The Who claimed, in 1967, they could see for miles and miles. It might have been the hallucinogenic drugs. I also can see for miles and miles. But for me, it is the result of my recent cataract surgery.
I didn’t—no pun intended—see it coming. The need crept up on me like a mugger in the night, tiptoeing closer, then robbing me blind. My distant vision, I was shocked to learn, had diminished by about forty percent. I should have had clues when, while watching TV, I could no longer read bottom-of-the-screen crawlers during newscasts and sporting events. Then I realized I couldn’t decipher the state names on the sashes of the Miss Silicone Breasts contestants. When watching “Wheel of Fortune,” I realized I couldn’t tell the difference between Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Hell, I couldn’t even see the program’s wall-size puzzles.
The improvement was immediate after the first surgery. With just one eye repaired, I saw details in the room I hadn’t observed prior to the procedure. The staff had faces, with masks over their mouths. I had thought they all had Cheshire Cat grins. I looked toward the far wall and discovered a Starbuck’s, law office, and bus stop. And then I realized I was looking out a window I had not noticed before. When the surgeon, who had been merely a soothing and reassuring voice before, spoke, she now was a beautiful woman. Had I known that, I thought, I would have shaved, brushed my teeth, and worn deodorant.
I donned sunglasses and walked outside. Sunlight was no longer seen through a gauze filter like Lucille Ball’s face in Mame. Shapes had sharp details. I peeked over the top of the dark lenses. Colors popped. Mexican flags had three colored sections, none of which was gray. McDonald’s had golden arches.
But it wasn’t until the next morning that I truly grasped the improvement in my vision. I awoke and looked through my bedroom doorway into the living room. I actually saw it, the living room. My paintings had colors. My recliner, that I thought was charcoal when I bought it, was green, forest green. I got up and looked out the window. The wall of eggplant-colored bougainvillea across the way was really psychedelic purple. I noticed for the first time a neighbor’s pink patio umbrella. A nearby tree had orange spots in it. “Oh, my god,” I gasped. “Those are oranges?” I had thought they were bird nests.
I again put on my sunglasses and climbed to my rooftop mirador. I looked to the north, toward Alaska. I could see Sarah Palin. She was gazing at Russia from her porch. I followed her eyes and saw suburban Vladivostok. I spotted a darling little brick house with three windows. I peered inside one and saw wooden Russian nested matryoska dolls lined up on an oak credenza; the tiniest one had a slight nick.
I turned and surveyed the northeast horizon until I saw Mar-a-Lago and I saw Melania’s stripper pole. Then I noticed a double-wide bathroom door and a Just For Men hair-dye box on the counter. It was #45-F, Pumpkin.
Looking further north, I spotted Washington, D.C. and details new to me. I could see Elizabeth Warren. “Hell!” I yelled so loud, a startled vacationing gringo in Puerto Vallarta spilled his 8 a.m. margarita. “She’s not Native American!” All this time I had thought she looked like Marlon Brando’s Oscar-surrogate Sacheen Littlefeather. “Warren looks more like Sacheen Littleliar,” I chuckled.
My gaze landed on Bernie Sanders. He was talking with a severely-acned senate page whose nametag read “Aaron.” “Holy shit!” I exclaimed, and then bit my normally PC tongue. Damn, I thought, Bernie’s old! Who knew? His voice always sounds so soft, soothing, and youthful.
I pivoted slightly and saw Mitch McConnell. I got queasy. “Oh, horrors. He’s even uglier than I thought,” I mumbled. Then I threw up over the railing onto an ant with a back tattoo of ’80s rocker Adam Ant. OK. Maybe it was a T-shirt; I couldn’t tell. My eyesight isn’t that good.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone waving at me. I turned toward Boston. It was Tom Brady in his MAGA cap. They’re red? I thought. Tom had five of his Super Bowl rings on his hands. A sixth was—How shall I say this tactfully?—lower. And it fit. Yes. I could see that. Because he was wearing skinny jeans. Commando. Then, with his right hand, Tom threw a football in my direction—not an official one marked NFL, but one with a picture of #45-F, Pumpkin and the initials DJT on it. It, however, was intercepted at the border by an ICE agent and sent back to China where it had been made.
After I recovered from the shock of all I had seen, I looked due north again. I could see a wall at the US-Mexico border. That cracked red, white, and blue wall seemed to have no purpose other than to divide America. I saw no one climbing the wall or digging under it on the south side, nor anyone calmly talking about the barrier with others on the north side. Instead, I watched politicians tag the wall with preaching-to-the-choir graffiti. But the writing wasn’t in English or Spanish. It was in Russian.
Two days later, I had the surgery on my other eye. I won’t even start to tell you what I could see after that.