grand Theft Auto. (Not the new one – I never finished San Andreas.) All of which seems to be helping, though I feel like an absolute and total slug. Aside from not using my eyes, my doctor has ordered me not to work out or even go for a walk at least for the first week of recovery. Turns out I’m very, very bad at sitting still.

The good news, however, is that the surgery was a complete success. I’m just looking forward to some moment in the future where I’ll actually be able to see those results. And I’m beginning to get my head around the idea that it might be another week before that happens.

12 thoughts on “Reality by Rothko”

  1. Did they have Playboy in the ’50s. My childhood memory is that it appears circa 1960. . .

  2. I’m glad to hear the surgery went well! (I kind of feel like leaving a comment is providing bad encouragement to be online, but oh, well.) Best wishes for healing fast!

  3. Ethan — get better soon! Maybe we should all read to you so you can just listen and rest your eye, and let the ears do the work for a change…

  4. So glad things are progressing well. (I’d comment about staying offline so your eyes can recover, but I so lived in that glass house last year!) Keep on keeping on.

  5. It’s good to see you healing, and I’m glad you’re not having to do that looking at the floor for 2 weeks business, which sounded dismal. The offer to read to you via podcast still stands.

  6. The Wire is a great way to pass the time.

    I started Season 1 and for the following 3 weeks, I spent every waking spare moment going through the rest of the other 4 seasons.

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