Perhaps it was the fact that, in the early days at least, girls from other classes would listen in to my lessons, their ears pressed to the door, though I doubt they caught much of my soft English mumble; perhaps it was the fact that I had the longest queue in Parent’s Evening, until eventually the Principal had to come in. I had to be terse. Parent’s Evening had already over-extended and my queue was still there.
Whatever the case Nemesis was patiently waiting.
Man and boy I’d worn glasses, my first being the NHS special: ugly; in sunlight peculiar. I moved on to the Hank Marvin special, the John Lennon special, pink tinted lenses that made Newport look psychedelic, and now…in New York…vanity offered the final temptation.
As they say now: ‘Because you’re worth it’.
And I had St Agnes’s Girls, caustic and sophisticated, analysing my every move - presumably more interesting than the lessons.
Vanity can be painful, especially in the form of the near invisible, soft plastic discs you plonk on both eyeballs, and worse, attempt to take off again prior to sleep.
The optician told me I’d get used to it. He never said how long it would take. I remember the first time I balanced the first tiny disc on my finger. It glistened with malice and quivered as it approached the right eye. I withdrew the finger and examined it at arm’s length. What was I doing – placing this alien parasite in my eye?
Then I remembered how much I’d paid for them.
I tried again and then my eyeball went berserk, caroming like a small cannon-ball in its attempt to escape. It was like trying to catch a very small cat or wrestle a tadpole, and several times I missed, the lens getting entangled in lashes or ending up halfway down my nose. And then I had to start all over again with the second lens.
But hey, I looked good. Examined from every angle, I looked good. I was complete, born again, a man without disability, the guy without glasses. I did a little strut down Roosevelt avenue; Hawkeye. The guy with the look.
Nemesis is patient. It will be there when the universe dies. It didn’t have to wait as long for me. The evening approached. I had to take them out again. This time both eyeballs were prepared. They’d had all day to discuss tactics, the right studying Clauswitz, the left, Sun Tzu's Art of War.
There they were, expectant and hard, resenting the alien cling-film enveloping them. And they had good reason to be afraid, for now two fingers approached, like some mechanical digger. The eyeballs were terrified and again I withdrew.
Horse whisperers may do it for horses. But eyeballs aren’t stupid. And anyway, they’re deaf. It took me a good hour to get the damn things out, and I set my alarm clock an hour early to put them back in again the following day.
And yes, in time the eyeballs were tamed and wore their new saddles. The irony was that when, one year later, I returned to England I pretty soon had to stop wearing them. The culprit was chalk-dust. No more the clean white-boards of St Agnes. I was back to creaking blackboards and Icelandic clouds of chalk-dust. Nemesis is impartial. Contact lenses couldn’t compete against this. The eyes became red. The lenses went. Eyeballs sighed in relief.