Ten feet away the solid earth
Changes into melting cloud,
There is a hush of pain and mirth,
No bird has heart to speak aloud.
From “White Fog” by poet Sara Teasdale
Yesterday I had cataract surgery, and when I woke up this morning, for the first time since I can’t remember when, the constant blur, the white fog, has vanished. The world it seems, overnight, has gone shockingly clear.
In my kitchen, I pour a cup of coffee. With my new eyes, I sit down to read the leading news out of Texas.
I read and read and read until I can’t read anymore.
I take a walk.
For the first time in years I can see the curve of each individual stone along the sidewalk. A woman walks on the other side of the street with her tiny white dog and even from this distance I can see the pattern of ladybugs on the dog’s leash. A police officer in a patrol car hides in his usual spot past the corner, waiting for someone to run the stop sign. He waves as I pass by.
I think about the time I got pulled over at dusk and the officer gave me two tickets, one for speeding and one for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle because I had my music on so loud he chased me with sirens blaring for 3 miles before I finally pulled over. I think about how, while giving me my two tickets, one at a time, with ceremony, the officer laughed about how I made him “chase me down” and “was I playing hard to get.” I think about how I smiled to hide the sick sinking in my gut as he flirted with me and I calculated how and when and if he was going to let me leave.
I think about how that was nothing.
Back at home, I read more news. I watch the just-released video.
I picture my young mother in her car, smoking a cigarette. I think about how, even at the end, when she was dying because of smoking and on oxygen 24 hours a day, all she wanted was a cigarette. Only a cigarette could calm her nerves, her fears. I think about a man I know who rarely uses a turn signal and has never, not once, been pulled over by a police officer.
Back home in my kitchen, I scramble some eggs but by the time they’re ready I can’t bear to eat so I slide them straight out of the skillet and into the trash.
I watch the video again. I read this.
I pour another cup of coffee and I step outside. I sit down on my doorstep. I can clearly see the jungle gym in the park up the street. I can see all the way into my neighbor’s garden, the patterns in tree bark and the shades of green in each leaf and the maze of color. Was it just yesterday I had surgery? And I can see. Ten feet away the solid earth. The news out of Texas.