New Gound #2: Eye infections

An eye infection is no joke.

One, it hurts like crazy. Your eyelid swells, and every slight flutter of the lid feels like it is scratching the cornea of your eye. Two, you look dumb. The infection often happens in one eye, so you have this sort of sleepy look.

But the worst part of an eye infection is the loss of vision, created from a combination of an eyelid weighed down by swelling, and the infectee’s own attempts to keep that eye shut to avoid the pain of blinking. As you stumble around your house, eye half closed, peripheral vision compromised, a freak out is unavoidable.

It is in the depths of an eye infection that you truly realize the importance of the sense of vision. Sure, in high school they have those Accessibility Studies classes that put you through virtual reality simulations where you immerse yourself in the experience of being blind, or hearing-impaired, or not having other senses. (The one with the loss of the sense of touch is the trippiest.) But it really doesn’t scare you until you temporarily lose your sight in an infection. That’s when you swear to never go to sleep again with the lenses in, or to always wash your hands, or to never rub your eyes on or after riding the subway.

I don’t know how we got to this topic, but Irene and I have been talking about eye infections for the last half an hour. I told her about the time after our friend Gennaro’s wedding, when I went through an airport half-blind, heart throbbing, eye closed to a mere 10% vision because of the sudden onset of an infection. We reminisced about Rania, our middle school classmate who came to school with a giant swollen eyelid, and we laughed as we remembered how our immature selfs would recoil shrieking from Rania whenever she got too close. We were dumb kids back then.

Irene graduated from eye doctor school (I guess the appropriate term is opthalmology school) last year. She’s been practicing for a year now. Irene and I go way back: we met on the first day of college when she generously gave the final shove that got my oversized couch into my room. We’ve been tight ever since, and meet up often for coffee and general chitchat.

“You know when I started seeing a flood of patients with eye infections?” Irene paused as she stirred her latte, disturbing the final petal of the beautifully-crafted flower in the foam. “It was when Augmate came out with the gen 4 lenses.”

“Ah, I just switched over from the gen 3s a few months back!” I said, worried.

“Oh no, there’s nothing to worry about the gen 4s. It’s not the lenses, those are fine. It’s really just a numbers game: the 4 had so many more new users. What was the number, 14 million subscriptions sold in the first month of launch? New users mean new amateurs at taking care of their eyes.”

I shrugged and unconsciously rubbed my temple, still concerned about the new lenses I’d gotten.

Irene noticed it. “Look, you’re fine. It’s Augmate: they are the best on the market. It’s not like you bought one of those cheaper Vietnamese no name brands at a tenth of the price. Those are the real concerning ones, in my opinion.”

“Hah, I’d never buy those. Did you hear about that guy who lost his eye because his Viet-lens short circuited while he was wearing it. Ugh. Makes me shudder just thinking about it.”

“I don’t know, that honestly sounds made up to me: I’ve never heard about such cases at the hospital, and some of my colleagues have been around forever. Like, since the first lenses came out.”

“It’s true! I’ll forward you the Buzzfeed article about it.” I looked up to the top left corner of my field of vision, ready to pull up my list of saved articles and share it.

Irene rolled her eyes and waved irritatingly at the general space where my augmented menu bar was. “C’mon, man! You know that’s just clickbait – they write articles to freak you out, then you forward it to a hundred people.”

“Whatever you say. I’m never buying those Viet-lenses. Have you upgraded to gen 4s? The gaze triggers are so smooth.”


This is the second story in New Gound, or Everyday Tales of a Not So Distant Future Where We all Wear Mixed Reality Lenses.

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