Smack dab in the middle of Yom Kippur, my left eye decides to let me know it is not at all happy. Of a sudden, it hurts.
It hurts bad.
Would I go to our local emergency treatment center or tough it out?
I tough it out.
That night, I make the first possible appointment with the eye doctor. The appointment is two days away, first thing in the morning. I am resigned to the idea that this is, after all, my eye, and cannot be ignored. Even though it is that crazy period between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, a whirlwind of work, building, shopping, and cooking.
My husband is able to give me a lift to town, a mercy, since this cuts my travel time in half. Not yet caffeinated, I load myself into the car and find my photosensitive eyes assaulted by the bright morning sun. The car’s sun visor not being nearly enough, I fold a tissue into the top of my eyeglasses so that I resemble a Muslim woman, my face all covered up. My son, in the backseat, is mortified. Someone might see!
“Put on your sunglasses,” he cries.
Well, okay. I can do that. Sleepily, I dig into my purse, locate my sunglasses, slip off my glasses, and put on my shades. Ahhh. Much better. Even if I can no longer see anything, since my sunglasses are not prescription sunglasses and I’m unfortunately myopic (not as a blogger, of course!).
My eyeglasses are now resting in my lap. I kind of know I will forget they are there. It’s the nature of the beast. I hope I won’t.
But I do.
What happens next is this: we are held up by traffic and I am definitely going to be late for my doctor’s appointment. I am upset. My husband and son assure me the doctor is stuck in the same traffic jam, not to worry.
I call the medical center and explain, and the staff confirms that the doctor and nurses have not yet arrived.
Phew. A relief.
Still, I am super nervous about losing that appointment, and as my husband pulls up to the curb, I already have my hand on the door handle, ready to push down and fly out of the car to race my way over to the medical center. Which I do.
I am halfway up the street when I realize, “My glasses!”
I run back down to the curb, looking up and down the sidewalks, the sparse city greenery, beneath the parked cars, out onto the street. But I cannot see my glasses anywhere.
Had I slipped them into my bag and forgotten? Had they slid off my lap into the recesses of my husband’s car? I race to my appointment, while simultaneously rummaging through my bag and leaving a Whatsapp voice recording for my husband and son to check the car.
I pay for my appointment on one floor, then wait on another for the doctor, imagining my glasses being ground into dust as a million cars roll over them. Another expense, replacing those spectacles, and with the holidays already so costly. I am upset with myself.
My son messages me that the glasses are not in the car, that I should go knock on doors, look on a ledge for them. I barely register the words. I can’t go anywhere. I am stuck at the medical center, awaiting my turn for the doctor.
I continue rummaging through my bag, explaining to the only other person in the waiting room, a tired, careworn woman, that I have lost my eyeglasses. She calls out suggestions where I might look. She is kind.
My glasses are not anywhere in my handbag.
The doctor calls me in. I tried to concentrate on what he says about my eyes and the complicated treatment plan he prescribes. He hands me various papers listing things I must buy and the instructions for their use.
I run down to the bottom floor pharmacy, grab a number, and wait my turn, drumming my fingers, impatient to go seek out my lost eyeglasses. My number is called after 20 minutes.
The pharmacist looks at the papers, sighs, and apologizes. The doctor had used the wrong form. I have to go back up and get him to make out a new prescription. Apparently, he’d done this before.
I run upstairs, still hoping to finish up quickly so I might go search for my glasses. Panting, I reach the doctor’s office, and the door is closed. That means someone is inside. By now, many patients are waiting for him in the waiting room.
I explain about my prescription to the room at large and all the people are nice, saying I can go in ahead of them. The door opens. I hasten inside. Explain the mistake, what I need from him.
The doctor is annoyed. “Look,” he says, pointing to the blank lines for name and date. “They won’t take the prescription because you haven’t filled in your name and date.”
“No,” say I. “They won’t honor the prescription because it isn’t the form used by this HMO.”
He argues. I am firm. He begins to shout.
In English he says. “Fill it in! I will go with you DOWN.”
“No. They aren’t going to take it. It’s the wrong fo–“
“I will go with you DOWN!”
I look at him, hold his gaze. He looks back at me; a staring contest.
He breaks first, swiveling in his chair to face the keyboard, where he might type out the proper prescription, as he should have done in the first place.
The printer spits out my prescription, and the doctor applies his stamper to the paper with some (angry) force. I jump and stammer, “It’s not MY fault!” and then too worried about my glasses to wait for the elevator, I race down four flights of stairs, back to the pharmacy.
I catch the pharmacist’s eye and she indicates that as soon as she finishes up with her customer, I can cut in. I get the stink eye from everyone waiting there. They urge me to take a number. I explain the business with the wrong prescription. They pretend they don’t hear or understand.
All this time, throughout my doctor’s appointment, through the wait for the pharmacist, a second wait for the doctor and then for the pharmacist again, my husband and son are messaging me on Whatsapp with advice about where to hunt my glasses.
The pharmacist finishes with her client. I race to the counter, squabble with someone whose number has come up at the same time, the pharmacist backing me so the stalemate is broken.
At last, my prescriptions filled, I race back to the spot where my husband had dropped me off what now seems like hours ago, perusing every nook and cranny of the street and sidewalk and peering into shrubs.
I go into the closest apartment building, my husband having suggested someone might have seen the glasses and brought them into their home or office. That residential building on a weekday morning on a busy Jerusalem street is like a ghost town. Empty, dark, dank, and dusty.
I sigh. No point even knocking.
I come back out, look all around. My glasses are nowhere. Near tears, I give up, and look for a place to rest my handbag, so I can dig out my sunglasses for the walk to the bus station.
I see a ledge and make to set my handbag there. As I lower my purse to the ledge, I realize I am about to crush my glasses
They are right there on the ledge. Right in the place where I’d been about to place my bag.
I am astonished, jubilant! I pick up my glasses to look them over. They are completely unharmed. I slip them back onto my ears and nose, where they belong.
Someone had seen my glasses on the ground, picked them up, and placed them on the closest ledge, out of harm’s way, knowing that the owner would be sure to return to the area to look for them.
It is an Israeli thing, the ledge as lost and found.
In Israel, ledges are the homes of lost yarmulkes of all colors and fabrics, be they colorfully embroidered, crocheted, or plain black satin. Ledges are the homes of pink barrettes and small precious toys, pacifiers or even a shirt carelessly slipped off before a pick-up game, forgotten and left behind. In Israel, ledges are homes to lost items and stale bread, since a ledge is also the place where a Jerusalem pigeon might find something good to eat, it being a sin to toss bread into the garbage.
My glasses had been out in plain view all along, there on that ledge. And even if they hadn’t been out in plain view, the first thing my husband and son had said to me over that protracted Whatsapp correspondence was: check the ledges.
But I’d barely registered the words. My mind had been too busy with life in Israel, to register life in Israel, which, a lot of the time, is not about clerical mistakes and otherwise good people yelling at each other, but about the ledges. People who care about people putting lost things on ledges where the owners will find them.
All along I’d been looking down at the ground.
When I should have been looking up.
The Israeli custom of placing lost things on ledges is, you see, a microcosm for just about everything.
And looking up to find things is a metaphor for life.
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