In I Can See Clearly Now, Wendy tries to calm her screaming baby as she waits in the optometrist’s office. She hopes the glasses he broke the night before can be mended. She has a headache from lack of sleep, and on top of everything, her friend has invited her to dine at a fancy restaurant that Wendy can’t afford.
About the Author
Glynis Scrivens lives in Brisbane with her family plus 2 rescue dogs, a Himalayan Persian, 3 ducks, 6 chickens, and an abundance of wildlife.
Glynis has over four hundred and fifty short stories that have been published or are awaiting publication in Australia, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, the US, India, and Scandinavia. Her book Edit is a Four-Letter Word includes what she has learnt in the process.
Learn more about Glynis’s work at her website: www.glynisscrivens.com
I Can See Clearly Now by Glynis Scrivens
Wendy walked about the optometrist’s waiting room, praying that her six-month-old son Nathan would doze off on her shoulder. Where’s Mum? she thought. Her appointment was in ten minutes time. What could she do? Her baby wouldn’t stop crying. She jigged him up and down with her tired arms. Her head was pounding.
Unexpectedly, silence. She relaxed, her shoulders sagging. She peeped at her cherub. He was gleefully waving about a fashionable pair of oblong red frames with thick purple side arms. He must’ve quietly grabbed them from the display as she walked past.
She had no choice but to untangle them from his chubby fingers while ignoring his cries of protest. She hoped the sales assistant wouldn’t notice they’d become a little sticky. At least he hasn’t broken them, she thought.
As he’d broken hers, just yesterday, when he’d woken from his afternoon nap sucking his fist and howling. She’d walked up and down the hallway singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Her glasses had ended up in three pieces before she’d realized what he was up to. His little fingers were so quick she couldn’t keep up with him.
Now, she felt at her wits’ end. Yesterday’s headache still brewed in her head, a combination of Nathan’s crying, her eyestrain, and yet another nearly sleepless night.
He’d cried then as he cried now. She’d put teething gel on his sore gums and noticed the edge of a tooth finally cutting through.
The familiar high-pitched protest was at deafeningly close range. Maybe she should walk outside for a moment? That might distract him. It was so embarrassing.
Everyone thinks I don’t know how to look after my baby.
She glanced at her watch. Five minutes to ten. Where are you, Mum? she thought. And her tired eyes were rewarded by the sight of a silver-haired figure hurrying along the pavement towards her. Her mother was short and fairly slight inside her layered cardigans, but at this moment she seemed like a tower of strength. Wendy felt her facial muscles relax and realized how tense she’d been. She hugged her mother with her free arm and rested her head for a moment on her mother’s shoulder.
Nathan wriggled with excitement. Two chubby arms stretched towards his grandmother.
“Sorry I’m late. The bus was caught in traffic,” Joyce said. Then her attention turned to Nathan. She held two sticky hands in hers and kissed him on both cheeks. His big blue eyes were fastened onto hers as she took him into her arms.
“Thanks for coming at such short notice,” said Wendy. “This was the only free appointment today. I’m lucky there was a cancellation.”
Her mother’s eyes lingered on Wendy’s face. “You look worn out,” she said.
Wendy smiled wryly and nodded. “I didn’t think it’d be so hard with Jason away. At least it’s only a conference. He’ll be home Friday evening.”
“Four more days to go. Maybe I can help out?”
“Just seeing you makes me feel stronger. I haven’t adjusted to not getting enough sleep.”
“We’ll make sure you have time to rest today. Put your feet up. Paint your fingernails.”
“I won’t have too much time. Susie phoned. She’s booked a restaurant for 8 o’clock tonight. Invited the usual gang.”
“It’s alright for Susie,” said Joyce. “She’s still single. Now that you’ve got Nathan you need to start putting yourself first.”
“I felt about a hundred listening to Susie. At the moment, my idea of a good night is settling down with a cup of tea and a magazine.”
“Maybe you’d enjoy yourself if you had a sleep this afternoon. What does your heart tell you?”
Wendy shook her head. “It’s my brain doing the talking. The place she’s booked was written up in the weekend paper. It’s very upmarket. I can’t afford it this month, and I didn’t know how to tell Susie. I’m sick of sounding like a wet blanket.”
Joyce looked thoughtful. “First things first. Let’s see if your glasses can be mended. Otherwise, you’d need to factor in a taxi fare as well.”
“I’m just praying they don’t need replacing. My budget wouldn’t cope with the ridiculous price of new frames.”
She could hear the flatness in her voice and hoped her mother hadn’t noticed.
“What you need is a holiday.”
Her mother had suggested a few days at the beach in her holiday cabin. Just the three of them. That was out of the question now, Wendy thought. With her glasses broken, she couldn’t drive. If only her mother had a driving licence.
Life could be so unfair. And it was darned expensive.
She checked the time. It was 10 o’clock.
“Thank goodness you’re here, Mum. Will you be okay with Nathan?”
Then Wendy smiled. Her question was superfluous. Grandmother and baby were totally rapt in each other. Nathan lifted a piece of red floral fabric out of Joyce’s blouse pocket. She always kept tempting fragments of brightly coloured material within reach of her favourite pickpocket.
“We’ll meet you in the café over the road,” Joyce said. “You look as though you could do with a coffee.”
Thankful, Wendy went back inside. How peaceful it seemed. She strolled over to the display and unobtrusively wiped a tissue over the red frames.
Soon, she was sitting in the optometrist’s raised chair, watching the horizontal and vertical lines cross her vision, and answering the usual array of questions. Which is darker, the horizontal or the vertical? He shuffled the lenses about until both sets of lines were equal.
It always felt like an invasion of her personal space, sitting inches away from him. She could feel his warm breath on her face.
He wrote her prescription on the card and compared it with her existing one.
“No need to make any changes this time, Wendy.” He was sitting at his desk now, their personal space re-established, the intrusive moment gone.
She handed him the three pieces of the frame that until yesterday had been her glasses. “Can you do anything with these, Andrew? I really can’t afford to replace them, but I’m not sure they can be mended.”
He inspected the broken plastic, twisting it one way and another. “It’s not as bad as it looks,” he said at last. “A screw has fallen out, and if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to glue this other piece back where it belongs. Shouldn’t take long.”
Wendy sat in the waiting room again, feeling relieved. What if she’d had to wait days for new glasses to be made? It was a huge weight off her mind.
Relaxed, she found herself enjoying the fuzziness created by her myopia. Without her glasses, the rows of frames on the wall opposite looked like an array of colourful butterflies.
It brought back memories of her childhood. Nights when she’d sat in the back seat of her father’s car, looking up at the sky through the rear windscreen. How wonderful the stars had seemed to her, so large and luminous. They’d been gleaming streams of light stretching across the sky. Even better on nights when it was raining and the raindrops on the windscreen added to the effect.
One night at bedtime, she’d mentioned to her mother that she had another headache. A few days later, she’d found herself on the raised chair in the optometrist’s office with Andrew putting a large metal contraption in front of her eyes to test different lenses. It’d been a revelation. No more peering at bus numbers. No longer having to sit in the front row at school.
But Wendy could also remember the disappointment when she’d first seen stars through her new glasses. Little cold orbs—nothing like their glorious counterparts. She’d taken off her glasses when her parents weren’t looking so she could still enjoy them in their fuzzy splendour.
Yes, sometimes it was nicer when the world was fuzzy. When things weren’t as clearly defined as in the world of adults.
She couldn’t help wondering what adulthood would be like if she could take off the invisible glasses of responsibility now and again. It’d be lovely to enjoy the fuzziness of sensations again, the way she had as a child. Of walking along her favourite beach, dragging her toes in the sand. Of sitting on the rocks at the headland, eating fish and chips. Life was hard with Jason away. Especially with Nathan teething. It felt like all work and no fun.
Motherhood. It’d certainly meant a lot of growing up on her part.
“Having a good day?” the young receptionist asked her brightly, as Andrew emerged from his office. The girl flashed her a bright smile. Her hair had streaks of copper and brown through the ash blonde. Her makeup was perfect, straight from the cover of the magazine Wendy hadn’t found time to read.
She bit the inside of her lip and nodded. The girl would be horrified if she knew the half of it.
“You’re in luck,” Andrew said, very pleased with himself. “You’ll need to be careful till the glue dries. And in future, keep them out of reach of that beautiful baby of yours.”
He turned to his receptionist. “There’s no charge for the mending.”
Wendy’s spirits rose as she crossed the road to the café. Her mother had ordered her a cappuccino and some raisin toast. A dribbling Nathan was slumped on her shoulder, one sticky hand clutching a piece of bright material.
“Is there anything you want to do while he’s asleep?” Joyce asked.
Wendy contentedly skimmed some of the aromatic froth and licked it from the spoon. A delicious blend of chocolate and cinnamon. She stirred a sachet of sugar into her coffee and buttered the hot toast.
“I don’t have anything to wear to Susie’s dinner tonight.”
Wendy felt her mother’s gaze taking in her saggy eyes and limp hair. She tried to sit straight.
“Do you really want to go?” Joyce said.
“I can’t afford it. But you know Susie; she expects everyone to jump when she clicks her fingers. She’s invited a dozen people tonight.”
“That doesn’t sound like a yes, Wendy.”
Wendy looked at her mended glasses, which were drying on the table. Nathan dozed contentedly. Did she really have to go out tonight?
If she put on her glasses, would that make it clearer? Or should she make a decision now when everything was delightfully fuzzy? How tempting that was. To allow herself to stay in the in-between zone where she could pretend she was a child again.
The urge was irresistible.
She took out her phone and texted Susie. I’m afraid Nathan’s got a temperature. I won’t be able to make it tonight.
She smiled and looked at her mother. “That wasn’t really a lie. Everyone has a temperature, don’t they?”
Joyce sipped her tea thoughtfully. “We could be at the beach by lunchtime. Stay at my cabin for a few days. What do you think?”
“That sounds too good to be true.”
“I’ll take that as a yes. I’ll help you pack.”
Underneath the table, Wendy slipped off her shoes and curled her toes. This afternoon, she’d write her name in the hard wet sand of the shoreline. She couldn’t wait, even though she knew the waves would wash the letters away by morning, as they always did. But at least it’d be an assertion. A promise to herself. To the child in herself.
And tonight, when her mother wasn’t looking, she’d take off her glasses and gaze at the stars.
About the Story
I Can See Clearly Now was written by Glynis Scrivens.
For someone who is short-sighted, the night sky is a wondrous place, full of gleaming stars that trail light. Seeing clearly with glasses makes life easier, of course, but sometimes in order to see the bigger things in life more clearly, we need to take off our glasses again and allow ourselves to re-enter that fuzzy zone.
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