I focus on a wheelchair in my mind’s eye. The chair is slowly rolling toward me. It is my personal Twilight Zone. I hear a wizened voice saying, sit down, dearie. The scene provokes a gripping horror. I cannot say I obsess on it, but the vision in the back of my mind is moving forward, apace with the wheelchair. In the dark of dawn, I am awake, just thinking, imagining. My grandmother and father depended on these chairs at the end. My imaginary family photo has me in the same metal device. The image stays with me but under wraps.
I awaken and move downstairs. I cannot see the glass next to the sink and knock it onto the floor, shattering it and spilling whatever day old refreshment was in it. I am back to reality. I hobble outdoors and fetch the Times. I have conveniently forgotten I can barely make out the headlines over articles on the front page and little of the stories themselves. “Be patient,” the neuro-ophthalmologist tells me. “It should get better.” That is not my history.
I sit at the computer for hours, face pressed against the screen. That contorted position allows me to see what I am writing. My back hurts constantly, but it is worth it. I am a writer by default. For twenty-five years I toiled in the vineyards of network news. Then the fine wine was gone and I became a refugee on the printed page. Now this is what I do, and I wonder how long I will be able to go on.
I do not allow myself to contemplate sightlessness. My imagination cannot go there. Missing eyesight is likely to become functional blindness, the limited ability to appreciate light and dark, to see shapes and movement. Words may be forever lost to me. I may become more dependent on others, an especially horrible prospect. Now my only hiding place is sleep. The chairs appear only in the fog of waking up.
We are visually selective in what we see on the silver screens in our minds. I own the theater and control the projector. For now. All I fear stays off the movie schedule. How long I am able to remain in charge of my theater depends on the pace of worst-case dramas finally finding their place on the nighttime program.
Sightlessness is my secret nightmare, a secret even to myself. There is a reason I have not written of the issue that has followed me for many decades. The genie must remain trapped in the bottle through which I cannot see. I cannot bear to know the future.