Grumpy about the strange things I see

I’ve always had floaters in my eyes, ever since I was very little. I used to sit quietly and watch them shimmer across my field of vision, twisting fuzzy threads that moved peacefully like seahorses. I’d try to follow them but they were elusive, always drifting just faster than my eyes could turn in their sockets. I never talked about them. Now I have an especially huge floater in my left eye after some kind of gel detachment. It’s ridiculously annoying but apparently it’s with me until the day I go blind or die. I can make it dance by moving my eyes back and forth and around and around. I’m trying to stop this habit in public places, because I think it may make me seem a little bit wrong.

I’ve always seen the world as a sort of quivering, disorganized, pixelated thing. If I look at a blank surface, like a wall or the sky, it’s especially obvious. I don’t see a smooth surface, I see little dots vibrating, like a seething mass of randomized molecules. It used to bother me, but now I don’t mind it at all. If I’m bored, I can always liven things up for myself by staring at a wall.

I thought (or hoped) this is how the world looks to everyone, until I finally told Anthony about it some time in the last few years. He played it straight, of course. “No, Carla. That’s not normal.” And then he looked at me sidewise.

Maybe the quivering is related to whatever makes me have so many floaters, or maybe it’s neurological. I also experience slow-downs and smells. Sometimes, everything seems to go slow-mo for a short moment, and I hear voices in a particular cadence, like a chanting sing-song. The voices are usually (but not always) real; the way I’m hearing them isn’t. Also in those moments I often smell a chemical perfume-like stench, not quite vile but unpleasant (and no, it wasn’t because I was farting).

I finally told Anthony about that stuff recently too (“That’s weird, Carla”), and then I was able to start chatting about it with just about anyone willing to be bored by me. It’s amazing how I convinced myself these things weren’t that odd, even while I kept them secret for more than 40 years. And now that I’ve talked about the slow-mo/voices thing openly, it doesn’t happen as much anymore, raising a question about whether a trip through the DSM might shed light on what’s going on in my head.

I wish I had been able to tell someone about my perceptions when I was little. I would have felt better. Or probably more accurately, I wish there had been an adult who listened to me. I look at my children now and wonder what strange things they see and can’t describe to me. Have they tried, and I dismissed it as fantasy or play? Are they keeping secrets of the strange things they see?

I refuse to believe that I’m in a tiny minority on this front. I’m very ordinary, and therefore I conclude that every human has some unique interface with what’s around her. Maybe we would all benefit from sharing the strange things we see. Maybe we’d find kindred spirits. The world might be more magical, more beautiful, and no less real for it.

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