Headlights Like Stars – D. H. Dhaenens (she/they)

The work below is by D. H. Dhaenens as part of our MA Creative Writers takeover.

I’ve had my eyes dilated before.

They always recommend the same things: don’t drive to the appointment, bring sunglasses if it’s sunny, allow a few hours for your eyes to return to normal.

Drip, drip. Chemical tears, the promised stinging as the liquid starts working. The doctor gets uncomfortably close to put in the liquids, and it’s a weird intimacy even though it only lasts two seconds. He will see what my face looks like with tears streaming down it even though we’ve never met.
“Go wait outside for twenty minutes,” he says curtly. Very specific, but I know it’s never just ten minutes.

I try to read a book while I wait for the doctor to call me back in, but I can’t focus my eyes. I check my pupils in a small mirror. David Bowie with a bad hair day stares back at me. One pupil is huge, the other is still just as small as ever. Should have really combed my hair, but I was in a rush. The book is put away and I just listen to the tv in the waiting room. The same video explaining cataract surgery is played so many times I think I can do the surgery myself by now.

An idea for one of my writing projects pops up, so I take out my phone. I look like an old lady as I peer at my phone under my glasses and take notes. They will be riddled with typos, possibly illegible, but I didn’t bring a notebook. I doubt I would be much better at cursive though. My handwriting is terrible on the best of days.

Back into the examination room we go.

“Look over my shoulder. Look to your right. Look to your left. Look down at your nose.”
Lustrous lines of light scan over my eyeballs, invited in by my incapacitated irises. A larger door to my soul.

“The spots on your eye are just scars, probably from an infection when you were a kid,” the doctor tells me. That’s that mystery solved; I suppose.

“So, an infection?” I pry for more information, but I just get a one word reply and an invitation to leave.

Outside, the dark is a literal sight for sore eyes. I put my glasses up and get Google maps to read out directions to the bus stop. It’s a lifesaver – I walk around with headphones on, Google tells me where to turn, and nobody around me can tell that I can barely figure out where I’m going. I can’t read billboards, I can’t read. Flou, we would call it in French. The world is flou.

The headlights of the cars look like stars in the city nightscape, and I look around until I see a green or a red star. A traffic light. I take the long way around and wait for the green to cross, minimising my chances of being hit by a car. I refuse to become a ghost in this outfit. The bus is too bright. Trying to shield my eyes, I see a pair of bright pink rain boots on the woman next to me.

Wife asked me to pick up peppers for pickling. I head into Tesco. Somewhat belatedly I
realise I probably shouldn’t be walking around with my headphones on now that I don’t need directions anymore, seeing that I barely can see anything. But Ice Nine Kills and Placebo have always been my soundscape for such outings. Brian Molko singing in French is too much of a vibe. I’m in my own little world, barely seeing what’s around me, listening even less.

My eyes will go back to normal in a few hours, or at least the extremely short sighted normal I’m used to. At home, at last, I hear my cat snoring.

White with neon back light split keyboard on a light brown desk.