For new readers: When I refer to Zelda, I am not talking about a pet or a child or a childhood toy I just can’t seem to part with; Zelda is my white cane.
It seems I am always waiting; waiting for the next decline in my vision, waiting to hear about that poem I submitted 6 months ago, waiting for the package to be delivered from Amazon, waiting for the scale to give me good news, waiting for the next time I get to eat, waiting for the end of the day and that bottle of wine, waiting for it all to be over. And then, suddenly, something I have been waiting for, arrives.
On Monday of this week, I spent the day seeing doctors and getting tests; nothing serious, just inconvenient, exhausting, and honestly, pretty gross, so I am not going into further detail. That said, I spent a lovely day maneuvering through the seriously fucked up American healthcare system, without Zelda. I have been leaving her at home a lot lately; we are having a heat wave in Hollywood and I have been feeling lazy and not wanting to carry yet another thing when I go out, so Zelda gets left behind. I may have also still been in a tiny little bit of denial, but it really is fucking hot here.
Anyway, I made it through most of my healthcare nightmare day unscathed, until I was being escorted out of the maze of the hospital by a kind, lovely and very fast walking ultra sound tech. I was matching her pace, feeling confident striding down the corridor, and then she said, ” take a right here”, and she turned and I didn’t and the collision ensued. When she said to turn right “here”, I thought she meant a right turn that I saw coming up about 10 feet ahead of us; the right turn she was actually talking about, I didn’t see. I had no idea what was next to me, or how close I had been walking to the wall, or how many adjoining corridors we had passed. When she and I collided, my confidence plummeted to the ground, but I quickly scooped it up, apologized to her and told her I have severely limited vision and I really should have been using my cane. I felt bad about almost knocking the poor woman down, but I didn’t feel embarrassed about admitting that I had a cane and that the collision was my fault because I should have been using it; it was just the truth. If I had taken Z with me, the tech would have walked slower and I wouldn’t have been trying to groove right alone with her, feeling dangerously confident about my non-existent visual capabilities. I took my time for the remainder of my walk through the hospital, and found a comfy chair to settle into while I waited for my husband to pick me up.
Yesterday, I was taking one of my frequent walks to the grocery store, sans Zelda, for the same reasons listed above. As I approached the first street crossing, I thought I heard someone walking near me, but I had no idea how near. I slowed my pace a little, tuning my ears to the sounds of footfalls and rustling clothing, but when I got to the corner and reached for the cross button, I bumped into a woman who must have been just inches away from me. I still get fooled by RP a lot of the time and think people and objects can’t be as close to me as they actually are; my ears are not that well trained, yet.
The woman was super nice and friendly and didn’t seem to think twice about our collision, but it gave me pause. I realized, or perhaps I have known for a while, that my vision has gotten worse. Decline in vision is something that someone with RP is always waiting for, but in my case there has been a lot of uncertainty about whether or not it is actually happening. I am fortunate that my vision loss has had a very slow progression, and there have been so many times when I feel pretty convinced that I am not seeing as well, and it turns out that my vision is stable. This time is different. I feel the world pressing in against me; the shrinking circles of my vision have become more prominent. But, somehow, being in the center of the decline, looking at the world with the heightened sensation of tunnel vision, I don’t feel afraid. I have been waiting for this.
During the rest of my sojourn to the grocery store, I must have had at least 10 near collisions and people coming at me from, seemingly, out of nowhere. I kept thinking over and over again, “I wish I had Zelda with me”. I think I’ll take her out today, no matter how hot it is.