THE PRINCE AND I were gardening Saturday morning, grappling with the Don Juan climbing rose that had thorned its way into the rose of Sharon and the mock orange; three plants nearly 30 years old and completely run amuck alongside the back-porch railing.
This wet spring has done wonders for the plants. Mosquitoes too, but that’s another story.
He, of course, was fussing at me for heedlessly, so he said, leaning out over the railing to grab thorny rose canes and tug them about. “Where are your goggles?” he said, these being part of the gardening equipage that he’s bought me over the years, a collection that includes a soil-testing kit I’ve never used and many pairs of gloves that I forget to wear.
“Stupid,” he called this disregard for my eyes. And I suppose I agree, in theory at least, though I’ve yet to damage an eye no matter how violently I’m gardening.
I’d also never injured myself with an eyeliner pencil, but that was about to change.
Cue ominous music, please.
That night, we were preparing to go out to dinner and I was doing my eye makeup over the bathroom sink, when a jagged edge of the casually sharpened pencil dragged itself across my left eyeball.
Caution: If you’re squeamish about eye injuries stop reading now.
A pinprick of red quickly filled the outside edge of the eye and then enthusiastically grew into a bubble that was rapidly becoming the size of a marble.
“A doctor! I need a doctor,” I yelled to the Prince, who hustled in and for once didn’t argue. I stomped about the foyer, whining impatiently, while he changed out of his Hawaiian shirt and into a solid purple, which was more appropriate, he told me, for an emergency room visit, and off we sped.
The Washington Hospital Center was shockingly calm and quiet, and seemingly staffed exclusively by 20-year-olds, poor dears. We’d gone with expectations of an endless wait amid the carcasses of the overdosed and the creatively wounded. Perhaps it was too early in the evening.
A CAT scan was done to check the extent of the damage, and then an orderly arrived with a wheelchair to transport me to the eye clinic. Since I was entirely capable of walking, which I had already demonstrated with a jog to the X-ray department, or whatever they call it, this was more than a tad alarming. What had I done that I was now forbidden to move on my own?
Then: “Can you walk?” asked the absurdly young doctor, the lonely occupant of the eye clinic, who had been watching a murder mystery on TV when I, blessedly, brought him an emergency to play with.
“Yes,” I said, getting up and sashaying into the examination room. Here he tested the this and the that and put numbing drops in my eyes, which he said would take about 20 minutes to work and cause several hours of blurring.
I asked for the ladies’ room and he said there’s one right outside in the hall, which of course I didn’t see, as I didn’t have my contacts in and was doused with blur that was rapidly taking effect. It felt like a Stephen King novel: deathly quiet hospital, the clack of my heels on the linoleum, an empty gurney here and there, and me, this hideous woman with a bulging bloody eye groping down an endless corridor, searching for the toilets, and fearing I’d stumble into the morgue.
Groping my way back I saw in the distance a white coat and a purple shirt, shoulder to shoulder, staring in my direction, which I correctly deduced were the doc, having nothing better to do, and the Prince come to find me—and point out the bathroom right outside the clinic doors that I had completely overlooked.
Now numb, I sat while more invasive tests were performed with lights and gadgets; another lonely doctor, a specialist with a blond pony tail, swished in and I was pronounced really ugly but okay.
“Damn,” I muttered. “My phone is out of juice and I can’t take a photo to impress my friends and family.”
“No worries,” said the doctor, “it will still be there in the morning, and the next morning, and the next . . . ”
The blood will turn black, then fade into a rusty light brown, he said, rather too happily, and then to a jaundiced yellow. Maybe in a month or so it will fade completely.
As of now, I have what looks like “an eyeball floating in deep red wine sauce,” said my friend Phyllis (the person, not the hydrangea). My Prince bought me a black eye patch at CVS, to protect me from the sun—and so he doesn’t have to look at me, I presume.
Those numbing drops are too cool, by the way. Like being stoned without the smoke. The car lights and lampposts looked like blasts of red and green and white fireworks on the drive to grilled-cheese sandwiches at the Tune Inn, our local dive bar. It’s the only place in the neighborhood still serving dinner at 11:30 at night.
Next week: In a return to gardening, I’ll pass along tips for creating your own banana republic. Also, instructions on how to glitter an eye patch.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” reports on her back 40 mostly when she’s able to actually see it.