They came with new eyes in a plastic bucket, like fish bait, bobbing and rolling in murky water. One guy motioned to a small room and I followed. Thirteen steps. I counted each one. Eight of nine doors in the corridor were closed. Mine was the open one. Must be an epidemic, I thought. A loudspeaker in the ceiling announced the death of Michel Foucault. I thought back to the death of Andy Kaufman a month earlier and wondered who would be next. Celebrity deaths always came in threes. They told me to have a seat and relax. The chair looked like it belonged in a dentist’s office so I leaned back and opened my mouth. The bucket-carrying man laughed. The other two guys didn’t find it funny. They slipped latex gloves onto their hands and snapped the wrists.
I told them I wasn’t seeing things straight lately. I said there was a lot of confusion out there, or maybe there wasn’t any confusion at all but my eyes were seeing things as confusing, so for all practical purposes there was a lot of confusion out there. They said a lot of people had complained of the same thing lately. They blamed it on Madonna and MTV. They said everything would be better soon. They said I’d be seeing clearly in no time. That made me feel better. I asked what they intended to do with my old eyes. A woman came in and handed me a clipboard. I filled in the blanks and signed my name at the bottom. They didn’t answer my question.
They spoke to me through white surgical masks. One of them pointed to a poster on the wall and asked me to describe what I saw. I told them about the big smiling heads and the long tropical feathers and the castanets and the barely-concealed breasts. I told them I’d seen a lot of breasts and big heads lately; that, and the most confusing image of all. They said, Boy George? I said, Yes. They said a lot of people were confused about that one. I asked if Newvision worked for everyone. They said yes. They said the most disorienting thing was for people to let their eyes wander. They said Newvision was a cure for wandering eyes.
The bucket-carrying man reached into the water and palmed out a pair of eyeballs. He held them out for the masked guys to see. They nodded and each took one. They extracted my eyes with what looked like a sorbet scooper. I didn’t feel a thing. They said that was normal. I felt a slight twist as they screwed new eyeballs into my head. They said that was normal too. They said the right twist was what corrected the vision. One of them pointed to the poster on the wall and asked me to describe what I saw. I told them about the wind-curled American flag and the smiling face of Ronald Reagan. I told them how he gazed out of the poster as if into the future. I told them he reminded me of my grandfather. They said he was everyone’s grandfather. They said he who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past. They said this about Ronald Reagan. I recalled reading something like that before, but not about Ronald Reagan.
The two guys removed the latex gloves and white surgical masks. They said my vision was corrected. I asked again what would happen with my old eyes. We’ll send them to Brazil, one of them said, to go in those giant carnival heads you saw in the poster. The other guy laughed, joined by the first one, and I knew they were pulling my leg. The bucket-carrying guy dropped my old eyes in the murky water and left the room. I asked if I could use the bathroom. They showed me to the last door on the left. From behind me a woman called my name. I turned to find the clipboard woman striding in my direction. She handed me a pair of dark eyeglasses. Wear these for one hour, she said. I asked why but she turned without reply and marched down the corridor.
The bathroom door opened and out came the bucket-carrying man, minus the bucket. He pointed to the glasses in my hand, then to his own eyes, and nodded with a smile. I understood his gesture and slid the dark glasses on my head. The bucket-carrying man approached me, a wicker basket of breasts in one hand and a pair of castanets in the other. He registered my confusion and removed the glasses from my head. Bread and wine, he said. He was correct. The wicker basket contained three loaves of bread, and in his other hand, two bottles of red wine. Even Newvision doctors need to eat, he said. From behind me the clipboard woman yelled. One hour, she said. I returned the glasses to my head.
In the bathroom I paused at the sink. Latin music played through a speaker in the ceiling. I turned to make sure the door was closed, and once confirmed, removed the dark glasses. I saw myself not as a reflection in the mirror but as if looking at myself from the mirror, as if standing there I was the reflection. I returned the glasses to my head, counted the seconds until the hour passed, and removed the glasses. The works of John Philip Sousa played through a speaker in the ceiling. I saw nothing around me, nothing behind me or in front of me, nothing to my left or my right, only me as the reflection of my reflection. They were right. My vision was corrected.