As I mentioned earlier, two weeks ago The Girlfriend went in for laser eye correction surgery. Obviously there weren’t any huge complications, otherwise you would have been reading posts with titles like “What’s The Point? My Girlfriend’s Blind” or “Any Advice On How To Break-up With A Blind Girl And Not Look Like A Bad Guy?” Luckily for both of us the only real “complications” were excruciating pain (hers) and a little piece of sanity dying a slow death (mine).
Let me backtrack – because if you don’t already know enough about The Girlfriend there are three key things you will learn about her here:
1. She has no conscience in when it comes to the capitalist marketplace.
2. 98% of all infants have a higher pain threshold.
3. Given the opportunity, she would gladly quit the corporate life and become a pill-popping housewife. Not a stay at home mother, a pill-popping housewife. It’s an important distinction.
Chapter 1: Tough As (Lee Press-On) Nails
The Girlfriend has been wearing contact lenses for years now. A prerequisite for the surgery is that you must take out your contacts one week prior to the procedure, meaning that The Girlfriend had two options: either hire an assistant to read documents to her at work or wear glasses. After much debate, she caved into wearing glasses for the week.
How she went about getting the glasses is the interesting part: she decided to do the same thing she had done once before, about three months ago when she was originally scheduled to have the procedure but then at the last minute decided to have the life saving laparoscopic surgery on her internal organs instead. (Fun!) Back then, in preparation for the week without contacts The Girlfriend went to Lenscrafters, the home of the “Unconditional 30-day Money Back Guaranty,” meaning that she bought a whole new pair of glasses, wore them for a week and then returned them with the excuse “I changed my mind” as though she were returning an espresso maker, not an instrument necessary for sight.
Now, one would think that doing this once took balls. I mean, it’s not like buying a dress, wearing it once and returning it. They made the lenses for her. They can’t just put those glasses back on the shelf and sell them to someone else for much the same reason you can’t resell dental implants or prosthetic feet. But then – to do it twice! To bend Lenscrafters over and whisper in their ear, “This is your own fault for dressing like a slut.” I mean, that’s downright cold-blooded. For two yuppies like us, walking into Lenscrafters for the second time in a four month period to buy glasses for the sole purpose of returning them a week later, well it was like staring in our own episode of “24,” the tension mounting as we sit down at the glasses-fitting guy’s little table and he looks at his computer and says suspiciously, “So you’re a returning customer?” and watching her shoot back a cool, “Yup.” God it was hot. And, needless to say, she got the $400 Dolce & Gabana glasses saying, “If I have to wear them for a week I may as well like them, right?” Cold as ice I tell you! It’s no wonder she made fun of me for crying at the end of Big Fish.
Unfortunately, The Girlfriend’s toughness doesn’t extend much outside the consumer forum, likely because there is a low probability of a sales associate inflicting any sort of physical pain on her. Little do they know she would even pay full price for a damaged, off-the-mannequin sweater if only they pinched her arm in the right spot. Indeed, if only I could have taken away the epic pain the surgery caused her I was promised, among other things, sex every day for the rest of my life, half her weekly paycheck and permission to skip any event or outing in lieu of a football game. Actually, I made the last one up – I proposed that once to her and her response was, “You can have then when I die.”
Chapter 2: Epic Pain
You know it’s bad when your OPHTHALMOLOGIST tells you that you are going to have a really hard time with child birth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that she had no reason to be complaining about pain. In fact, I watched them perform the surgery on her. One eye at a time, blown up on a 17 inch monitor, I stood on the other side of a Plexiglas window watching them prep her eye, putting a tool (yes, a TOOL) in place to hold her eye open. Here was my proverbial path diverging in the woods, and to the left there was me running back to the waiting room and reading Men’s Health, and to the right there was me standing firm, committing myself to witnessing this eye surgery. In the end, what made me stay was a conversation I had with my friend Matt a few weeks earlier about how out fathers are so much more “fatherly” than we could ever picture ourselves being. Fatherly as in killing big bugs with bare hands, siphoning gasoline from a gas tank, gutting a lobster, etc. In that moment I told myself, “My father would watch the surgery.” So, in an effort that turns out to be kind of gross, I acted fatherly for my girlfriend and watched them cut a circle in her cornea and, with a tiny spatula, rub it off and bunch it up in the corner of her eye, then shoot a laser into her pupil for 30 seconds, with smoke rising off the surface, and when finished take the tiny spatula and smooth out the cornea as though spreading icing on a cake. (Note to TG: I’m never doing that again. Our kids are fucked.)
Three quarters of the way home from the doctor’s office, the numbing anesthetic wore off and The Girlfriend immediately started screaming, “Ow ow ow ow ow!” I drove at a breakneck pace, as though I was taking my injured girlfriend to the hospital, when in fact I was taking her away from a doctor and towards my parents house which, despite all the delicious food, contained no hardcore painkillers. My poor mother – seeing The Girlfriend in such pain and her not being able to do anything was like her seeing a puppy bleeding on the side of the road. It was a display she had never been privy to, whereas I was a weathered pro from back when The Girlfriend had her other surgery and it got to the point where we would have daily conversations like:
TG: “I swear I can’t take this pain anymore, I’m going to kill myself. I’m just going to jump out the window there’s nothing else I can do.”
Me: (watching CSI) “OK, want me to make you a sandwich? When the commercial comes on.”
It’s not so much that she exaggerates it, it’s just that her body totally convinces her mind that the pain is intolerable. It’s the same biological reaction that toddlers have when they fall and for 10 seconds seem completely fine before bursting out crying at the inexplicable event that just occurred where something happened to their body that they didn’t request.
Chapter 3: Painkillers are The Girlfriend’s best friend.
When The Girlfriend had her first surgery she was given Tylenol with Codeine and Vicodin. Her first question was, “Can I take the two together? How about with Advil?”
In a lot of ways I completely agree with her. It’s about being resilient – not in terms of dealing with the pain, but in pushing your body to the limit of how much medication it can handle. In this regard, much like in her refusal to pay full price for a display item, The Girlfriend is unflappable.
After the eye surgery she was prescribed Darvocet, a relatively mild pain-killer which, when she found this out, made her incredulous of the doctor’s abilities. “Darvocet? Can I take my leftover Vicodin with that?” Ultimately she got by on the Darvocet, unintentionally almost OD’ing by taking the prescribed two pills every four hours straight through the night, around the clock unlike normal people with lesser gumption who don’t take pills while they are asleep. We finally figured it out when she went through the entire bottle in the first three days and upon calling the pharmacy for a refill they told us, “You can’t refill that for another two days. She . . . she shouldn’t have finished the whole bottle yet.”
To her this was like someone saying, “Well you ate too much lunch, so no dinner for you.” Shouldn’t she be rewarded for her diligence? Like belonging to “The Clean Plate Club?” Alas, she was forced to undergo a 24 hour detoxification period, during which she became startlingly more mobile and coherent, until the pain came back with a vengeance and we called up my sister who had half a bottle left over from when she had her eye surgery. As I was hanging up the phone telling my sister I would be at her house in 15 minutes to pick it up, the only other noise you heard in the house was a voice from the pitch-black basement moaning, “Tell your sister I love her. I love her and I will do anything for her.”
Flash forward to Monday of this week when, after a four day respite of pain, for some reason it came roaring back. The Girlfriend, undeterred in her quest to alleviate discomfort, made an appointment with the doctor out on Long Island and while we were there refilled her prescription for Darvocet. As I drove her home from the CVS she popped two pills.
TG: (in ecstasy) “Thank you, Sweet Jesus.”
Me: “You know, the next time we come out here is going to be for rehab.”
TG: “Don’t try to take this away from me, it’s my only escape.”
Me: “Something every boyfriend loves to hear . . .”
Chapter 4: The Gift of Sight
Some people are blessed with certain attributes: the ability to do math, a good singing voice, perfect eyesight, etc. The Girlfriend was given none of these things, but though she might never be able to calculate a proper tip at a restaurant, the miracle that is modern medicine has provided her with the opportunity to wake up every morning, open her eyes and see clearly. She’s not quite there yet (it should be a few more days) but that’s a gift you can’t put a tag on.
So if she had to do it all over again, would she? Probably, although I’m afraid to ask her because I just got off the phone with her and the conversation consisted of her saying, “I have a fucking headache and I can’t see shit,” and me saying, “Just called to say hi, I’ll talk to you later!” But give that girl enough pain medication and she’s as sweet as a spoonful of sugar. I think the only part I’ll miss is her wearing sunglasses and a visor around the house due to the light sensitivity. In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone will miss that, especially my Dad who seemed to get a real kick out of referring to her as Stevie Wonder – which, in hindsight, maybe makes me a little more fatherly than I thought.