I used to think of myself as the Humanities version of a mad scientist. I had wildly poofy hair, often wore long coats with mysterious stains on them, had the haggard pallor of someone unfamiliar with sunlight, and I think I gave off the vibe that if a train car were racing down a track and I could decide if it hits one person or five, I’d blow everything up instead of engaging in a philosophical discussion.
Despite really digging the aesthetic, I am not actually a mad scientist. I’m not even a scientist, and I don’t really get mad so much as I get comically frustrated. I’m a non-threatening, squishy English teacher with as much scientific talent as a bagel. Lacking in scientific experience as I am, it should come as no surprise that anytime I see any kind of mysterious scientific apparatus, I immediately assume it can be used for cartoonish evil.
I have not had my eyes checked since high school, and somehow I avoided getting glasses even though several of my answers to a test with only letters was “box.” I got my eyes checked a few days ago, and over the course of an hour, a strange man with a soothing voice did science at me. I do not know how I survived, but I have made it my mission to tell my story, to make my experience known, to expose the entire industry of eye doctors for what they are: hypnotists.
I don’t remember sitting down, but I remember noticing that I was in a chair in a cramped room. All along the walls and on wheeled carts before me were esoteric tools with glass portals that warped the reality just beyond them. Heavy metal masks with weird holes and intimidating dials loomed next to me. Who could tell what dark purposes they would be put to, but it was clear some primordial malice was imbued in the every cold steel surface. In the corner on a counter was either a large model of a human eye or the correctly-sized eye of a monster. Pain and discomfort from one of the strange metal tools all around the room seemed imminent. And then the doctor came in.
He started by introducing himself, but for whatever reason I immediately forgot what he said–probably not anxiety from imagining my inevitable death. He told me he was going to ask me a few questions, learn my ‘medical history’ which I understood as him learning if there were any other doctors in the picture who might already have dibs on my prolonged suffering or tasty, tasty organs. After I finished grad school, I vowed to never willingly answer another question from someone with a PhD. His degrees were on the wall: MD. Fuck. I gave him the information he requested.
I remember being mostly awake the only time I ever watched The Man in the Iron Mask, but what I took from the movie was that being locked in a small room with a metal shell over my face is something that could feasibly happen. That is enough justification for a phobia to me. With that totally rational fear at the front of my thoughts, Dr. Science lowered a heavy mask over my face with blurry portals for me to try to make sense of reality through.
What followed was about 10 minutes of a slow, rhythmic mantra: “1… or 2…” I don’t know what it was about his voice, but it had the soft, organic quality of moss. Moss has never hurt anybody. Nobody has ever been walking around a dark forest and screamed when they saw a patch of green fuzz decorating a rock. They scream at wolves and trees that look like people and people that look like trees. While switching the portals through which I could barely make out a far wall, he patiently recited “1… or 2…” Something about his voice made me want to do whatever it is you have to do to pass an eye exam. Maybe it was the total control he had over my eyes, my favorite part of my body because they are the only part of me not influenced by how much pizza I eat. He’d click something, write something, and my vision would change, and he would again utter into the quiet room “1… or 2…” and I wanted to much to say “oh either is fine really. Which do you prefer?” Like Gandalf warned us so long ago, words can be tricky magic, and the doctor had me under a spell.
I left with a prescription, a pressing urge to learn what a “stigmatism” is, and a vague awareness that I had just woken up from a surreal dream of a mossy, elder land and a small room in which I had met an ancient alchemist.
And now I’m getting glasses because the moss man told me to.