After the visual field test, I was led through the basement maze of Jules Stein Eye Institute to the second waiting room of the day. The room was empty and the air smelled like doom. I don’t remember how long I waited; I was only aware of the quick rhythm of my heart . After a time, a woman with bushy hair and a staccato voice came into the bleak room and called my name. She led me back into the maze and then to another room, dimly lit with whirring, then unfamiliar, machines. She asked me to sit in a chair so she could put drops in my eyes, and told me I was lucky to be there; people came all the way from Egypt to see Dr. Heckenlively. I was feeling anything but lucky and had yet to actually see the infamous man.
After two sets of eye drops were administered, the bushy haired woman led me to a small room with a nondescript couch and told me I had to wait there until the drops took effect. She closed the door. The room was pitch black.
I had no idea why I had been locked in this dark room with the lilting voice of Sade telling me she would never leave me sad; all I knew was that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face and I felt terrified. Was this what my future held? This total darkness that made the world impossible, overwhelming and immense. The darkness removes the security of boundaries and the familiarity of edges; it steals everything you know. I waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. That day, in that room of pitch and fear, I learned that RP eyes don’t ever adjust to the dark.
After thirty long minutes, the tech returned and opened the door; the room was bathed in red light and I couldn’t see her face, but felt her take my arm as she proceeded to guide me into the torture chamber. She sat me down in a chair akin to the kind you find in a dentists office; this should have been a warning sign to run, but how can you run when you can’t see? I was at her mercy. She slathered my eyes in what felt like vaseline and then inserted plastic disks under my eyelids. “So you can’t blink”, she said.
What the fuck? So I can’t blink? I felt like I was in a Stanley Kubrik film.
She led me, and my unblinking eyes, to another chair and helped me find the chin rest at yet another entrance to one of those strange domes. “Lean forward and focus on the red light”. Five seconds, ten, thirty…….wham. Bright white lights shooting out of the walls of the dome, assaulting my eyes and stabbing the limited fields of my vision. And then again, darkness.
“You’re all done”, she said, sounding chipper.
I wanted to shove plastic disks under her eyelids and see how chipper she’d be then.