A Report on the Aperture


For many years I had perfect vision, and then in my forties, suddenly, I no longer did. Apparently my vision had changed gradually and over the course of months, and I simply held each book I was reading slightly further from my eyes to compensate.

I might have kept pushing books farther and farther away until I ran out of arm, but instead, one night, out at a restaurant I went to weekly, I could not see well enough in the dim light to be able to determine how much the bill was. This did not seem to happen gradually: from one visit to the next, I found I could no longer read the check. I had to pick up the bill and carry it back into the bathroom and look at it in the bright light there, then add everything up and carry the check back to the table.

Over the course of several months, I did this at dim restaurants until J. gave me an alternative. This J. was not the girlfriend J. I lived with but the other J., a mutual friend of the first J. and myself. Eventually, once the first J. and I broke up, this second J. became her boyfriend, and J. and I (both the first J. and the second J.) would no longer be friends.

But before that, this J. showed me how I could make a circle with my thumb and forefinger and slowly tighten the aperture so created while peering through it with one eye. If I did this, I could focus well enough to read the check. Indeed, I could read just as well as I always had, as long as I was content to read just a few letters at a time.

Then I bought reading glasses. I no longer needed to peer through this aperture, unless I had forgotten them. Soon I began wearing my reading glasses all the time, low enough on my nose that I could look over them any time I wanted to look at something far away, since for things far away I still had so-called perfect vision.


Now, years later, the only time I have occasion to make this aperture is when I am in a hotel and am confronted by tiny bottles of bath gel, shampoo, and conditioner. At home, I buy bottles of bath gel and shampoo and conditioner that are distinct in appearance so I always know immediately which is which. My main criteria in buying bath gel and shampoo and conditioner is that they be in sufficiently dissimilar bottles. At hotels, sometimes it is obvious which tiny bottle is bath gel and which is shampoo and which is conditioner, but most often it is not. When it is not, I find myself bringing my thumb and forefinger together and then tightening the opening between to create the aperture that allows me to read.

Which of course makes me think of J. Not the J. I dated, but the J. who I once considered to be my friend and who, in a manner of speaking, took my place.

In other words, now, years later, one of the rare times I think of my ex-friend J. is when I am in the shower in my hotel room, naked, vulnerable, alone. Making the aperture so I can distinguish conditioner from shampoo from bath gel, I feel briefly grateful to him, and then resentful, and then ashamed.

But then I get out of the shower and dry off and get dressed. I do not think of him again until, days later, in another city, in another hotel, my thumb and forefinger again must need curl together to form the aperture. No, once out of the shower I do not think of him.

Except for today when, perhaps as a means of acknowledging my debt, perhaps as a form of exorcism, I have chosen, still dripping, half dressed, to write this.  

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