Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2004.
This is the twenty-third story in the Falling into College series.
Through Lenses Most Bright
Jane Lane looked in concern at her roommate, Daria Morgendorffer. She was reading a book set flat on the dining table, but her glasses were set to the side. Jane asked, "What's with the glasses removal? I thought you needed them to read." After a pause, finished with, "Are you practicing not wearing contacts again?"
Daria put her glasses on and looked up at Jane. "I found myself doing this a lot lately. I really need to get in for another eye exam. This prescription goes back to when I got those contacts in eleventh grade."
"Okay, but why take them off to read?"
"I'm having a hard time focusing on reading; taking them off helps. I have a suspicion my prescription has changed a lot this time."
"That why you've been extra careful driving?"
Jane walked to the opposite end of the living room and held up three fingers. "Okay kid, how many?"
"I still have one for you here."
Daria squinted for a second. "Um...three."
"You had to work way too hard at that."
Daria toyed with a book page. "I know. I need a new exam. I've been putting it off."
"Um...this sounds kind of silly."
"I like these glasses."
"I'm not following you. Just get them updated."
"What frames are available are immensely influenced by fashion. These frames are the replacements I got after breaking that pair in the Tank. I doubt if I can get them anymore. I also hadn't said anything, but there is some minor cracking in these. I can't reuse them."
"So, you get new frames. This is your chance to create a new look."
"I've been lucky to find these or similar frames for most of my life. I'm used to them. I don't think I want a new look."
"Daria, you're allowed to change a little as you grow up. You retired the green jacket, you can retire those glasses."
Daria removed the sturdy, round black frames and studied them. "It feels like abandoning an old friend."
The exam seemed to go on longer than any Daria had done before. After the glaucoma test, eye dilation, visual exam and other checks, the testing of different corrective lens combinations seemed particularly long. Daria was left sitting for several minutes before the doctor returned.
He said, "Your vision has changed considerably from the prescription you're wearing. The myopia has become more serious, the astigmatism is a little more pronounced. The most important change has been a reduced ability to shift to near focus, or presbyopia. The most common correction for it is bifocal lenses."
Daria stared at the doctor. "Bifocals?"
He was reassuring. "I know that's something you don't expect at your age, but it's not unheard of."
Daria snorted in frustration. "Why not? I got my first glasses before I was three; I can't really remember a time when I didn't wear them. So I get bifocals before the age of twenty."
"Because people your age are sensitive about bifocals, I recommend progressive lenses so that line isn't visible. Alternatively, you could use contacts and reading glasses."
Daria narrowed her eyes. "Contacts are out of the question. Is there a functional difference between the bifocal types?"
The doctor frowned slightly. "Why don't you do a test fit of both types? Compare and decide which one you prefer. The different types require slightly different ways to use and have different effects on your other vision."
"Okay, I'll see how they behave, vision wise."
The lens contraption was clamped onto Daria's glasses and she held the clipboard in front of her. Moving the clipboard up and down and altering the position of her head, she read the requested test line. Afterward, she set the board down and rubbed her eyes. "Those things were giving me vertigo. Let's try the other." After fitting a new lens holder over her glasses, Daria looked down at the clipboard and made a small head adjustment, reading the line quickly. "This I like; I'll go with these."
The technician made a note. "You're a bit different. Most younger customers, and most women, go for the progressive lenses."
"That shifting focus would have driven me crazy. I like the fixed focus. I can get used to that easier."
"Okay, let's look at some frames. We have the latest designer styles over here."
An hour later, Daria stomped out of the optometrist's office, her old prescription sunglasses on instead of her usual glasses to protect her dilated eyes from the glare. "The fashion industry has totally taken over glasses. Argh!" She opened the door to her black sedan in frustration and got in. "Two hundred frames and every one of them look like something Quinn would pick out for me." She started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. "Bifocals...now I can be the six-eyed geek."
Jane jumped at hearing the apartment door slam and Daria's loud, explicit comments. She went to her bedroom door and called out, "Daria, isn't that anatomically impossible?"
Daria moved quickly by Jane and toward her room. "Not after the proper application of a bone saw."
Jane watched her friend with increasing concern. "Whoa, what happened?"
Daria turned at the door to her room. "I had my eye exam today."
"Uh...this was a bad thing?"
Daria leaned against the door frame. "Just the results."
"Hey, at least those look like your old glasses."
"They are my old ones."
"I thought the idea of the eye exam was to get new glasses. You know, so you can see again."
"That was the idea. I couldn't find a frame that I liked. They were all too fashionable."
Jane closely examined Daria. "That...isn't all. Out with it, Morgendorffer."
Daria glared at Jane. "You are getting far too good at this."
"No twisty-turny distractions. What else?"
"I need bifocals."
"Bifocals? Aren't you a little young..."
Daria's black glare stopped Jane. "How about...a lot young?"
"Since when have you been concerned? You've always used your glasses to help set you apart."
Daria approached Jane. "It's not so much the appearance, it's the trend."
"I don't get it."
"Jane, I've had glasses for as long as I can remember. Each time I get an exam, my eyesight is worse. Now I need bifocals at an unusually early age, plus stronger corrections for myopia and astigmatism. I can't even see the eye chart anymore...it's just a white blob."
"Um...I'm still not following you."
Daria leaned against the wall with her arms wrapped around herself. "At times like this, I wonder: how long before my eyes completely fail?"
Dr. Killarny walked past Daria working at her desk and noticed the enlarged text on the monitor. "I thought you were going for some new glasses yesterday."
Daria looked up at her boss. "I got the exam...I'm still looking for a pair of glasses I like."
"Hmm. Every time I've seen one of those shops, they don't seem to have a lack of variety."
"Yeah, but it's a case of 200 channels and nothing on."
"Oh...what about contacts then?"
Daria wearily said, "I tried them in high school. It didn't work out."
"Why do people keep asking me about contacts?"
"It seems logical, not having to deal with the glasses."
"Have you ever seen what someone has to do to put contacts in?"
"Picture this: pull your lower eyelid down as far as you can. Now, stick the forefinger of your other hand into your eye. Repeat."
Dr. Killarny frowned a little. "I never thought of it like that."
"Some get used to it and prefer it; I don't. Plus, my eyes are sensitive and get irritated easily."
"Well...good luck on finding something."
In another optician shop, Daria pointed to her glasses. "See what I've got now? Something simple and utilitarian; that's what I'm after."
The saleslady spread her hands. "Glasses are a major investment and a powerful personal statement. People want glasses that say certain things."
"I understand. I want mine to say they're on my face to correct my lousy vision."
"Miss. That's not the kind of message our product sends."
"But, they do seem to be sending the message that you don't want my business." Daria got up and stalked out of the store.
"As long as I can still see your eyes, I'm not that concerned about what kind of glasses you have on," Michael Fulton told Daria over the phone.
She smiled warmly. "Sweet talker."
"Guilty...but it's still the truth."
In a more serious tone, Daria said, "Really though, I'm concerned. For a couple of years, I've needed help to get around in unfamiliar places if I don't have my glasses on. My eyes keep getting worse. I've known this for years, and I know I'm not actually going blind, but it's still hard to live with at times."
"I have some idea of what you're worried about. My uncorrected vision isn't great. I can just get the 'E' on an eye chart."
"I haven't been able to do that since middle school."
"Damn. I'm...um...have you considered surgery? It probably won't allow you to get rid of the glasses, but should reduce the prescription and gain some more time."
"Maybe some day I could afford it. I might be flush for a college student, but I don't have that kind of disposable income. And, I'd still need the bifocals."
"I'm sorry, best I could do. This is a little out of my area of expertise."
Daria thought for a moment. "Don't be. Expertise...I need more hard information...the doctor examined my eyes yesterday. I'll go over after class tomorrow and pick his brain."
"That sounds like a reasonable plan."
"If nothing else, you can put a harness around my neck and I'll play seeing-eye dog."
Daria gave a gentle laugh. "Thanks. That helped. Though Jane would enjoy the imagery too much."
Michael chuckled in return. "She would."
"But now, I still need to find some new frames I can tolerate."
"Sorry about your old ones. Hey, what about the frames from your sunglasses?"
"Those are already recycled. That was the frame I broke as a sophomore on that failed road trip to Alternapalooza. The nose bridge is pinned. I didn't completely trust the frames as my primaries, but they worked fine for my sunglasses."
"Shoot. Then I guess you're back on the hunt, and simple functionality is almost impossible to locate."
"You're the one with aviator glasses."
"But, the pair I got was made from a high-strength alloy. I was awfully hard on my glasses growing up. I'll sacrifice a little to fashion if it means something will stay together longer."
"I don't think I've ever heard things put in quite that way before."
"Genetically engineered giant grasshoppers for Thanksgiving. Plenty of drumsticks to go around. Next, on Sick, Sad World."
"And no feathers to pluck," Daria replied to the television. Hearing the front door open, she turned to see Jane. "Running a bit late?"
"Ugh. Traffic sucked. I hope they get that 'Big Dig' done on time."
"Don't hold your breath."
Jane closed the door and moved toward Daria. "Still no luck with glasses?"
"No. Don't forget, even when I find something, my days of one hour glasses are gone. It'll probably be a couple days before I can pick up a new pair."
"Bummer." Jane sat down in another of the living room chairs. "What about...the other thing you were worried about?"
"I decided I need more information. I'm going to the eye doctor again tomorrow to get some. He takes walk-ins; I'll just have to wait a bit."
Jane held up a finger and tapped her chin. "Hey, nice coincidence. Could you take a passenger?"
"One of the kids I work with needs an eye exam. Her mother has a voucher for that and glasses from one of the charities, but doesn't have a car."
"Not to be cold, but why can't they take a bus or train? Or for that matter, doesn't the hospital have some kind of transport system?"
"The little girl needs to be in a special seat because of her neck brace."
"What about you?"
"Her mother's only free when I'm at work. You're clear once you get out of class. She's a sweet kid."
"You know cute doesn't work on me." Daria let out a sigh. "But, I'm not an ogre. I'll give her a ride."
"How did you get rooked into finding transport for her?"
"I didn't. I overhead Mrs. Davis telling one of the nurses that she didn't have a ride. You mentioned going to the doctor...two plus two...simple math. Even I could figure that one out."
Daria parked at the passenger loading lane in front of the Boston Children's Hospital Long-Term Care Residence. She waved to the attendant rising to greet her. "I'm here to pick somebody up."
The attendant shrugged and sat back down. Daria went inside and asked for the Arts and Crafts room. Following the directions, she entered and stopped in surprise. About a dozen children were scattered around. Some were standing or sitting, others were in wheelchairs, and one was confined to a bed. All were making noise and drawing, painting or otherwise creating. There were children stripped of hair by chemotherapy or covered in bandages. Some faced life-threatening illnesses, others life-long problems. Despite their burdens, all appeared to be having a good time.
Jane was among the group, grinning and encouraging each in turn. Jane waved at Daria and then spoke to a young woman in her mid-twenties with pale brown hair.
After a word or two with Jane, the woman approached Daria. "Ms. Morgendorffer?"
Daria nodded. "I'm Daria."
"Hi, I'm Bea Davis. Thanks for the ride."
Daria looked at the thin, six-year old girl who came up beside Bea. A complex support frame was anchored along her shoulders that kept her head and neck rigidly in place. Her hair was trimmed short to stay clear of the brace. Daria squatted down and said, "Hi."
The girl leaned back to look up and smiled. "I'm Olivia. Miss Jane said you were going to take me to the eye doctor?"
"Do you like your glasses?"
"Yes, I like them very much. I can't see very well at all without them."
"I'm a little scared."
"Doctors scare me."
Daria looked at the frame again. "I can see that." Daria hesitated. "Um...but this doctor won't give you any shots."
Olivia sighed in relief.
"He will put some drops in your eyes that will sting a little. So he can look inside them."
She looked worried again. "Oh."
"I've had it done to me; it isn't that bad."
"I want to see things better."
"Why are you going to the doctor? You have glasses."
"I'm going...because there are some things I'm afraid of."
"But, you said don't be scared of him."
"I'm not afraid of him. I'm afraid of what might happen to me."
"Me, too." Olivia touched the brace around her head. "The doctors said if I hurt my neck again, I won't be able to walk."
Olivia stood next to Daria's car as two nurses attached a large, rear-facing child seat into the back. She scowled. "I hate that. I'm a big girl now."
Bea patted the girl's arm. "It's only until you heal, then you can sit like the other big girls."
"I still hate it."
Despite the frown, she cooperated as Bea strapped her securely into the seat. Looking at Daria, she said, "I'll sit in back to keep Olivia company."
Daria opened the door for her and then slipped into the driver's seat. She could see the corner of Olivia's seat in the rear-view mirror. I know I joked with Jane about driving more carefully, but I am glad my vision is still safe to drive with. I don't know how she did it, but I smell Jane's machinations to get me to feel good about myself again.
Daria sat with the ophthalmologist while Bea sat with Olivia waiting for the drops to dilate her eyes. The doctor said, "I understand your concern, Miss Morgendorffer. I'm sorry I didn't address it when you were here the other day."
"I admit it may seem a bit irrational."
"Not really. I've seen this frustration before. Most often, a patient's vision will stabilize by your age. But, it's difficult to predict how vision like yours will change over time. That uncertainty can cause anxiety about how far things may go, especially in someone with your level of visual acuity. I expect the rate of change should slow, now that you're an adult. However, I wouldn't be surprised if it continues for a few years."
Daria fidgeted her hands. "Um...what about surgery?"
"We won't be able to consider that until your vision stabilizes. It will give you a lower strength prescription, but probably not eliminate the need for correction."
"Therefore, I'm back to wait and see what happens."
"If we could accurately predict vision changes in cases like yours, it would make my work a lot easier. I'm sorry."
"I'm not blaming you, just being frustrated."
"I'm going to recommend you get exams on a yearly basis to keep close tabs on your vision. That should give us a better idea within a year or two."
"In the end, the only thing I can be sure of is that it's not a sure thing that my eyes going completely to hell."
"That's it." The doctor smiled. "But, I'll put my money on them not going that far."
"Take care. I better get back in for Olivia."
Olivia exited the exam room, blinking. Even though the room lights were not bright, she was still sensitive. With visible excitement, she began to look through the children's frames. The budget allowed by the voucher limited the selection Olivia had to choose from, and she rapidly decided on a pair of mid-sized, tan colored oval frames.
While Olivia was getting measured for the glasses, her mother turned to Daria. "Will it be too much of an imposition to wait for them? The gentleman said it would only take about forty-five minutes."
Daria shrugged. "I don't see a problem. I can kill time by trying to look at frames for myself again." She quietly said to herself as she went to a display, "Nothing like beating a dead horse."
Daria took the small oblong-shaped frames off. "That would drive me nuts. I like having the wider range of corrected vision. I still can't figure out how CC can stand this kind." She walked to a rack with larger frames. Olivia wandered over to watch Daria as she examined and tried different frames. Dammit, I wish my old style frames were still around. She tried a pair of large, squared frames. When she looked in the mirror, she imagined her hair pulled back. "Ack!" She removed them quickly and tried another pair.
"Seventeen years of almost the same frame. Come to think of it, it would be safe to say I was in a rut." Daria looked some more and rejected another set of frames. "But none of these are..." Daria looked at herself in mild surprise and sighed. "...what I'm looking for. Admit it Morgendorffer. You are concerned about what they look like. You specifically want something unconventional instead of fashionable."
Finally, Daria located a pair of frames with round lenses only slightly smaller than her current ones. The upper half was a metallic black, with a rimless lower half. Overall, they were a bit lighter than her current pair. "I didn't see these last time I was here." She tried them on and found that the fit was very close to what she was familiar with. Looking in the mirror, they were right.
Olivia said, "I like those."
Daria looked down. "Sounds like a good second opinion." Daria looked back at herself in the mirror. The dark upper frame provided the visual barrier she still wanted between herself and the world. Daria thought of a conversation with Jane about contact lenses and glasses.
"I know my glasses set me apart...I can see things that other people can't."
However, the rimless lower half allowed a soft blending between glasses and face. She could notice where the lens edge was, but found she liked not having the dark border of a glasses frame there.
But these allow me to be a little less apart...and maybe allow me to see things that I otherwise can't.
Daria smiled to remember Jane's remark to the glasses explanation:
"Why settle for vanity when you can have pure egotism."
Daria took the demo off and put her old glasses on. She handed the demo to the technician and said, "I'll take these." He took the frames and recorded the model information, and quickly brought up her prescription on the computer. With practiced motions, he had Daria's eyes and face measured for a proper fit. He entered the data and said at the same time, "With the strength of your prescription, I'd suggest the polycarbonate lenses to save weight and the scratch resistance to protect them."
"With how much is already going wrong with my eyes? Of course."
"Do you want the clip-on polarized sunglasses?"
"Save on buying a second pair, yes."
"Okay, they should be ready for you in two days."
Ten minutes later, Olivia carefully slid her new glasses into place and a look of wonder spread quickly. "Wow."
Daria faintly smiled. "I get the same reaction each time I get new ones."
Olivia turned to Daria. "How do they look?"
When Daria got home, the rattle of metal in the kitchen told her Jane was attempting to cook dinner again. "I don't care how artistic it looks; don't laminate a batch of beans to the bottom of a pot again."
Jane looked around the kitchen door-frame and smirked. "How was the passenger?"
Daria slightly rocked her head. "Okay. Olivia found some new glasses."
"And your mission?"
"Basically what I expected. My eyesight will probably continue downhill, but slower. I will probably have to wait until my thirties before I can get surgery. Oh, yeah. They also aren't expected to fall out."
"Dammit. I had plans for them."
Daria reached the kitchen door to find Jane pulling a baking pan from the oven and setting it on the stovetop next to a covered pot emitting steam. "By the way, you're just in time to eat, if you can be bothered to get something out to eat on."
"I can do that." As Daria pulled down two plates, she said, "Am I going to regret asking what's for dinner?"
Jane pulled foil from the baking dish. "It looks like the chicken came through adequately." She pulled the lid off the pot. "And, I pulled off the rice and veggies this time."
"Thank goodness. Your last attempt ended up more like rice paste. I still haven't figured out how you managed to get the rice to break down that much."
Jane pointed a spoon at Daria. "Hey, don't diss the cook."
Daria put utensils on the plates and carried them out to the table. "By the way, I finally found some frames today. I'll pick them up day after tomorrow."
Jane followed and set the baking dish down on an oven mitt. She said as she went back into the kitchen, "So, what's the verdict? Something achingly fashionable to make Quinn swoon?"
Daria finished putting out the plates and silverware. "Round like these...but...a bit more trendy. The lower halves are rimless." Daria looked directly at Jane. "Olivia approved."
Jane came back and placed the pot on a folded towel. "I thought you two would get along."
"I don't know how you did it, but you set that up."
"I didn't set it up, but I couldn't resist the chance to help my friend."
"You are damnably incorrigible."
"And proud of it." Sticking serving spoons in each dish, she sat and said, "Let's eat."
On the appointed day, Daria slid the new glasses on and enjoyed the clarity she always noticed with new glasses. She stood and carefully walked around, getting used to the slight disorientation of changed sight.
Satisfied it fit; she carried her paperwork to the cashier and handed over her credit card. A few moments later, the cashier handed her the receipt and Daria frowned at the blurred image before remembering to slightly rock her head back to look through the lower lens. As she completed signing, she thought of her last birthday and Aunt Amy's visit. Amy used the same motion to read Jane's signature on a painting.
So, you're gifted, too.
Daria neatly folded her copy and put it in her wallet. Heading out the door, she stopped to admire the trees across the street. "Why do I keep forgetting what it is like to see leaves, except the day I get new glasses?"
Shaking her head, she got into her car and went home.
Daria sat in a chair with a book above her lap, enjoying being able to read comfortably again. The telephone ringing brought a slim frown of irritation, but she got up and answered it anyway. "Hello."
Amy Barksdale responded, "My favorite niece. I just got your message. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I picked up my new glasses today."
"Continuing to avoid contacts?"
"Those are still a bad idea. However, I found myself imitating you in another way today."
"Oh? How so?"
"Tilting my head back to look through bifocals."
Amy smiled. "Overachiever, you beat my record."
"I wondered. When?"
"I never noticed."
"I'll admit to vanity. I've always had the progressive lenses, or wore my contacts. It just seemed...like it shouldn't happen to me so soon."
"It helps to know I'm not the only one to get these early."
"We both take after Dad in the eyesight department. He had bifocals for as long as I could remember and I had the impression he had them for a while before I showed up."
"Do I need to start looking for gray hairs?"
Amy grinned. "That, I wouldn't worry about. Unless you got something from Jake, your hair seems to be more like mine and Dad's. Helen and Quinn have that bright red hair like Mom. She was dyeing hers by forty. I bet Helen does, too."
Daria lightly chuckled. "Quinn is going to die to find her first gray hair. Thanks, Amy. But, I wonder if there are any more surprises waiting for me in the Morgendorffer and Barksdale genetic codes?"
"Without a doubt, yes."
Playfully, Amy said, "It was meant to be. I want a picture of the new glasses, since you never did send one of you wearing contacts."
"Jane has a digital camera. I'll send you something, this time."
"I'll be expecting it."
Half an hour later, Daria was at her computer sending copies of the self-portrait to Amy and Michael. "That's out of the way." Reacting to a thought, Daria opened a drawer and put a sheet of photo paper in her printer and printed a copy. She put it in an envelope along with a message.
I thought it was only fair for you to see me in my new glasses.
"I'll ask Jane to drop with off for me."
A couple days later, Daria opened a letter from Bea while Jane watched.
Olivia appreciated the photo and thinks you're pretty in your new glasses. She wanted you to have a photo of her new brace.
The photo showed the grinning girl in a soft neck brace, all sign of the metal frame gone. Daria said to the image, "I guess we both have a little less to fear now."
Quotes from Through a Lens Darkly by Glenn Eichler.
Thanks to the residents of PPMB for commentary, Lawndale Stalker, Mike Nassour, The Angst Guy, Kristen Bealer, Staren, Ranchoth, Ranger Thorne, and Isa Yo-Jo.
Thanks to Ipswichfan and Kristen Bealer for beta reading.
Revised, February 2005