June skies in L.A. remind me of my accident the most. The old muscae volitantes
dance happiest before that neutral grey overcast, what we fliers and sailors term coastal stratus
, the surest sign of summer in Los Angeles
Muscae Volitantes. Spots before the eyes. Usually in the form of dots, threads, beads or circles, caused by cells and cell fragments in the vitreous humor and lens of the eye. Literally "flittering flies." I’ve had them most of my life.
We were eleven and the Bad Boys were more and it showed. We were the tenderfeet. They wore the First Class badges. My best friend and I were attending our first Boy Scout camporee towards the end of sixth grade.
Those other guys were taller; they had merit badges even; they laughed loud and they laughed hard. At us. We were newbies. Our first night in the woods alone. Tired. Sated on marshmallows and ghost stories.
Somewhere around eleven, we woke to laughter and the dull thud of objects being thrown against our World War II army surplus pup tent.
My friend wisely counseled leaving well-enough alone. We were safe in our tent; they weren’t even supposed to be up at this hour.
Foolishly citing the moral imperative, I stepped out of the tent and saw the older jerk-offs grab-assing across the campsite. The cooking fire had grown to bonfire proportions and there wasn’t an adult leader in sight. They were raining good-sized rocks down on us now.
Before I could even think of what to do next, the gunshot caught me full in the right eye. A brutal splash of pain brought me to the ground. I think I must have been unconscious for a while, because I found myself back in the tent, my friend fussing over me worriedly. Still no adults.
In the manner peculiar to eleven-year-old boys, we decided I was "o.k." My friend fell back to sleep, but sleep for me was impossible. I kept turning my Official Boy Scout Flashlight on, confirming constantly all night long: everything I saw through my right eye swam in blood. A red curtain of woe in the wilderness, courtesy of what turned out to be an illegal BB gun fired haphazardly.
Eons after the fact, at dawn, the grownups finally put the story together and concocted an evacuation plan. By nine I was in the foyer of a stranger’s house, waiting for my dad. By ten he’d shown up, pissed at my ruining his Sunday. By eleven we’d pulled the ophthalmologist away from his golf game and by noon I was in the hospital. For a week and a half. Blindfolded and flat on my back; forbidden to move my head lest my scratched and detached retina...disintegrate, I guess. Blind me, I feared.
All I knew was I was scared. I felt stupid. And I hated those bastards who’d done this to me more than ever.
And then began the process of recuperation, which is—we know—mostly mental. I had done without eyes for a week. People read me stories. They attended to my every whim. I was a child to be pitied and I wallowed in it.
The best thing was Nancy, my nurse with the soft voice and softer hands. She bathed me, still in bed, of course. Helped me pee by holding my pre-adolescent tool and aiming for me. Discounted totally any embarrassment I might have felt about my BM, she called it, my bowel movement.
I experienced the first rush of Eros at Nurse Nancy’s hands, and it wasn’t till much later, when again I could see, when new sun once more striped across my yellow wall, when red robins pulled breakfast reluctant from the green lawn the way they will, that I realized Nurse Nancy was old and not pretty, and that it was Nurse Abby who was the knockout. But Nurse Abby, whose hands were not soft, whose voice was rushed and business-like, despite her beauty, did not turn me on.
The sixth grade girls made a fuss when I returned to class in time for Easter vacation. But I was beyond them now, in a way.
A careless BB pellet had taught me the hard way that beauty lies in action. Beauty wills itself into Becoming when it is absent in our life. And attendant to that will, sometimes, is Love.
Muscae volitantes in the grey June sky today remind me how love came into my life one time, out of darkness, allaying fear.