Take me. Quick. Please take me. Before I go back to that room. That darkness. That stillness. The carpet thin and fraying. The walls cold and empty. The whole place devoid of natural light and human warmth. Please don’t let me spend another day there.

Please. Don’t.

You don’t know what it’s like. His eyes looking through my smudged and dusty lenses at a bright, white screen. The screen slowly filling with indecipherable black shapes and patterns before suddenly becoming white and rounded with black then disappearing and going white again. Then repeat.

There’s no movement, no vibrations, no possibility of action or risk. I stay, strapped to his face, my arms resting over his ears, his thick hair smothering them and making me hot and wet, the sweat of anxiety dirtying his skin so that when he lifts me to rub his tired eyes and the ridge of his ears small clumps of it form then attach themselves to me.

I go nowhere. I look nowhere. Occasionally, he leans back and I see the walls, the ceiling, the glow of the sun behind the blinds, but the blinds don’t move. The double, triple, quadruple glazing lets in no bustle. He’s safe from distractions, but I need them. I want them. I yearn for them.

Give me a crude painting, a leafless tree, a week old newspaper. Give me you, your loose dressing gown, your brilliant teeth, your glowing eyes, your vibrant hair. Give me your coffee-stained mug and the cereal box with the fruit and nuts on it. Give me the toast rack with the crumbs collecting abjectly beneath it.

Give me anything. Snatch me from his face and take me away through the crowds and out into that wonderful place that man took me the day I was free.

Everyday I go with him is another day wasted, another day spent looking at the same thing over and over again, when I could – should – be outside beyond those walls, helping him see something that is more than the product of his own head, a head which is confined by some massive apparatus which sits over his ears, blocking out sound and pushing my arms closer to his sweaty, anxious skull.

You know. You don’t know what it’s like, but you know I want to leave, go out, revisit that place, that wonderful day when I was free of him. That day when I was lifted from his head and transported to a world I would never have seen otherwise. Why do I persistently slip down the ridge of his nose? Why does he unremittingly push me back up with the index finger of his right hand?

At night I sit on his bedside table and see the ceiling, once in a while a tentative spider or confused fly. In the morning he puts me on and I see his dark unshaven face in the mirror, his eyes heavy and crusty with sleep. I see his breakfast bowl, the fridge, the coffee pot, the dishwasher’s metal innards, and I try, try to think they’re an adventure, something interesting, something beautiful. I go on trips, sporadic at best, and hope to see something fresh and new, but as I’m getting excited he lays me aside, picks up his binoculars and forgets about me.

He treats me as if I’m not there, as if I’m not helping him, even if I don’t want to, even if I want to be back in that man’s hand flying past groups of people whose mouths are opening and closing in astonishment, their heads spinning then stopping as they see where I am and where I’m not and finally comprehend what is happening.

I see only a hand, the pink of a palm and the lines curving across it, lines that look like the ones above his crusty morning eyes but aren’t, they’re someone else’s.

Suddenly we’re outside, and I feel air and vibrations, relentless movement. I see flashes of colour around the shaded pink of the palm, reds and whites and yellows and greens. I’m moving back and forth and side to side so much so that I feel dizzy, but not sickeningly so. I’m elated, and I’m being held gently, carefully, whoever it is making sure their skin doesn’t touch my lenses and smudge them with grime.

I’m moving then I stop and I’m being looked at with concerned and yet smiling eyes. Around me it’s green and brown, the green at times lush and flowing, at others controlled by the brown, which is thin and which moves in a buoyant motion.

I’m in a man’s hand and the next moment I’m being smothered. Something thin and warm and soft goes over me and rubs across my lenses. It’s dark, but a darkness I’ve never experienced before. I enjoy it. It’s warm. It’s tender, and just as suddenly everything’s light again, and clear. Crisper than ever before. As if I’d never met him. As if I’m back in that moment my arms slid over his ears for the first time, and my bridge up his nose.

I see everything clearly now. The man’s face. The colours behind him. I see his teeth, crowded sharp and shiny white. I see his lips and the thin lines that run vertically down them like some of the shapes he puts on that white screen. I see hair around his mouth and along the jaw, the colour glowing and febrile. I see his eyes wet-white and pulsing, the colour expanding and contracting. I see a collection of brown dots around his nose and small droplets of sweat begin to run from his eyebrows and around the circle of his eyes.

It is bright, clear, new, nothing like the fuzzy darkness I’m about to go to.

And then, I’m no longer there. I’m back with him and I’m looking at that white screen again, the black shapes slowly growing across it then going white surrounded by black then disappearing.

Then repeat.

I’m never going to see those colours again or feel that movement.

I’m in that room, and you haven’t taken me.


12 thoughts on “Jonathan Franzen’s Glasses

  1. Now I feel sorry for my ink pen, scissors, ruler, deskpad, and even the telephone. Maybe I’ll load ’em up and take ’em for a joy ride.

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