This autofiction short revisits an outpatient surgery and the drive home through the lens of health, marriage, and fantasy.
After the impatient receptionist hands me the intake forms, I turn to park myself. Vinyl chairs retain the familiar peach-shaped ridges of being sat on too often. I’m the youngest person in this waiting room by a good thirty years. In the parking lot I noticed several home-health aids and group-home bus drivers fossilizing, smoking, and checking their phones. I pulled out mine and thought about snapping a photo of the defunct mini-golf sign next to the medical offices.
I’m here to find a new specialist after moving, one who will either send me away with a cheerful “Until next year!” or one who will perform immediate surgery to repair tears in my retina. Sitting here feeling very sorry for myself, I overhear the nurse tell the doctor about her teenage son’s woeful health and litany of painful procedures. Suddenly I feel guilty.
Turns out I’ve got new holes. This part of the appointment is strangely bland, like the doctor is coaching an eye aerobics class. “Bright light, sorry. Lattice at twelve o’clock. Look up to the right. Scarring at nine o’clock. Straight up, please. New hole at six o’clock. Up to the left. So, Lubbock. You went to Texas Tech?”
After, the lady peers over her computer monitor and says that she’s going to go ahead and call the insurance company to see if they can get approval for surgery today. She must have kids, maybe even grandkids—she knows what it is to arrange childcare and travel for these sorts of things. I want to hug her.
The surgery… it feels too intimate, faces inches apart. I make a mental note to bring gum next time. The doctor seems young. Why am I crying? Rather, leaking because of the plastic disc shoved under my eyelid. Either way, my face is wet. Finished with the video game–like laser surgery that will keep my eyes intact, he says I did a good job.
While I was waiting for my favorite receptionist to sort things out before the procedure, I looked up the new doc online. I wanted to make sure there weren’t any angry Yelp reviews or pending malpractice suits. After the lasers I said, “I googled you… You went to school in Texas, too. Are you from there?”
“You Googled me?”
“Yeah, I mean, people Google their plumber.” Plumber. Couldn’t I have said “mechanic” or something less… well. His name ends in “the third” for chrissakes. Then he smiles, and says, “Should I Google you?” I think he smiled, but my eyes are glued shut with matter. I think that’s snot, too? Geezus. He can’t be flirting.
On the drive home, my mind wanders. What if I had married an eye doctor and was Missus Philanthropist the Third, flitting about from museum opening to lake house. This me flits. Such visions are promptly replaced by the Lord and Lady Douchebag skit (where Bill Murray is the Earl of Sandwich). Fantasy feels like a betrayal when I have a good life. My conscience compensates by conjuring up jealous thoughts about my husband. What would his parallel be? Sleeves of tattoos. Laughs easily. Cool. A risk taker. Then again, I’m the one with eyes fully dilated, two pairs of sunglasses stacked over my prescriptions, flying down the highway.