I WOKE up one morning a few months ago and realized I had some sort of little lump on my lower eyelid. Was I concerned? Concern is not the word for it. I was frantic. I regard any kind of lump-bump on my body with mortal fear. So I called my doctor, who referred me to an ophthalmologist, who gave me an appointment early the next century. Just kidding; actually, it was six weeks. But in my mental state, it might as well have been 2001. I arrived, sick with fear, at the doctor's office and was duly examined. The little lump-bump had grown. It was beginning to obstruct the vision in my right eye. I was sure I had bought the farm. It was the Big C! Either that or some horrible disease of the eye that probably would leave me blind.
Instead, the doctor said it was a cyst. My spirits soared -- and immediately sank with the news it would have to come out. In a week. Surgically. Wait a minute, I said. Why the heck do I have to have surgery? If it is just a simple little cyst, why can't you give me some medicine that will make it go away? He said he was afraid it might get infected. And that could be serious.
So there I was a week later, strapped to a gurney heading feet-first toward a pair of red double doors at the end of a long, fluorescent-lit corridor, thinking, Why me? What did I do to
deserve a cyst? Why couldn't someone else get it? Some old guy, maybe. Someone who already had a lot of health problems. What was one more to him? He could handle it. Why give cysts to the young?
The doors to the operating room parted. I could see the doctor framed between my feet. He was wearing a long green gown, a green hat and surgical mask and gloves. Beside him on a tray was a bunch of surgical instruments. Next to them was a large, nasty-looking syringe.
What's that needle for? I asked. He said he was going to anesthetize the area around the lower lid. What about all those knives and stuff? What about them? I asked. He said he thought he'd use them to remove the cyst -- if I didn't object, of course. OK, I said, but listen: You've got to promise one thing. You've got to promise you'll destroy me if something goes wrong. I don't want to live without sight. He laughed. Nothing's going to go wrong, he said.
The doctor adjusted a sheet over my head. It covered all but my right eye. He picked up the syringe. This may smart a little, he said. I was thinking: Get me out of this, Lord, and I promise I'll
turn over a new leaf and become a better person. I'm not kidding, either, Lord. This time I really will change. Just as soon as I get off this table and find out I'm not blind, I'll start.
The doctor bent over me. I saw this big, huge needle coming at me. Help! I screamed. Relax, he said. I felt a small pin prick. A minute or so later, there was a slight tug under my right eye. The doctor stepped back and whisked the sheet off my head. OK, he said, all finished. I stared up at him. It's out? I said. Yes, he said. I reached up and gently touched my eyelid. My cheek felt numb, and there was a slight stiffness around my eye. But I could see. I was not blind.
That was quick, I said. He grinned. I told you it would be, he said. Well, yes, I thought, he did. I'd grant him that. But I certainly hope he wasn't expecting an arm and leg for this little job. I mean, after all, the guy hardly did any work at all.
John F. Kelly is a Baltimore writer.