Extra Strength Escapism
Photo Source: Public Domain Pictures
When I was nineteen, I woke up blind in one eye. I was living in San Francisco and studying painting. It was just like that: I woke up and looked around, and only one eye was relaying information. Believe it or not, I was not frightened. I simply thought that I was just super extra sleepy. I rubbed my eyes thinking…. I took a shower thinking…. I walked to school thinking…. I kept thinking that this was just a little ping—like a foot going to sleep or a charley horse.
My best friend at art school, who was also named Jennifer, had in our early falling into best-friendship heavily suggested that I read Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. She insisted over and over that I read it. I took the book she was holding out to me and put it my backpack with absolutely no intention of reading it. A small gang of super cute art boys had just entered her dorm room, and I was anxious to hear what the boys were up to, so it was solely a tactical move on my part to tell her that I would “definitely check it out.”
After about a month of having a blind eye in San Francisco, it was time for me to go home, as I had an appointment with my optometrist. My optometrist was a close family friend, and he knew me since I was a very little girl. It never felt like going to the doctor when I saw him. It always felt a little like a barbecue when I went to his office. My girlfriend Jennifer and I decided to swim right up to the time of my eye doctor appointment. We just put large t-shirts over our wet swimsuits and went to my appointment. His assistant did all the usual tests on me in the dimly lit testing room. Jennifer kept making me laugh. I was laughing a lot. I had grown pretty used to my blind eye, and again, I really thought it was just a ping.
My doctor asked me if there were any changes with my eyesight. That was always his first question. I said yes, “I can’t see out of one my eyes.” Well, after one more test, I was told that I needed to go to the emergency room immediately, and the neurologist was already waiting for me. My optic nerve had blown up and there was swelling and blood everywhere. Jennifer and I felt very small wearing nothing but swimsuits and t-shirts while getting told there was a strong possibility I had a brain tumor.
I could not sleep. I was waiting to see if I had a brain tumor. Franny and Zooey was out of my backpack and on my bed. Jennifer must have taken it out when she went to get cigarettes from my backpack (as, mind you, I was driving this whole time and had decided to stop and get smokes before we went to the hospital). With absolutely nowhere to go with my possibility of having a brain tumor I picked up the book and started to read. The sun was up when I finished, and it was already time to call the doctor. No brain tumor. It would be a horrible month of non-stop tests. The puzzle was never solved. My eyesight almost fully returned. I have what I call my ‘sunglass eye’. For me, one of my eyes sees things as though it has sunglasses on. I’m totally used to it—it just messes with my depth perception, so I run into things a lot. If you hang out with me, you will be constantly helping me rebuild displays, as I routinely knock them over.
Extra strength escapism is a very real need. Our nation, the world, our children…they are all popping a dangerous amount of dangerous pills. It is a full-blown crisis. However, it is not because our nation, the world, or our children are weak or stupid or terrible. Rather, humans have limits and sometimes we need to be taken out of the game for a spell. Let’s get people reading instead of pill popping!
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.”
Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.