The Man In Her Eyes

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4.

“Coty?” Her mother laughed, the sound of plates clattering around shadowing her voice. “You do see realise you still have your sleep mask on your face?”

Coty laughed, reaching up to trace the edges of the mask as she nodded in reply to her mother’s question. “Yes. I finally got the contacts this morning and I apparently have to keep my eyes closed until tomorrow or at least in a dark environment. Hence, the sleep mask. I have to admit it feels a little bit weird.”

“And looks weird too.” Her sister, Eveline spoke up. Her throaty laugh floating out through the speakers of Coty’s laptop. Eveline was the youngest and the wildest amongst the three girls, always getting into trouble at home and at school. “You still look pretty Cot, though it looks like you are sleepwalking with that horrendous thing on your face. Why would they give you such a bland colour?”

“Well, maybe because I can’t object.”

“It must be. Okay mommy, am off.” Coty heard the noisy kiss Eveline gave their mother and she smiled, feeling like she was there with them. “I gotta go, big sis. Some friends from school are coming over so we can hang out at the mall. I promise when I get back I’ll give you a call to see how you are holding up.”

“Have fun, Evie. Please don’t drink or get into trouble. You are too young.”

“I don’t drink honey, don’t worry,” Eveline shouted and Coty heard a door bang in her wake.

“Ah, that girl wants to live life too fast.” Her mother sighed and the clattering started up again. “Your eyes? How do they feel?”

Coty laughed at that, reaching up again to touch the mask. “Honestly I thought it would be more dramatic than this. When she told me she had put the contacts, I thought something would feel different. That I would start screaming as it moulded to my eyes, or feel something tingling in there but there’s nothing. Just this rule of keeping my eyes closed for a day.”

“Oh honey, well I am sure it shouldn’t be as painful you imagine. Those kinds of things only happen in the movies, or at least I think so.” Her mother’s tone dropped. “Your dad and I are still worried that you chose to do this.”

“What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like they can ruin my eyes twice.”

“Don’t say that. What about your friend? Um,” her mother snapped her fingers in thought. “Maggie? Has she come to visit you?”

“Yes. She was here when I got the prosthesis. Something came up at her apartment and she went to see what was going on. She would be back in an hour or less.”

“Okay, as long as she is making sure you are taking care of yourself.”

“How is baba?”

“You know your father, my dear. He is the most childish man you might ever come across. Can you believe that I found him sitting on the couch with your nephews…eating cookies.” Coty laughed at the sound of feigned outrage in her mother’s tone. “The fact that diabetes hasn’t knocked on the door of that old man is really a surprise to me. Cookies, Cot, cookies! And not the sugar-free wheat ones that I made especially for him, no, no, no, he took the ones I made for the kids.”

“You know well that baba truly loves consuming sugar. I am sure that both you and Doctor Anders are exasperated with him but be patient. Remember I used to love sugar just as much but I stopped after a while.”

“It took you ten years, sweetheart and you are twenty-eight. Your father has hard longer and he has not changed. Don’t worry, I know what to do. I would stash all the sugar cookies away and replace them with wheat ones, oh I would teach him such a lesson.”

“Miss Adesina?” A soft voice called from the door and she looked up from her computer, feeling absolutely silly with the sleep mask as Eveline had said. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you. The doctor would be with you shortly.”

“Thank you.” she replied solemnly, listening for the click of the door before turning back to the computer. “Well, my doctor is coming to give me some updates and walk me through some more things. Would you like to stay on the call?”

“Oh, no honey.” Her mother apologised then scolded some of her cousins that were running around the kitchen. “It so hectic, I don’t even know how you hear me. School is out and all these rascals are loose around the house. Your aunt and I have been playing ‘hunt the bunny’ with them, picking them out of every crevice in the house. I’ll leave you to talk to her so they don’t distract you but promise me you’d call back as soon as she is done. Promise me that you are alright.”

“I am good, mama. I promise. I love you.”

“Same.”

“FaceTime ended. Would you like to rate the quality of your call?”

Coty chuckled at the question, shaking her head even though Ava obviously would not notice. It was her fourth day in the hospital and she was ready for the whole ordeal to be over. She still could not quite believe the fact that to be able to see took a procedure as easy slipping in a pair of mechanical contacts. Before she got the prosthesis, there had been some doubts, still wondering if she should push through or back out before it was too late. There had been so many tests; blood tests, MIR scans, and therapy.

The MIR had been her worst experience. When she was six, she loved to learn new words every day with her parents. The day she discovered the meaning of the word claustrophobia, she believed it was something she had. Through her teenage years she threw the word claustrophobia around with confidence yet, inside that machine, she learned the true meaning of claustrophobia. There was a strange clanging sound booming inside the machine, like the loud banging of pots against one another. It was stifling, especially since she was required to stay still when she felt like running.

Coty sighed, sucking her lower lip between her teeth as she unfolded her legs. The hospital had been a drag but it was about to be over, all of it. Tomorrow, as Doctor Lina said, she would wake up to her sight. Coty could not even begin to imagine how waking up would be like. Maggie once told her that not everything in life was pretty and not all she might see would please her. With her hands plastered over the cold glass, she tried to imagine what the city on the other side of the glass looked like. Maybe with her sight, it would truly be bigger than she was.

The door clicked and she spun at the sound, her eyes roaming behind the barrier of the mask.

“Coty good morning,” Lina spoke and Coty unfurled her fingers, offering a small smile. “The nurse gave me your chart and you are doing well according to what she has put down here. How are we feeling today?”

“A bit apprehensive but Maggie is coming back from her home with some romantic comedies to help me relax.”

“That’s wonderful.” Lina walked Coty back to her bed to sit her down. Then there was the odd sound of wheels scraping against the tiled floor. “As promised I am here to walk you through what would happen tomorrow after we get the sleep mask off your face.”

“Okay.”

“The first and the most important information is that you would be assigned to a therapist. His name is Mathew Summers; don’t make any jokes about seasons he hates that. As I have learned. Each week, you would spend an hour with him, telling him how the prosthesis are treating you. If you feel the same, you tell him so, if you feel different, tell him that as well. Getting this implant is like someone receiving a prosthesis for his or her leg, you would have to get accustomed to it little by little. You’d still be coming for some scheduled test to see if everything is working perfectly with each passing day.”

“Would I need the sleep mask often?”

“No, that is only for the first day. As I explained before the contacts are made of compounds that are more organic than not but they are still machines. How do I explain the process, umm, have you heard of bypass?” Coty nodded. “That’s what the nanotechnology in the contact would serve as, a bypass to your optic nerve. They would wrap around the nerve, creating the electrical impulses that your brain needs to process images. Think of the lens like a camera with a cable to your brain. The reason for the mask is just to help you keep your eyes closed and even if you manage to peek once in a while, you’d still be unable to see anything. We are trying to make sure that the outside environment does not affect the prosthesis as it is trying to calibrate. No light no images, nothing for the next twenty-four hours.

“We are aiming to make the time shorter but those contacts are yet to be ready for the open market. After the twenty-four hours, they would be like normal contacts, slip-on, and slip off without any trouble. It just needs to get shaped to your vessels and that takes time.”

Coty took a deep breath and exhaled loudly through her lips. In all honesty, waiting twenty-four hours was a better outcome than feeling immeasurable pain lacerating the vessels behind her eyes and screaming in agony. “So I would be realised tomorrow after some more tests are done?”

The door opened and Coty perked up.

Maggie gasped. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I can come back.”

“Is alright Miss Ernestina, please come in. Now, I am going to run over a few problems that other volunteers encountered after they got their lens. We have fixed these problems and each volunteer is fine now. I am sharing them with you in case you also experience any of them.”

“Okay.”

There was a small chime, like the mellow tone of a tablet or computer coming on. The room was silent for a short moment before the gruff sound of Lina clearing her throat rang out. “Here we go. So, volunteer 5, a teenager we gave the implant, reported intense migraine on his fourth day out of the hospital. It continued for a while until we realised that he spent most of his time facing the sun and most nights in front of a high-powered supercomputer while in the dark. I’ll tell you as we told him, they are, in part, bionic lenses not superpowers. They function just like normal eyes so pushing them won’t break them but they would hurt as when you push your own eyes to the limit.

“Volunteer 12, a twenty-three-year-old musician who plays the violin had problems. According to her, she couldn’t ‘fall in tune’. It only lasted a few weeks but after that, she felt more relaxed. According to her, she just felt overwhelmed by everything and once she registered the many changes she had gone through, she was able to play her instrument as fluently as she used to. We have encountered those two problems so far, if there are any more we would update you and if you also experience any problems you update us as well.”

“Okay.” Coty laughed on another exhale, feeling a slight flutter in her heart. “I guess everyone reported a bit of anxiety right?”

Lina laughed. “Of course, it seemed to be the anthem with every volunteer so far. It only lasts for a few days. I have pictures from patients, who are trying new things like racing cars, skiing, jumping off planes, and doing other crazy things. That is all for today. I would allow you and your friend to enjoy the rest of the day but I will be back later to check on you again.”

“Thanks, doctor.”

“Not a problem.”

Maggie stepped closer to perch herself on the bed, squeezing Coty’s knee in reassurance. “Don’t worry, just a few more hours. I brought you some food, KFC’s tastiest burgers, and a tall bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice. A few rom coms as well. By the time you get through these, you’d be asleep and possibly won’t feel the days tick by.”

Coty grinned, nodding in agreement. Maggie was a cinephile to the core, she had so much movies to recommend and there never seemed to be an end. Over the last four days, Maggie’s presence had been the one redeeming feature throughout. When she had taken her the MIR scan, Maggie told her corny and quirky stories, through the microphone, to keep her in high spirits. Maggie brought her a handy set of knitting tools so she would not get bored when she left. Coty never realised the woman could be so cheesy but it was another quality trait she could pin on Maggie.

Coty squirmed on the bed to give Maggie more space. They remained there for most of the day, munching on snacks and gouging on drinks to their heart’s content. Tomorrow had enough problems, for that moment, she was going to imagine she was a teenager again. Enjoying movies with nothing like work or bills.

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