Life Through A Lens
by Andrew Hawnt
“So can I ask what the trouble is you’ve been having, sir?” Jane asked, looking at the little old man over her slim specs. In the subdued light of the optician’s examination room he looked serene. It made a nice change from the shouty bloke she’d just had in when he’d been complaining that the price of the test had been too high.
Mr Charlie Graham grinned and his heavily-lined face lit up like an aged sunrise. “I wouldn’t really call it a problem my dear,” he said gently. “More of a wonder.” His smile took on a mischievous edge when he slipped his glasses out of the velvet sleeve he produced from the inside pocket of his smart suit jacket. “What do you make of these?”
Jane took the glasses from her customer and resisted the temptation to rub her eyes. Only three more to go and she could head out into rush hour traffic to shout at other motorists for an hour. There was a bottle of red and a giant bath waiting for her at home, which made the day easier to deal with.
The glasses looked normal enough, clean, well cared for. Much like Mr. Graham himself. “Nice glasses, good condition. What would you like to know?”
“Have a look through them.” Jane hoped he didn’t have some weird fetish for seeing opticians wearing his glasses. She raised the lenses towards her eyes and-
She pulled them away immediately and examined them again. Mr. Graham was grinning. “I- what? I’m not sure what I just saw. Is it a trick?”
“Look again, my dear. You’ll see something different.”
Jane hesitated. When she had looked through the thin pieces of glass, she had seen a glimpse of a beach. A faraway beach. A beach from her childhood. A memory, perfectly captured beyond the lenses of an old man’s glasses. An impossible thing.
She looked again. Light swamped her field of vision, visible only through the glasses the old man had brought in. Normal glasses that were – she could not deny for one second – were showing her images from her past.
“That... that’s the house I grew up in! I haven’t seen that place in forty years. It doesn’t look any different! Even the tree in the garden.That’s... that’s my old bike in the garden...”
She pulled the glasses away from her face, her head spinning, her breath sharp and quick. She handed the glasses back to Mr. Graham. “How is this possible?”
“I don’t know,” said Mr. Graham with his smile still beaming. “But I wanted you to have them. You gave me the prescription for them, and somehow they started doing this a few months ago. I had to get another pair to see the present through. I wanted to give them to you as a gift, as they have given me so much pleasure.”
He handed them back to her, and she let her fingers curl around their cool form. “They let me watch myself as a young man," he went on. "Meeting my late wife, living the beautiful days, the best times of my life. The people around me thought I was day-dreaming, but I was travelling back in time and watching my children grow up again. I saw every good moment of my life through those glasses and was able to feel alive again. I have a terminal illness and won’t be around much longer, so I wanted these glasses to go to someone who deserved them.”
“This is impossible. They’re impossible. I don’t... but... thank you. Why me?”
“Because I saw you through them one day. I was nearby and I saw you as a child. I knew it was you as I looked again and saw you as a young adult, coming here to start your job in the opticians. When I saw you as a child I saw you with your mum, getting into the lead car of a funeral procession.”
Jane struggled to speak. “My dad. That was my dad’s funeral. I was six.”
“The glasses will let you see him again,” Mr. Graham pointed to the glasses and gestured for her to put them on. “You deserve the chance. And after all, impossible things can be beautiful, even though they shouldn’t exist. Impossible things keep the magic in life, and those glasses will let you experience all the magic you’ve known before, all over again, as though it was happening right now.”
Jane did put them on, and saw the house again, this time seeing herself as a toddler, playing in crunchy autumn leaves with a man in his forties, smiling and laughing with her as she stomped and tumbled into piles of brown and orange leaves. Her father held her aloft, and they laughed together as more leaves fell from the ancient tree outside their old house. She watched herself play and giggle and cry when she fell and scraped her knees. She watched her father soothe her tears and carry her back into the house on his shoulders. She could have sworn she heard his distant voice, singing to her as it still did in dreams and memories.
When she pulled the glasses away, she realised Mr. Graham had made his exit. She slipped the glasses into her bag and tried to calm herself for the next appointment. She had a few minutes to spare.
She picked up the phone from her desk and dialled for an outside line.
“Mum? It’s me. Are you busy tonight? There’s something you need to see...”
(c)Andrew Hawnt 2013