Lake Effect, Spring 2016, Volume 20: "Tears Naturale"

Tears Naturale

by Vivian Witkind Davis


In my loft office I hear the dull groan of my husband’s electric wheelchair on the thick carpet, the click when he switches to or from reverse and the creak of the chair as it turns. He is getting dressed to go downtown to his office. I look out the casement windows into the crown of the ghostly crabapple tree. The robins did their work and picked it naked of berries before a freezing storm gripped the tree in a carapace of ice. The windows’ diagonal oak bars diamond-frame the branches.

Kennedy, my gold-crowned conure, is quiet, and I turn to look. She is sitting on top of her cage, feathers fluffed out, preening her orange chest. She carefully chews each silky feather from root to tip with her black, hooked beak.

In a minute Jack will wheel into the loft so I can put drops in his eyes and button the right sleeve of his shirt, which gives his left hand trouble. He has MS, which you would think is enough, but there is no law against having two nasty diseases at once. Last year he had surgery followed by radiation for a sino-nasal cancer perilously close to the optic nerve. The cancer is gone, and his prospects are good, but problems remain. Jack’s eyes, especially the right one, no longer make enough tears. During the radiation treatments and immediately after, when he woke in the morning the whites of his eyes were neon red. So was the tiny nodule of skin in each inner corner— the caruncula lacrimalis. Each of them flamed like a ripe crabapple berry.

He rolls into my office. We’re in this together, this business of keeping out the cold. As I hold his right eyelid open, the baby-soft eyelashes tenderly under my thumb, and gently squeeze the plastic bottle of “Tears Naturale,” I see only two thin red veins against the healthy white of the eye. Excellent improvement. But I can’t see the caruncula at all. Has it gone missing, picked clean by cancer therapy?

Jack closes his eyes. An unnatural tear slides down his cheek. “Boo hoo,” he says, grinning. “Boo hoo.”