like a surreal salvador dali painting

Instead I walked out onto the Costco floor and everybody seemed magnified times ten. I could see the creases in people’s faces, the moles on their cheeks….”


by mark tulin




“You know your head shakes,” said the optometrist while asking me to read the letters on the top row.

I didn’t know what that had to do with my eyes, especially since I couldn’t read any of the letters.

“It’s my medication,” I said about the tremors.

“Well, you oughta see a neurologist anyway,” she said while cleaning her designer glasses. “I think you have intention tremors.”

Jazz music played in the background. Charley Parker on saxophone, I think. I wished I could have just listened to my stereo at home instead of being in the optometrist office. She puffed my eyes with air and I blinked twice.

“It’s been happening as long as I can remember,” I said about the tremors. “I take so many medications; I’m sure it’s one of them that’s causing it.”

“Well, your whole head is shaking. It’s gotten worse since we’ve been talking. Try to touch my finger with you index finger, now the other hand, again.”

Good God, I thought. Everybody is diagnosing me. I went to the dentist last week and he said I had thick gums and two of my teeth needed root canals. My pulmonologist said that my right lung was clogged up with sticky phlegm and he stuck a long tube down my throat and “sucked the critters out.” Every doctor I visit lately seems to give me a new reason to get bummed.

“I’m going to enlarge your pupils so I can see what’s in there.” She put drops in both eyes, told me that things will look fuzzy for a while. “Have a seat in the waiting room until the medication takes effect.”

Instead I walked out onto the Costco floor and everybody seemed magnified times ten. I could see the creases in people’s faces, the moles on their cheeks. I walked by all those shoppers with babies hanging off their arms pushing oversized carts, going way too fast, barely avoiding hitting one another. Ladies at kiosks asked me to try some food. Strange men selling me smart TVs and electronics I didn’t need. I was walking in slow motion, everything seemed foggy and wiggly like a surreal Salvador Dali painting.

Fifteen minutes later I was back in the optometrist office.

She leaned over, smelling of expensive perfume. “Oh, and it looks like you have floaters in your left eye.”

“Floaters?” I asked, wondering if there was something intergalactically wrong with me.

“Little squiggly things in your eye that casts shadows.”

“Is there anything I can do?  Take eye-drops or something?”

“No, I’m afraid not. Don’t worry, though. In a couple of years, they’ll come up with an easy way of removing them. They’ll zap them out in the office.”

A little ray of hope in the forest of rain. At least I won’t have to have surgery. I just got out of the hospital not too long ago with a double knee replacement. Last year I had a stint put in my heart. At least my body is breaking down consistently.

I gazed at my wife in the waiting area, still beautiful after all these years of marriage but equally as incapacitated. She’s recovering from a gastric bypass. She has to eat seven or eight small meals a day and can’t have anything spicy.

Our lives keep getting more complicated with each doctor visit.

“Oh, and there’s one other thing I forgot to tell you,” said the optometrist, smiling with her perfectly white teeth. “Right now you have baby cataracts, but in a few years, you’ll need cataract surgery.”

“Somehow baby cataracts doesn’t sound so innocent,” I said while thinking back to my poor mother’s cataract surgery when I had to calm her down and tell her to keep her head still. Her tremors were so bad that I had to physically hold her head through the entire procedure.  Luckily, we had a good eye surgeon with steady hands.

“Can I just drink kava tea?” I asked the optometrist. “I heard that’s just about good for everything.”

She laughed, pulling her medium-length brown hair back into a bun. “No, I wouldn’t do that,” she said, “unless you want to have problems with your kidneys down the road.”

She wheeled her stool to the corner of the room and reached into the cabinet and removed a small box with a sixty-five dollar price tag.

“Here’s something that could keep your eyes clean and healthy.”

I looked inside the box and pulled out a thick black blindfold.

“Heat it up in the microwave, not too hot,” she said, “for about twenty-seconds.” She grabbed the box out of my hands. “Use the dropper and the tea tree pads for dry eyes.” She applied a pad to my eyelids and eyelashes in demonstration.

Just one more thing I have to do for my body, I thought. My wife and I spend most of our day either at the doctor’s office, waiting in line at CVS, doing nebulizer treatments or taking medications from our 7-day pill box organizer. We have very little time for ourselves between all these appointments and surgeries. We had to give away our two beloved cats, Minnie and Moe, because we didn’t have the time to clean their litter tray.

“Don’t worry about your cataracts, either,” the optometrist reassured me. “I had cataract surgery myself and I’m a few years younger than you.”

I smiled. Ah, I thought. At least she has some health problems. I wondered what else she had—acid reflux, celiac, Crohn’s disease?

“Now my eyes are good as new,” she said flashing her baby blues. “I don’t need to wear glasses anymore. Isn’t that wonderful?”

I couldn’t nod yes because there was a crick in my neck from staring at the lines of letters on the wall and pressing my head against the lens of the refractor machine. I could have used a good chiropractor but I didn’t want to be diagnosed with spina bifida.

She put her hand on my shoulder and out of nowhere said. “I’m getting married next week. I’m so excited.”

“Oh, good for you,” I replied, not sure what her marriage had to do with my eye condition.

“Yes, it’s my third time. I’m embarrassed to say.”

“I hope this one’s a charm,” I said with my head shaking from the tremors.

I thought briefly about what it would be like to be married to her. I pictured her forcing me to read letters on the wall all night and pushing my face against the refractor machine while she kept saying: “Is one better than two, is two better than three?”

Frankly, I was surprised that the optometrist was only on her third husband.

“Well, I wish you much luck on your new marriage,” I said, surprised that I was congratulating this optometrist on a major life event after she told me that I had intention tremors, floaters, dry eye and baby cataracts.

Then she put her hand with the engagement ring on my shoulder again. This time she handed me the bill.



Originally published:
Issue Seventy-Seven
June 2018



Mark Tulin is currently recovering from a career in psychotherapy. He moved to Santa Barbara from Philadelphia to write stories, practice yoga, and to find a sexy Latina who knew how to give good foot massages. He has been successful on all three counts.

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