Seven years ago today I had an eye doctor appointment in the morning, ten o'clock.
I could tell there was some kind of buzz in the waiting room but I was groggy and irritable and didn't think much of it at the time. I was ushered in for my eye exam. Even before that day I had always found my optometrist's manner to be almost bizarrely calm, and he had a soothing, almost hypnotic voice. He gave me the drops first, I think, but I'm not sure. We chatted for a minute about my contacts and my glasses, which I claimed to have forgotten to bring, although the truth was they had been lost long ago. I couldn't afford new ones and knew I'd be in for a lecture if I told him I didn't have any.
I had my chin pressed into that plastic cup attached to the Clockwork Orange-reminiscent device that they use to try different lens combinations out. He would switch a lens, sometimes rotate one, and ask every time "better one? or better two?" At some point while doing that he asked me "What do you think about the situation?" The rest of this isn't verbatim, though it's close. But that I remember perfectly. "What do you think about the situation?"
For a moment or two I struggled to think of what he was talking about, embarrassed, thinking he must be talking about something regarding my eyes or my lenses.
"Do you know what's happened? Better one? Better two?"
I admitted that I didn't.
"Two planes have collided with the two World Trade center buildings. Better one?"
"Or better two?"
"At first it was thought that the initial plane striking the tower was an accident, but with the second plane having hit the other tower it now appears that it was some kind of an attack. Better one? Or better two?"
I hate those tests-- I always feel like I'm screwing up. When I can't read something I feel like I'm being stupid when, in fact, the whole point is to know what I can and can't read at different strengths.
"They were just saying something about a bombing or fire at the Pentagon before I brought you in here, but I don't know anything about that. This seems like a very big deal. Any itchiness, redness, irritation? Anything unusual?"
They keep those offices dark, for when your pupils are artificially dilated, and there were several eye charts. He had a replica poster of an old, Renaissance-era diagram of the inside of an eye. There was a cross-sectioned eye model on a table and he had a cup filled with lollipops on his desk, for the kids.
"Better one? Better two? They were saying that airspace was being shut down but I'm not sure if that's true. I'm afraid a lot of people have probably died today."
We did the glaucoma test, at some point. That's the one where you put your chin on a chinrest and he blows air into your eyes with a machine. I hate that test. Afterwards may have been when we did those drops, like I said I'm not sure.
"We'll keep you on the one-a-days, since they seem to be working well for you. Good luck with every thing. You can pay your bill at the desk."
I came back out into the waiting room. It's always a shock with those drops. You're nearly blinded by the light and personally I always feel like everyone is looking at me. I must have looked like a maniac, anyhow, the way I was shuffling out of there. I paid cash. My contacts would be ready in five to seven business days.
When I went outside it was blindingly bright, perfect day. You shouldn't drive with those drops; I certainly couldn't have imagined driving right then. I had been planning to go to the toy and hobby shop after my appointment but I suddenly didn't want to. So I sat on the hood of my car for a long while. I didn't know what was happening or was going to happen, and I was afraid.