I bought these sunglasses last week. I wasn’t sure how I’d become so affected that justifying $290 dollars for a product the width of a fancy wedding invitation and only as functional as say, a pair of flippers, felt as trite as taking a shower, but then I remembered.
My bordering-on-obsessive relationship with eye-wear is an odd one. I once resolved that I could never spend more on sunglasses than I would on a gourmet sandwich because of my highly advanced misplacement capabilities. Still, I enjoyed the cheap thrill of a fresh pair of street vendor-harbored frames. By the time I was 21, I’d collected at very least 15 pairs from various Soho corners: some plastic, some metal, reflective lenses, distinct amber hues, round frames, aviators, you name it, I had them. Today, I still hold custody over only a measly three pair.
When I contracted a large, inflamed bruise over my left eye last year though, something changed. I was pretty sure the inflammation was the result of my letting mascara clumps dry on my lashes, and in a most sinister fashion, dig deep into my pinched lid. At first, it felt like I had manually inserted a piping hot pebble into it, which is nothing like it’s more experienced uncle, the hot stone massage. Every time I blinked, I was reminded of the inescapable pain quite literally staring me in the eye. I thought about the cautionary story I would to write to rid you the prospect of a hot pebble eyelid. “Wash your face,” I would forewarn, “or this could happen to you.” A terribly grotesque image of my eye would follow (the one above is a mere two months old) and before you could continue reading, you’d have to close your browser so fast, you wouldn’t even know I’d manipulated the image with photo booth.
But when my eye lid began swelling so wholly that I looked like the lone victim of a brutal gang fight (no photo booth manipulation necessary), I figured it high time to visit a brick and mortar doctor. The likelihood that my preferred physician, WebMD, would diagnose my escalating ailment as eyelid cancer was high. Previously, I had contracted two strains of terminal illness because of a backache and I just wasn’t in the mood to edit my eulogy again.
The following morning, I put on my sunglasses, got on the subway and headed toward the doctor. I felt like a true asshole sitting in a box car underground, reading a newspaper with sunglasses over my eyes (I’d have judged me so hard, who can even see the tiny print with sunglasses on?) but figured asshole was a far more viable than abused teenage has-been cum circus freak. My older brother, who rode the same route to work, reprimanded me. “Have you become so affected that you think you need to conceal your identity underground? You’re a fucking blogger.” I showed him my eye. “Yikes, sorry, that’s gross,” he corrected. I am pretty sure, too, I heard a passenger unbeknownst to either of us gasp at the fleeting sight. When I got to the doctor’s office, I refused to take the shades off.
“We’ve got a celebrity in here, have we?” the receptionist quipped.
“Swollen eyelid, actually,” I corrected, exposing a slight peek at the atrocity meteorically growing upon my lid. I’d never known how many people were so seriously offended by untimely sunglass-wearing.
While I sat in the doctor’s large, leather patient chair with my chin propped up against a plastic rest, I removed my blinkers to gaze at the optical meadow, waiting for me at the other end of the huge machine that nested it. My doctor was rather wrapped up in complaints about his divorce and its consequential settlement. “At least you can have your life back?” I tried to console him. “With three kids in private schools, I forfeited my life the minute I stuck it in her,” he retorted. I just wanted to know if I had eyelid cancer though. Was this the mascara’s fault? Would he have to cut my eyelid open to manually pluck the tumor out? Would I have to wear sunglasses all day, every day for the rest of my life? My grandmother once cautioned to be careful when buying street glasses. “They don’t block UV rays, you will go blind if you wear them long enough.” Blind? Come on, grandma. I couldn’t afford to think about it.
“Well, it’s a stye,” the doctor told me after a brief poke around my lid.
A stye? A stye? No, no. “I am a heedless individual, there is a clump in my lid.”
“Yes, ‘a clump,’” he assured. “Of pus.”
Prescribing me a low dose antibiotic to remedy the advancing stye, he continued on about his children, their eventual stepfather, and how ethically unfair it was that the fiscal responsibilities would remain his, lonesomely. I barely heard the noise, I was far too invested in my own mental objects. At last, no cancer, no mascara, no sunglasses. Admittedly, I’d become mildly worried that I would face bankruptcy at a tender 21 because I’d listened to my grandmother’s warning and replaced street frames with, say, Stella frames.
“Keep those sunglasses on though, the antibiotics won’t kick in fast enough,” the doctor suggested as I was walking out. That was rude.
On my march back down to the subway, I stopped at an unassuming shop on Lexington Avenue. I tried on a pair of clear, round Oliver Peoples frames. The lenses were blue and I was in love. They made me feel curiously decadent and though they were going to cost me $255, which had amounted to everything I had left in my debit account, I handed over my last bit of freedom, signed it away and put the sunglasses on. I never looked back.
And just like that, a note on House of Holland blinkers became an expositional portrayal of the time I got a stye, thought it was eyelid cancer, and bought a pair of Oliver Peoples sunglasses, which to this day, still remain in my possession. Now, on a scale from 1 to very fucking, how far did I push it this time?