Boots and Rallies
Here’s a little pip of a life update: Over the break, I had the opportunity to have my eyes retested since, to me at least, my vision had deteriorated enough in the harsh palms of winter so as to render everything I saw like one of Monet’s haystacks. Without full-time glasses, my world is a soft canvas of textless fuzz, disturbed only by general motions from left to right and right to left. People come in and out of view as subtly as the drifting of clouds, suggesting, yet never forcing, a sense of definite form.
I’ve worn glasses since I was 13, but have never been satisfied with the style of the frames. Insofar as glasses compose a portion of my appearance, they constitute a representation of my character, and any deviation from just the precise manifestation of my character in spectacle form is also a deviation in my own authenticity. I look in the mirror wearing full-framed, rounded glasses and am instantly sprung with a sense of discomfort: “That’s not me!” It pains me to make the comparison, but it’s the most accessible one I can muster — wearing the wrong glasses is like trying to cast spells with the wrong wand. I don’t want them weighing down and distorting my face if they aren’t the same glasses my soul itself would wear.
The pair I’ve had most recently were pretty good: big lenses with a double cross-bar, thin steel all around. I chose these frames after seeing a Polaroid of my father when he was an architecture student in the 1980s. The style was en vogue at the time, and I thought it evoked a special sense of retroactive coolness that, while it has only ironic currency in the present time, regenerated a former stage of my father’s in my own self-decorative choices. Nevertheless, my old glasses gave rise to far too high a quantity of snide comments that they made me look like somewhat of an archetypal creep, like they’d come in a starter pack with a dirty white van and a lot of risque Japanese cartoons. Caving to this irksome shame, I only wore them when I needed them: for Powerpoints and public movies.
This new pair, however, I promised to wear full-time since they are, as far as one can say such a thing of an object, the Platonic ideal of J. Diedre Horowitz’s glasses. They also happen to be the epitome of hipster glasses — the horned, half-rimmed wayfarers like what you’d see Foucault or Malcolm X rocking at the hookah lounge. These, I thought, are the glasses I’ve wanted all my life. Since the beginning of the term, I’ve worn them all the time, with minor and major unforeseen consequences. First, to avoid giving too violent an impression that I have — between my skinny jeans, drunk uncle sweaters (the term that denotes that class of sweatshirts previously denoted by the now-problematic term ‘Cosby sweaters’), spiny earring, Supreme five-panel hat, key on a hipside carabiner, black leather boots and cardigans — completely given in to the generic trappings of the hipster, I’ve had to cycle through and reduce these items in order to wear the glasses that make me feel the most like myself and see clearly at the same time.
Second, my aforementioned world of colored sand and fog has sharpened dramatically. I can perceive human expressions at the opposite ends of rooms, see the individual of trees, read writing and labels that are further from my face than what I can hold in my hand. This influx of visual information has been more disorienting than exciting. Previously, I could walk all around campus without ever recognizing anyone, not suffering the incipient obligations of eye-contact: upward head-nod for boys, the phatic ‘hey’ for girls, the panicked grin for professors. Now I have to do all those things all the time. It’s driving me bananas.
The new glasses also remind me of the unnerving quantity of people in the world. This is also what freaks me out whenever I go to New York or Boston. Walk five blocks in Gotham or Beantown, and you pass through a lifetime’s worth of acquaintances, each themselves connected to a lifetime of invisible others. The feeling is numbing and hurtful at the same time, like holding tight onto a piece of ice. There are so many people, and they in turn are outweighed by those who have been, the “innumerable caravan” in “Thanatopsis,” the uncountable many crossing London bridge in “The Waste Land,” the silent field over whom the snow falls in the final line of the final entry in “Dubliners.” The realization that I am the bearer of one blip in the symphony of eternity, or one citizen in a gargantuan metropolis, evokes a lot of the same feelings as when, glancing around FoCo, I find myself dwarfed under a thousand faces, feeding on the same unaltered dinner they’ve sat to enjoy for four years.
There are many fish in the sea. This is supposed to make us feel better, but for me, it backfires. The relief from this heavy grief comes only one way: when, after the “evenings, mornings, afternoons,” playing the same pong game over, eating the same Hop concoction, going through the motions of a semi-sincere discussion of Dartmouth’s social forces, I encounter someone who feels impossible in my heart and invulnerable in my arms. Such a person, when I grasp what they are, feels less like a fish than an angel. Though Revelation claims the angels’ population above is “ten thousand times ten thousand,” no amplification of their number would bring about the diminution of the astounding emotions instilled in the moments spent alone with one. That’s what makes the best and most beautiful friendships: what can make the cruel bigness of the world fade out so that its boundaries are wrapped just around the two of you, and the two of you are, for an instant, all that is.