It started when the white chalked letters on the blackboard grew out of focus, at times the letters would multiply when I sat in the middle row in a wooden desk filled with initials that past students scratched onto it.
I kept rubbing my eyes in the hopes that my vision would be restored to what it once was, but nothing changed no matter how hard or how much I rubbed. I mentally questioned myself, “Is this what happens when you don’t eat all your carrots?” I told my mother about what had happened and two weeks later I was sitting in a chair with some contraption in front of my face.
The room was dark and the only source of light came from the projector, where black letters appeared on the wall. The optometrist asked me to read them out. I got everything right except the last line which, was the smallest and the hardest to make out. “Lens one or lens two?” he would ask, or “which is sharper, the red side or the green side?” I was not excited at the prospect of wearing spectacles. I knew that the other children would ridicule me for having an extra pair of eyes, but at least I got off easier than Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.
As expected, the other children started finding nicknames for me, from the usual “four eyes” to “Harry Potter”. Being the smartest learner in my class did not help make things any easier. It didn’t stop them from asking me answers to the questions they didn’t know. Somehow, wearing spectacles had turned me into the class encyclopaedia and this was when I realised that spectacles came with a burden, people simply assumed that you were smart.
Seventh grade came, I was the head boy and top of my class. Unfortunately the same success never came my way in high school. Luckily the other children in my class didn’t need my help because they all came from well-known private schools and received the best in primary school education. I fitted right into the nerd mould when my mother forced me into selecting physical sciences as one of my subjects. Later, I had to attend extra attend as I was barely passing the subject. This time, the encouragement came from my family. What they saw as encouragement, I saw as something else. I felt like an old race horse that they attempted to restore to its former glory.
University wasn’t much better either, as I had repeated my first year for three years without any success. Watching my classmate’s progress, I seemed to stay behind, sinking deeper into what felt like quicksand. The end of my third year, I had sunk completely to the bottom of the quicksand, swallowed whole as the university had prohibited me from pursuing the course any further.
Life stood still at this point. I found myself working in a Pick n Pay Hyper store, a job which I found no joy in as it sucked every drop of happiness from my soul. The staff members who had given much of their lives to the place, labelled me as an “educated man” or a “clever man” which I despised. If I was as clever as these women had fooled themselves into believing, then what the hell was I doing in a place like this? Their preconceived notions about me once again stemmed from the lenses contained in a metal frame which I wore every day. Sure, I had a few good days, but when you have bigger plans for yourself than spending the rest of your days in retail, the bad significantly outweighed the good. Working here made me realise the big opportunity I had pissed away.
They say that looks can be deceiving. People made up their minds about who and what I was, based on a product used to enhance eyesight and not intelligence.