I can laugh at this now -- well, maybe grin nervously -- but it was quite a shock for me Saturday night when, right in the middle of watching Hud on my big-screen TV, I began to see what resembled a huge black jellyfish traipsing down a back road in the Texas Panhandle. (As I gawked at the black-and-white image, I couldn't help thinking: "Wait! Did I put some '50s sci-fi movie into the DVD player by accident?") I rubbed my eyes, then ran to the restroom and splashed water into them -- but when I came back, the jellyfish was still there, hovering above Paul Newman and Brandon De Wilde in a small-town bar. In fact, the jellyfish didn't disappear entirely for about 15 minutes. And even after it departed, I would occasionally see black flecks -- shaped a bit like feathers -- floating around my line of vision, suggesting that some large vulture might be molting somewhere above Melvyn Douglas' head.
The feathers made a few unwelcome reappearances throughout Sunday -- even while I worked on a couple of assignment for Cowboys & Indians, The Premiere Magazine of the West -- greatly amping my already considerable paranoia about my eyesight. (I've always been afraid of losing my vision -- and not just because, hey, there isn't much of a market for blind film critics.) So as soon as I could land an appointment today with my optometrist -- the lovely and talented Sheryl Pickering, O.D. -- I high-tailed it over to her office, where my eyeballs underwent a thorough going over, complete with ultrasound scanning.
So far, it looks like the problem isn't anything as serious as macular degeneration -- thank you, Jesus! -- but rather "floaters" caused by some deterioration of vitreous fluid. (This, I was told, is "part of the natural aging process," and I can't begin to tell you how happy I was to hear that.) Mind you, this can be a serious condition if it turns out that I have some kind of tear in my retina. But Dr. Pickering didn't see any sign of that -- and, trust me, she and her assistants looked, quite diligently, all the while demonstrating amazing patience while dealing with a crybaby wuss of a patient.
I'm set to go back for another check-up next month, by which time I may have grown accustomed to what I've been warned might be sporadic re-sightings of the floaters. (Nothing for the past few hours -- keeping my fingers crossed.) Right now, though, my dilated pupils have returned to normal size, I'm feeling much calmer -- or, to be more precise, considerably less hysterical -- and I'm ready to resume my normal workload tomorrow. (Even my cats appear to be in a better mood than they seemed this morning -- perhaps they'd heard me mumbling something to my son about my possible need for a seeing-eye dog.) Indeed, I'm functioning well enough to give my Art of Filmmaking students at Houston Community College their mid-term tonight after showing them a documentary about the making of Casablanca.
But if I suddenly see a huge black jellyfish hanging with Humphrey Bogart...