The natural light is bright outside the vision clinic. Birds are singing and a raw wind ruffles my hair. As we pass a holly bush, my son asks if the berries are edible. I answer his question in the warmth of the sun, then open the double swinging doors that lead to the lobby.
My eyes adjust to the florescent light in the dim waiting room. The assistant immediately takes my son back while I survey the room for a suitable seat. The corners are taken; the row along the back is full. The only remaining option is poor, but adequate: a fake leather arm chair in the center of the space. The room is quiet with tapping and shuffling as I move across the faux wood floor to take my place.
As I sit, I perceive that the sickness is heavy here. A woman sits directly across from me with her son to her right. Her eyes remain fixed upon her ailment as she tries to correct the wiggly ten-year-old with a word. Her arthritic fingers look for meaning with a swipe-and-hold, swipe-and-hold.
To my right is an overweight woman not much older than me. I can hear every breath she takes through stuffy nostrils. Her near-sightedness requires that she hold her affliction close to her face. She feverishly moves fat fingers to rearrange colored candies in an endless series of distraction.
In the corner, a sharply dressed man adjusts his glasses over pink eyes as he thumbs to soothe his disorder. He searches for connection among blue and gray speech bubbles. Every new vibration dispenses a temporary relief.
In a reflection in the window, I see a woman and her daughter leaving the office. The woman is in her thirties with a daughter in her tweens. Their dark, cheap plastic bands are already in place to protect weak eyes from the daylight they approach. Both have flowing blonde hair and digital cysts attached to their ears. They leave together, but they are separate.
A man and his son enter the room. The son is deep in conversation, but not with his father. The boy stares blankly into space as he leans on the pressboard counter covered by a white-washed veneer. He breaks away from his malady long enough to give a nod of approval to his dad as they check in.
The sickness is heavy. It is unlikely that those infected would notice, but it’s impossible for the rest of us to miss. The ill search for their remedy inside an artificial world, but their search is in vain.
The unimaginably simple cure is sitting right next to them.
I look across from me again. The boy meets my eyes and I smile back. His is the first human response I’ve received since taking my place. Since he has not yet contracted the sickness, his clear gaze is a dose of medicine to help my ailing vision.
You see, I, too, am sick, but today is a good day.
My son promptly exits his visit and we return together to the sunlight. As we enter the parking lot, our eyes are accosted by the brightness of the natural world. We feel the warmth of radiant heat escape from the car as we open doors, and our conversation quickens for the ride home.
We depart alive and inoculated… at least for now.