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The One-Eyed Man

In terra unum caecorum rex est luscus. — Erasmus

Several weeks back, after hundreds of assuring and calming comments, I had my left eye operated on to remove cataracts and insert a new, artificial lens.  The most immediate effect right after the operation was — according to my sister-in-law — a very stoned afternoon at my place waiting for the aftereffects of the anesthesia to wear off. She later confirmed that she was not feeling relaxed when, upon returning home, I whipped out the cast iron skillet, various knives, and other sharp-edged tools, and cobbled together a grilled ham and cheese sandwich while talking to it. Not my usual bill of fare but I’m sure it seemed like a good idea to my seething cranium. 

After that, it was a couple of days of taking good care of my left eye so as not to undo what had been done with a careless eye rub. At night I wore a protective eyeshield.

Then there was the morning after.

At first, you are not sure what is going on with your vision. What you are seeing seems like your regular vision only, well, washed and cleaned. Things seem slightly sharper and this impression only grows more distinct with, indeed, every passing hour. It is as if your sight, compromised for many years, was slowly and deliberately being returned to you; as if some hidden rheostat was being steadily turned up. 

But, as it turns out, that is only, well, half-true.

I can now see two different universes from my illusory position at the center of creation depending on which eye I use. If  I shut my right, uncorrected eye everything is crisp and bright and shows its true colors. But if I shut my left eye, the world is all slightly sepia-toned — everything has a vague yellow/brown tint to it.  It is as if I moved within an old nostalgic universe or a fading photograph’s memory of one.

With both eyes open it would seem that they have made a deal between themselves and I exist in a world half-tint and half-clear. Most of the time now I go about without remarking on it very much but yesterday I inadvertently left my place without the glasses that I have worn since 1988. Usually, I would turn around and get them but I really felt no pressure to do so. Everything seemed, if not exactly crisp and bright, but “good enough.”

Today everything seems, if I alternate eyes, still half-dim and half-bright. But those days are numbered. The right eye is due to have its cataracts removed and lens replaced soon. I won’t be sad to leave the one-eyed man behind. I won’t even be nostalgic for the sepia-tinted old-fashioned look my world used to have. If I want that I can always wear shades. In fact, I am actually heading for a place where I can say with some accuracy, “The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.”

From where he rested the valley seemed as if it were in a pit and nearly a mile below. Already it was dim with haze and shadow, though the mountain summits around him were things of light and fire. The mountain summits around him were things of light and fire, and the little things in the rocks near at hand were drenched with light and beauty, a vein of green mineral piercing the grey, a flash of small crystal here and there, a minute, minutely-beautiful orange lichen close beside his face. There were deep, mysterious shadows in the gorge, blue deepening into purple, and purple into a luminous darkness, and overhead was the illimitable vastness of the sky. But he heeded these things no longer, but lay quite still there, smiling as if he were content now merely to have escaped from the valley of the Blind, in which he had thought to be King. And the glow of the sunset passed, and the night came, and still he lay there, under the cold, clear stars.The Country of the Blind –

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  • jpm April 11, 2021, 8:09 AM

    “In the Country of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King.”

    Absolutely brilliant short.

  • JCatara April 11, 2021, 8:43 AM

    I remember when I had my first eye done, the difference in color and clarity were stark. Coming home I drove my wife crazy reading every sign I saw. I’m 70 and I have 20/25 vision. Its great to be able to see again.

  • Andrew R April 11, 2021, 8:44 AM

    No, Gerard, you won’t be nostalgic for the sepia-tinted world. You’ll see the Moon bright white, and sharp, and if you’re like me, you’ll have your long vision back. I need reading glasses these days for anything closer than 2 feet, and the only odd thing about that, since I don’t wear them while eating, is that my food isn’t in focus. I can live with that.

  • BillH April 11, 2021, 9:26 AM

    Why only one eye? My eye surgeon recommended both eyes at once, which I jumped at because I’ve always focused on getting an unpleasantness behind me pronto (sometimes, I’ll admit, with less than optimal results). That was 20+ years ago; maybe eye science has changed.

  • James ONeil April 11, 2021, 10:08 AM

    I remember you, pre-eye replacement, noting two moons in the sky. i wouldn’t regret the loss of sepia-toned,vague yellow/brown tinted everything, but the loss of the second moon, exclusion from Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 world…

  • Vanderleun April 11, 2021, 10:09 AM

    I have the other eye scheduled Bill.

  • Clayton in Mississippi April 11, 2021, 1:18 PM

    Thank You for sharing this. I’m facing similar surgery (cataract removal, each eye to be done separately) very soon and the story of your personal experience has considerably calmed my apprehension and trepidation.

  • rabbit tobacco April 11, 2021, 1:36 PM

    No mention of the
    third eye. How’s it

  • Stargazer April 11, 2021, 1:53 PM

    After my cataract surgery the clarity, sharpness and colors were (and still are) amazing. Both eyes, one month apart.

  • PA Cat April 11, 2021, 2:13 PM

    Given Gerard’s exposé of the “‘New and Improved’ sign-in tablet at the Chico Eye Center” on April 6, I’m curious to know whether the gender identity choices on offer affected his eyes (the thing does say “more than one option may be selected”). It may be one eye “chooses not to disclose” its gender identity and the other opts for “additional gender category or other.” There was a time– only recently– when restoration of visual clarity was uncomplicated by current cultural obsessions.

  • Vanderleun April 11, 2021, 2:19 PM

    It would be more in keeping if each eye could choose not to close.

  • Joan of Argghh! April 11, 2021, 2:20 PM

    I haven’t read this story since I was a girl, but I’ve never, ever forgotten it. When I worked for the State of South Carolina for three years, I would often tell my boss, “I am beaten with sticks because I can see,” and would relate the story to him. Because that is what government systems produce: mass blindness. And if you can see, you are severely hampered by your logic and grasp of reality. You will be rope-a-doped into the unreality of the blind. They function quite well in their own context. To have an I.Q. about 100 and work for the government means you must submit to having your eyes removed, if you truly love that lifetime pension and benefits package.

  • Greg April 11, 2021, 8:24 PM

    I’ve been the one-eyed man for three years now. I know exactly where you are coming from.
    I have to wait for Medicare to get the other done, this year or next. I opted for near sighted version, after which my optometrist asked why. I told him I do quite a bit of detail work on restorations of all types, and preferred no lens between me and my projects. Web sites on my phone with micro print need not be enlarged to read.
    Its also fun to toy with the receptionist, asking if they have an 8×11 eye chart with smaller print. “You people and your implants !” I’ve yet to meet any fine print smaller than I can read.

  • Minta Marie Morze April 11, 2021, 9:40 PM

    Joan Of Argghh!—Brilliant! Absolutely Brilliant!!!

    Boy, am I going to use that!!

    (And I’ll give you credit. Just Brilliant!!)

  • gwbnyc April 12, 2021, 4:24 AM

    my description of my 110% successful procedures is so vivid people without any need for them remark “where do I sign?”

    I’ll iterate- my vision is stunning, was never as good as it is post op. my procedures were almost “performed between chores” on two separate occasions.

  • EX-Californian Pete April 12, 2021, 9:10 AM

    Glad to hear your 1st eye treatment came out great, and hope to hear the 2nd one will be, also.
    I think it’s smart to do one at a time, considering the possibility of “medical complications” and such.

    Soon, you’ll go from “The Man With A Vision” To the “Man With A Vision Who Has Great Vision.”

  • OldFert April 12, 2021, 1:06 PM

    Had both my eyes done a week or so apart in 2013.

    Then, one morning around Thanksgiving of 2019 I woke up seeing something odd. It looked kind of like a two-armed hurricane line drawing, but only in my right eye (I had just awoken and was on my back).

    It turned out my right eye intraocular came loose from its moorings and floated to the back of my eyeball. Still could see OK with my left, so between that and the Chinese Lung Rot limiting of elective surgeries, I didn’t get it fixed until August ’20.

    My eye surgeon said that, by the way, it’s not odd for clouding to return but some laser shots can remedy that.

    He also said it’s not an “if” you’ll get cataracts, just “when” if you live long.

  • Casey Klahn April 12, 2021, 10:02 PM

    Paul Klee. “One eye sees. The other eye feels”.

    Take care and prayers are aloft.

  • Dan Patterson April 13, 2021, 3:47 AM

    Always good to read of a mans improvement and success, and I expect you will be excited by the results of the next procedure. Keep up the good work.
    And Joah of Argghh, Casey, rabbit tobacco, get bonus points for their insight. No pun so stop throwing things at me.

  • CC April 13, 2021, 9:22 AM

    I’m going in for measurements next month, & cat. surgery in June. Thanks to you and fellow commenters, I decided to bite the bullet 3 years after diagnosis & gitr done. Getting my eye cut on is one of those things I tend to put off.
    Kinda funny, way back in the 70’s, I built Phacoemusifiers for Syntel Cavitron. The concept of my eye lense being pulverized by sonic energy & then pieces sucked out with vacuum kinda freaked me out back then, & still does.
    Technology has come a LOONG way since then.
    Wish me luck!

  • Art April 13, 2021, 11:47 AM

    The morning after, when I removed the eye protection and began to see out of my “new” eye, I thought we had just gotten new carpeting.

    Gerard, I have been reading your site for years. I’m sorry I never took the time to say thank you. Your writing has challenged my mind and way of thinking.

  • oldvet50 April 15, 2021, 10:49 AM

    OldFert is right. A couple of years after my surgery, I developed secondary cataracts. No big deal… a couple of zaps with the laser removed them completely (while awake and no drugs). It’s great to be able to see again!