Quaint forms of medieval torture are still practiced at the ophthalmologist’s office. Twice now I’ve bowed to the knife for the excision of a chalazion cyst. A summary of the procedure: A clamp with a hole in its center is placed over the eyelid to isolate the cyst and turn the lid inside out. An incision is made into the cyst from the underside of the lid. It is drained and scraped and the wound is cauterized. The clamp is mercifully removed. Then the bleeding really starts.
In the waiting room I am the youngest person by twenty years. The average age hovers at something north of sixty-five, and half of the others are in wheelchairs. The only magazines available are Reader’s Digest and Where to Retire. Locales suggested in the latter include St Augustine, Florida, where a friend of mine once worked for the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium; and Whidbey Island, Washington, where I once got lost in the eagle-haunted woods, and which the writer stupidly keeps referring to as “The Isle.”
One of my fellow patients is a tan golf-club type in white shorts reading a library copy of A Fistful of Fig Newtons. Another is a woman in her seventies wearing a blue beret, a black-and-white striped sweater, strings of red plastic beads, and camouflage pants. She introduces herself as “Joyce and Rejoice.” I leave the operating room a half hour later with blood in my beard and a patch over my eye. Joyce is sitting in the hallway, waiting for her eyes to dilate. She looks at me worriedly a moment, then winks.