The lights were dim and the room was cramped – perhaps it had once been a utility closet. I dropped my backpack to the floor and sat in a beige exam chair across from a desk, on which rested what looked like a large, plastic contraption with a camera attached to the side opposite me. The technician perched in a rolling chair across from me, and catty-corner to me, a computer monitor rested on a desk to the right of the technician. She rolled around and opened a drawer across in some cabinets on the wall behind her seat, and then she turned back to me. She said, “Go ahead and rest your chin right there on the chin rest,” as she reached across the desk and swabbed the bars with an alcohol wipe.
I bowed my neck toward the plastic contraption, leaning my chin and forehead into the plastic mold. “Now, we’re just going to take some closeups of your eye, alright?” she said.
“Okay,” I said.
“Just blink normally,” she said.
“Okay,” I said.
“You’ll see some bright flashes,” she said, looking through the lens on her side and turning a few dials.
“Go ahead and blink once for me,” she said. I blinked. “Now look straight ahead, right in the center of the light.”
An orange orb filled my vision, first small, then as large as my pupil could take in. I tried to keep my eyes open for as long as I could, tried to look at its center, tried to keep my eyes from watering, from moving, but my dilated pupils burned: I blinked. I could still see orange, even with my eyelid shut.
The technician sat back in her chair and swiveled toward the computer monitor. She clicked through the photos. I tried to squint my eyes to study the photos myself, but found it hard to focus on the images with the orange sphere still reverberating in my vision.
After a minute, she said, “Good.”
She turned back toward the camera. “Let’s do a few more with that right eye,” she said.
I nodded and leaned forward to set my chin on the bars. Then came more orange flashes. My eyes watered.
“Good,” she said again, after staring at the monitor.
She turned to look at me and smiled. “Alrighty, Elizabeth, now let’s take some photos of your left eye,” she said. She leaned toward the machine, turned the dials, and initiated the orange glow, the flash, the overexposure all over again.
After a few minutes, she leaned back and swiveled to face the monitor, checking her work.
I waited, listening to the tapping, to the computer fan quietly humming, as my eyes adjusted back to the dim room, the orange fading like my first grade teacher’s name.
A song flitted into my mind. We had sung it, Jeremy and I standing side by side in the pew, that previous Sunday: “You’re a hiding place for me / you preserve me from trouble / you surround me with shouts of deliverance…” I let it pull me back into my body. I noticed my feet touching the floor and I felt them tapping in time with the melody. I imagined myself melting into my chair, firmly rooted. I felt my heart bump in my chest as I breathed deeply, each inhale and exhale a prayer.
“This will all be over soon enough,” I thought.
The clicking stopped, and the technician turned her head to look at me. She said, “Now we’re going to take some color photos.” I nodded. “This time, you’ll see a blue circle, and I want you to look right in the center – you should see a little pin.”
I bent forward and so did she, peering at the camera. She focused on my right eye. I could barely see anything in that eye, between my hyper-dilated pupil and my central cloudosphere. But I focused where I thought the center might be, and I saw the blue light grow and flash.
“Good,” she said. A few more crescendos and flashes, and then she said, “Okay, now the other eye.”
She refocused the camera. The blue light repeated its cycle, then again and again.
The technician sat back in her chair and stared at the monitor while my vision glowed blue.
“I think we’ve got what we need,” she said. She stood, so I stood.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Of course,” she said. “You’re just going to head into that room right there” — she pointed to the other room at the end of this hallway — “And they’ll give you the vein test. But it looks like someone’s already in there, so go ahead and take a seat, and they’ll call your name when they’re ready for you.”
“Alright,” I said, and I walked back to the mauve chairs, holding my backpack by a strap. I sat, unzipped my backpack, and removed my phone. I tried to text Jeremy, but I couldn’t focus on the letters. I blinked my eyes: still blurry. I squinted: the same. I held the phone close to my face, then moved it slowly further away until my arm was halfway into the small hallway. The letters blurred and moved, distorted and incomprehensible to me.
I clenched my jaw, gripping my phone in my lap. How would I text Jeremy to tell him when the doctor was ready to give us the results? I tried not to panic. It would be okay, right? Deep breath. In, Out. In, then out.
The song came back to me: “You’re a hiding place for me, / you preserve me from trouble, / you surround me with shouts of deliverance…”
“Try again,” I commanded myself.
I held the phone as far away as I could, close to the grey carpet, and I could just make out the letters, as if the words were at the end of a long tunnel. I exhaled.
“It’ll be okay, Liz,” I thought to myself. I decided to pull up my Book of Common Prayer application on my phone. Squinting, I read Isaiah 58:9: “…You will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and God will say, ‘I’m here.’”
I wiped my eyes. “Of course I can do this,” I thought.
“Elizabeth?” A woman standing at the end of the hallway called my name, a clipboard in her hands. I stood and walked toward her and my last test of the day before I would finally learn what was wrong with my eye, accompanied the whole way.
To Be Continued…
This post is part of my “Through A Mirror Dimly” series about a recent health issue I’ve been experiencing. I started telling this story during the season of Lent as a way to make sense of the ways that my own suffering teaches me about the suffering of Jesus Christ.
I also invite you to engage with your own suffering through this series: how does your personal pain illuminate the suffering of Jesus for you? And what can your pain teach you about the life of faith?
ALSO I will be concluding this series soon so I can resume telling my falling-in-love story. Just a few more posts to go until this will be complete (although I think it's safe to say that it's become my next book project!). I’d love to hear what you thought of the series – comment away!
And if you like it, share it – the only compensation I receive for this blog is reader support, which will hopefully give me the platform to publish a book soon. I’d appreciate your shares! 🙂