Better, worse, same

I’m at Reynolds Optical replacing my glasses when I start thinking about why I need glasses in the first place. A long time ago I was hit in the eye with a stick. Now, I’m remembering about what happened, about who struck me, where he is, and if he remembers me.

In the summer of 1989, on the first full day of Camp Chimney Spring I hiked into the woods with a group of boys I befriended at breakfast. We wandered along a road and explored down a ravine. One of us started throwing pinecones. The next thing: sides were picked and stones and sticks and dirt clods were being used as weapons. We were playing war. It wasn’t serious. We were just trying to peg each other. It wasn’t hatred. This was church camp.

Truce was called. I remember retreating. Walking up the embankment, we were headed back to the lodge when someone called out and got my attention. I turned around to see who it was and something struck me in the face. Whatever it was knocked me down. I remember being on the ground. I came to but could see only out of my right eye. I thought my left couldn’t open but it was open.

The other boys were looking down on me. One of them said my eyeball was bleeding. I wasn’t crying because of the pain — I was in shock. Tears mixed with blood. I remember telling them to get my mom. They probably laughed. We were at camp. But she came to me because my mom was the camp’s director.

My mom drove me an hour to the nearest hospital and I stayed the night there. After CAT scans and dilation a doctor told me that my retina tore. Also, I had a cataract. There was permanent damage. He said that I probably wouldn’t be able to see out of my left eye ever again.

While fellow campers went for hikes and played volleyball, I was alone in the infirmary learning what a dark world this could be. Eventually, my grandparents came and took me home.

I didn’t know the name of boy who hit me, but after thinking about it I asked my mom to riffle through her files — mental and medical. Surprisingly, she came back with a name indicated by our insurance company as the party responsible.

‘The claim is not against him,’ my mom said. ‘It has his name on it, but defines the incident as an accident.’

I Googled him anyway. Even though his name is unique there are others just like it. I found one listed in a city of the region close to where camp was held. But the age was off. Other relatives were listed next to the name. And one of them, Justin M, was my age. It turned out the insurance acknowledged the guardian, not the boy. And my initial search had me looking for the father.

I began a new search: Justin M and the location and find out more. I was directed to an alma mater, a filed patent registration, and his profile on a Toyota truck club website. His last post was over a year ago but there was an email address that I panned over with my cursor and clicked to copy. I opened my email and composed a new message. I pasted the email address.

I only know a little about Justin M. He has engineering skills and a 4x4 hobby—the morning of the accident was 18 years ago— but this was enough to imagine a reader. So I began writing.

In 1989, at Camp Chimney Spring, I left camp because I was blinded. I was taken to the hospital and then taken home by my grandma. You did this to me.

I read what I wrote. Then highlighted and deleted it.

Looking at the blank message, I covered my right eye with my right hand and looked at the computer. A black splotch covered a third of the screen and my periphery was dark gray. I removed my hand from in front of my eye and let light back in.

‘If this is the Justin M. who attended Camp Chimney Spring in the summer of 1989, please keep reading.’

You were 10-years-old when you threw a stick that hit me in the eye. And you’re the reason I have to buy eyeglasses. I highlighted and deleted.

‘My name is Carson and you might not remember me. I went by Kit back then.’

I’ve been angry for so long, I write and erase.

‘Early in camp,’ I continue, ‘a group of us went into a ditch and started throwing dirt clods and such at each other. We were just messing around.’

You were still at war after we called called it quits. You took away my sight, I say to myself.

‘You threw something that hit me in my eye and I went down,’ I write to Justin M.

You blinded me. I backspace.

‘I did get some vision back.’

I’m brief with the facts.

‘I wear glasses now and it helps but sight is not the same.’

I’ll never forgive you because being impaired has made me depressed and vengeful. This doesn’t feel right. I strike it from the record.

I try again to be honest. ‘I was angry at you for a long time. And mad about the whole situation.’

The insurance says it was an accident but how could it be? You didn’t stop. I’m still angry. But typing and deleting seems to be helping.

I include this: ‘I’m writing to you after 18 years because I wanted to let you know that I’m OK. I have a lot to be thankful for. We were just kids when this happened. And I wish you the best of luck in your life.’

I sign off with my name.

I count eight email addresses that I’ve had. I only check two now: a gmail and yahoo account that I use for SPAM mostly. That leaves six addresses that I’ve given out and no longer check. I decide to BCC my former accounts before sending the message to Justin M. Four messages come back as mailer-daemon and two go out into the cybersphere. I do not get a response from Justin M nor a mailer-daemon message. That’s OK. The process has made me feel better.

Going back to Reynolds Optical, I try on the new pair glasses fitted with my prescription, which is stronger in the left eye. ‘Hey, that person looks familiar,’ I say to myself in the mirror. ‘That’s me.’