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An eye for a lazy eye

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By Sam Smith

We lazy-eyed people have it rough.
We’re depicted in cartoons as insane or ignorant.
On dates, we’re worried that an inopportune misalignment of our eyes will be a turnoff. “I’m excited to see Gravity in 3-D,” you say on a first date, as one of your eyes drifts toward the salad bar. “I hear it has great visuals.”
It is somewhat difficult to convey being fully present when you’re worried that you appear inebriated.
On interviews, you want to at least appear — if not be — in control.
“I consider myself a very punctual person,” you say to a potential employer on a second interview, as one of your eyelids struggles to catch up with a blink.
Self-esteem suffers.
More than once, I considered being a pirate for Halloween to wear an eye patch — just to be at a party without worrying about establishing steady eye contact.
In many cases, vision also weakens over time. The ability to perform otherwise simple tasks – driving, taking a self-portrait, keeping sideburns even – becomes very challenging. It’s not as fun as it looks in the cartoons. Failing a vision test does not feel good. Being told you have to wear glasses – and consider surgery — in order to legally drive is not an ego boost.
I have 20/70 vision. This means what I can see 20 feet away, the average person can see 70 feet away.
My left eye can’t quite look to the left either, causing a constant strain on my right eye. Four percent of the nation has some form of lazy eye. This includes Paris Hilton.
Between the astigmatism and amblyopia, my eyes are my worst enemy. This is quite a conflict for someone who reads, writes and edits for a living.
Until recently, I was unable to get glasses. They’re expensive without very good healthcare. In a way, I was also unwilling. Those who have a near-phobic fear of surgery will go years without treatment, and those with a history of being cripplingly insecure will avoid change as long as possible.
I discovered an increase in vision impairment and a decrease in the boss’ patience with having an underwhelming assistant are powerful motivators.
I went to Jacksboro’s Associates in Eye Care earlier this month. The proper combination of lenses allowed me to finally see and read each row of letters on the opposite wall. Great internal struggle ensued when I had to decide which glasses to order. This was a huge decision, not some random spree for an accessory. I wanted the perfect eye glasses.
With the help and spirit of Jenna Summers, I was able to decide on brown Timberlands that are freakishly comfortable. Once the appointment was over, I stumbled around for the remainder of the day with dilated pupils, looking like a feral cat and looking forward to fixing my eyesight.
At the start of this week, I picked up my glasses. They fit perfectly. Driven back to work, I was lightheaded from the sharpness of everything.
The road isn’t one but hundreds of shades of gray and black, fused together by speckled layers of asphalt. There were wintered colors on branches I never noticed. Trees looked fuller and healthier. Grass looked greener on this side.
Traffic lights burned with a distinct circularity. The clouds were much less abstract than minutes ago. The sky was a beautiful blue after days of snow-heavy white.
I was quietly giddy with the sudden clarity of everything. I was never so happy to be able to see every word and image around me.
I never noticed the Hardee’s star has eyebrows. For the first time in memory, I could see from Jacksboro Pike what was playing at the Carmike Movies 2 (Jack Ryan and The Nut Job). Everything that had been barely legible was now apparent. It was like I had been bitten by the same radioactive spider that turned Peter Parker into Spider-Man.
A few days’ worth of spatial distortion and nausea from sensory overload are nothing compared to increasingly worse eyesight. Those were indeed the dark ages, a time I can recall to my adopted kids when they were just a twinkle in their father’s lazy eye.
I have a consultation for surgery the week of Valentine’s Day to see what can be done about my wily left eye. Until then, I’ll be admiring the view – and during those moments I get a little cross-eyed, I’ll have twice as many views to admire.

Sam Smith is the editorial assistant for the LaFollette Press. Contact him at ssmith@lafollettepress.com.