And Then I'd Die
My optometrist works in a shop called Spectacular Spectacles. The name is clever enough. But there are so many redundant letters.
I guess you could argue that every letter is redundant, since we use them so much. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s just too easy or something. My four-year-old niece can come up with names higher in caliber than “Spectacular Spectacles.” A week ago she named my busted up station wagon Cranky. I like that I drive a car called Cranky. Before it was just silver. Or rusted. Or old. Now it’s Cranky. If someone told you their car was named Cranky would you think of a shiny BMW? No. You’d think of my silver, rusted old station wagon. I like that.
My optometrist is also a painter. He does landscapes. Acrylics. He gave me his business card when my eyes were still burning from some yellow stuff he put in them to check, he said, for glaucoma. I imagined my eyes were zombieyellow as I read it. I imagined him watching my zombieyellow eyes as they scanned his card and as they got all big and surprised when they read, “Jim Rolf: Optometrist and Painter.”
“You’re a painter!” I exclaimed.
“Oh that. It’s just a hobby.”
Just a hobby? I certainly don’t hand out business cards that say, “Caroline Fremont: In-Home Caregiver and Knitter.”
I lied. I don’t knit. I don’t have any hobbies really, unless you count the stuff everyone does. Like surf the web. Or eat out at restaurants.
I perused my optometrist’s site. He told me that I could, gave me permission. Even told me that I should. He’s got some artistic chops, actually. For an optometrist. For a hobbyist. My favorite is a bird’s eye of a rocky beach and a bright red canoe. It’s impossibly red. If I saw a canoe so red on a pebble beach somewhere I’d know the only explanation would be that I was on my deathbed dreaming about the canoe in Jim Rolf’s painting.
“How red, how beautiful!” I’d say. And then I’d die.
I called Jim Rolf tonight. I knew he’d be home. I knew he’d answer. I knew he’d be alone. The overhead fan in my room combined with the AC unit dripping and sighing in my window made it hard for me to hear him. Plus I’m congested, and when my sinuses are acting up things seem like they’ve been turned down, like all the sounds that are supposed to belong to me are under the pillow of a thief who’s sleeping in the next room over.
Every time I said pardon? it kind of turned Jim on a little, I think. I don’t even say pardon, typically. I say, what?, like everybody else. Jim Rolf likes it when I say pardon though, and I knew he would.
“Do you have perfect vision, Doc?”
“I had glasses on when you came in, don’t you remember?”
I did remember. They were round glasses.
In his office, I had imagined he was an owl because of those round glasses. When my own glasses are off, everything has the potential to be something else. During my appointment he’d become a brown and white breasted owl, and he kept pushing his round glasses down on his nose, looking over at me, batting his owl eyelashes, and wanting to say something, not knowing how. Because he was an owl.
Owls are notoriously inarticulate.
“All I remember is the way you were sitting in you chair, and how your cock might look underneath your pants.”
“Caroline, why’d you call?” His voice was heavy, and wet. I imagined he was drinking cheap wine. I imagined his tongue was red. But I realized immediately I was imagining the wrong sort of red. Not the deep purple mahogany color of wine, but a bright maraschino cherry color. Brighter. Take the cherries, pump them with blood and then stomp on them like grapes. Brighter. The red of the canoe in his painting. That was the color of Jim’s tongue.
“I called because you asked me to.”
He was silent and I imagined he was undoing his zipper and looking around, like a boy who had just stumbled upon what his mom always called an “unhealthy website.”
(That’s what my first boyfriend’s mother called them. Unhealthy.)
(My first boyfriend called them “titty pussy sites.”)
“When did I ask you to call me, Caroline?”
Silence, hand in pants.
“How did I ask you to call me?”
“Don’t you think I’d know if I was colorblind by now, Jim?”
Hand on cock, hand rubbing underneath pants.
“You were looking down my shirt when you did that test with the numbers and the little balls of color. You were breathing like you wanted to see my breasts. I’ve heard breathing like that before you know. It was kind of like this…”
I showed Jim how he had been breathing.
“Caroline, stop.” His breathing was beginning to sound like the breathing I had showed him.
After a while Jim was sleeping, breathing so hard, always on the edge of a snore. I left the phone on and went over to the windowsill. Mine is the kind you can sit on and watch outside. Cats like this kind of place to sit. But I don’t have a cat. And I don’t have a view.
That’s where I’m sitting now, without a cat, and without a view. I’m watching the side of the next building. I think it’d be embarrassed by now if it were sentient. Stop looking at me like that, it’d say, that’s not my best side.
Illustration by Meghan Murphy