As I drove to the optometry appointment I envisioned (get it?) new glasses. Itâ€™s been years since Iâ€™d had an eye exam and the old glasses were pretty useless, held together on one side by a safety pin.
Time for new lenses, maybe some cool, oversized tortoise shell frames to affect that bookish but sexy look. Iâ€™d probably have to pay a bit more, only the ugly glasses are covered by insurance, but hell Iâ€™m worth it. When I stand up to read my great work, brilliant poetry, essays or stories in front of an audience and slip on the wonderous new glasses, an audible, admirable sigh will go through the crowd. They will be in the palm of my hand before I even open my mouth. These days, due to COVID-19, I donâ€™t get out a lot, so the optometry appointment looked to be the high point of my day. Too bad I was running a bit late.
Suddenly, orange traffic cones blocked the road and I had to take the alternate route, the long and crowded way. Now I would need to negotiate busy traffic, to think, to reason, be extra cautious when changing lanes, checking the rearview mirror, anticipating the upcoming left turn, lest I find myself involved in a collision where someone might spew angry words my way and I back at them. Soon the whole thing would become political and lead to physical violence captured on cell phones, as I fought off being pummeled by the My Pillow the other driver had grabbed from his truck bed to use as a weapon against me. Onlookers would take up sides, â€śHe rear-ended her on purpose because she was going too slow, and he was in a hurry.â€ť I heard him yell out, â€śMove it Boomer, stop singing along to Neil Young and drive!â€ť
Another witness would report, â€śNo, I saw the whole thing. At the last minute she swerved over into his lane, almost as if she wanted to be hit by him, just because he was wearing camouflage and flying an American flag.â€ť
Rioting would break out, there, on Ventura Boulevard. Maybe Iâ€™d get shot, just a flesh wound, of course, and appear on the nightly news recounting my harrowing experience of being unjustly accused by the other driver of being stoned just because I had a Topanga license plate holder. Through tears Iâ€™d look directly into the camera and plead, â€śWhy canâ€™t we all just get along?â€ť Elusive fame would finally be mine!
Did I mention I donâ€™t get out much?
I pull unscathed and unfamous into the crowded Kaiser lot and finally find a parking spot. I walk as fast as I can but arrive at optometry fifteen minutes too late. I have to reschedule for another time. So much for the high point of my day. All thatâ€™s left is a stop at Target and Trader Joeâ€™s and I donâ€™t have high expectations for either. I walked back to my car dulled and unenthused about life. I passed elderly people with canes limping along, and in wheelchairs, some appearing dazed, asleep, or already beyond the pale.
How much longer have I got? A dear, good friend has just suddenly died. I lapse into a funk. Why go on? Does anything mean anything? It was as if the wonder of living had just drained out, right there mingling with the dirty oil spots on the parking lot pavement. Yet the wonder was there, still right there and I almost missed it.
Oil spots, if you look closely, when the light hits them they reveal beautiful opalescent rainbow colors. For some reason, just as I inserted the keys in the ignition, I glanced up to see some reflection of the sun, creating a mirror like glare on a third story window of one of the hospital buildings, the maternity ward.
The light blazes, high and holy and shines, as if to say, â€śJust look up silly lady, here is your real appointment. You didnâ€™t miss it. You want to see clearly? Glasses wonâ€™t help you. Youâ€™ve just lost heart. But donâ€™t worry, itâ€™s safe. Hereâ€™s your wonder!â€ť
I donâ€™t start the car but instead just sit still and smile like a fool as I realize it was in that very structure, right there behind those windows on a morning in early October, when some 22 years ago my daughter was born. How dare I return to this place, this Mecca, without so much as a passing nod of gratitude for having, on these grounds, been blessed with the gift of my Miranda arriving to me the very day before my own birthday. The best present Iâ€™ve ever had.
How dare I ever take for granted the beauty and miracles of the time Iâ€™ve been given on this plane and not sing out for joy, even if I canâ€™t sing? Just because this last year has been too full of TV, really bad outfits, political rhetoric, laziness, fear, loathing, and Cheetos, does not lessen the breathtaking magic in a daffodil showing up overnight, as if delivered by a Topanga garden fairy just to me. I didnâ€™t need glasses to see it.
Miranda, home briefly from college, crosses the living room complaining about her hair. I donâ€™t need glasses to see her passing beauty.