I can always tell when it’s time to take out my contacts for a day, put on my glasses, and give my parched eyeballs a break. It’s when I have any dream that centers on me trying to find my favorite bottle of Sensitive Eyes eyedrops, and then I wake up and have to force my eyes open with hot, sterilized tongs.
Now, I have to make it clear that my contacts are not the fancy Night and Day brand, or even particularly extended-wear lenses. I’ve tried those brands, and they just don’t hurt enough for me to know they’re usefully inserted on my eyes. So I generally wear weekly disposables. For at least six months.
I don’t know why I’m so pathologically cavalier towards my eyes and, by extension, my ability to see. I’ve worn glasses since sixth grade, and it took me exactly one year to convince my mother I was responsible enough for contact lenses. That was the same year I got her to let me get my ears pierced. Her defenses must have been pretty weak that year. I should have tried for more.
So I’ve worn contact lenses for almost 20 years (whoa) and during that span I have committed some pretty heinous crimes against my eyes. I started the downward slide the summer before the eighth grade, when I saw my summer camp counselor taking her contacts out and putting them straight into the case… without cleaning them first.
This was a revelation to me. I had been conscientiously cleaning my lenses every night, and back then I even used that creepy little heating unit every week that you had to plug into a wall outlet, until they started me on those creepy little dissolving capsules that fizzed and bubbled around my lenses for their weekly decontamination. Now, when I saw my coolest of counselors shrug and turn out the light when I asked her what the hell she thought she was doing, I saw the envelope, and resolved to see how far I could push it.
Pretty far, is the short answer. I’ve put my contacts in tap water, often in the fold of a cassette tape case (open one up all the way and prop it up like an lectern. It forms a trough, and there are sometimes two little nubs of plastic that will keep the lenses separated.) And I have wrapped them up in dampened paper towels. The rough, brown, industrial type of paper towels. I’ve also used film canisters filled halfway up with tap water.
That was in high school, when I was young and reckless (yes, that is just about as wild and crazy as I got in high school). Now I just leave them in all day and night for weeks and weeks until my eyes bleed. Or until I have The Dream.
So I had The Dream last night, and dutifully pried my contacts out upon awakening. I put on my cute little wire-framed glasses and sat down at the computer, which I don’t remember being so painfully bright before. Naturally, I had an e-mail waiting for me with a new editing job with lots of little subscripts and fine print and hieroglyphic charts and figures. Needs to be done with a 24-hour turn-around time.
Ow ow ow ow ow.
Praise the Lord and pass the eyedrops.