The Day I Cheated On My Eye Exam

Illustrated by Vignesh Seshadri

I used to hate wearing glasses. Ever since I first needed them at the age of six, I’d feed them to our dog “by accident”. But after she outgrew her taste for 300-dollar glasses and leather shoes, I just refused to wear them.

“On your face or in the case,” my mom would chime at me when I’d drop them in the dog bowl.

My dad wasn’t as kind.

“You keep those goddamned glasses on or I’ll crazy-glue them to your eyeballs.”

The truth is, I preferred a world out-of-focus. The acne on my chin disappeared, the trees looked greener, and everyone looked a bit…airbrushed.


Nevertheless, my mom dragged me kicking and screaming to my next eye doctor’s appointment. My sister came along too, just to ensure her 20/20 vision hadn’t accidentally become more perfect.

My sister went first; reading the eye exam so fast it left the doctor applauding. I ignored them, staring at the eye exam she had just read, skimming it over. Then I skimmed it over one more time. Then another. Then one more for good measure.

It was my turn to sit on the chair.

“All right, Kathryn,” he sighed with preemptive disappointment. “Let’s see the damage.”

Not wearing glasses for a while had deteriorated my eyes a little more than I anticipated. The letters were blurry. Very blurry.

Luckily, though, I knew them by heart.

“A-E-R-Q-T-U-X-Y-” I took to quick breath to make it seem a bit more realistic. “-Q.”

My mother stared in amazement. The eye doctor paused for a moment, blinking at me.

“Is she…cured?” My mother asked, her pitch rising slightly.

The doctor cleared his throat and wordlessly walked over to the projector. He removed the sheet, and replaced it for a new one.

My heart sank. The letters were completely blurry, and I recognized nothing. I was defeated; I’d have to come clean.

But a voice in my head told me to give it a shot. Maybe by some miracle, I’d pass with flying colors and everyone would see what a prodigy I really was.

“I…Q…S…B…” I squinted hard, my voice wavering. “…Y? Are….are the rest of these letters upside down?”

The doctor clapped his hands together, elated.

“Those are numbers, sweetheart.” He said in his most demeaning tone. He turned to my mom, grinning. “She cheated on the last exam.”

Cheated? I hadn’t cheated. It wasn’t my fault I had such a genius memory. I’d simply accidentally photographically memorized it by blinking at it for two seconds. Cheated.

“Yeah, right. I saw you staring at it for like, ever,” Emma would say in the car after I told them this. I’d then kick her in the shin and we’d spend the rest of the ride silently bruising each other’s legs.


The eye doctor doubled the thickness of my lenses and I walked out in shame, seeing the world in ugly, excruciating detail.

And as I walked into the lobby, I unwillingly saw people as they were — with sagging foreheads and blotched faces, their mouths drooping at the corners with wrinkles pooled around them ­– their natural dispositions so clear to me now.

Originally published at