Turning off the world

A book came to me by mistake — perhaps my mistake when requesting it. When the library called to let me know it had arrived and was ready for pickup I asked the name.

“Lu?” I replied, a question more than an answer. “Who is the author?”
“Jason Reynolds.”


The author was correct, but that title did not ring a bell. I went and picked it up.

It is a young adult book. I read a lot of those. They are quick, stripped to the bone, and don’t bog down like many adult books do.

Lu is on the track team practicing for the hurdles, but he is having trouble with them. He’s extremely farsighted and wears contact lenses.

One day at practice. dirt gets in his eyes, he has to remove his contact lenses and is left virtually blind. Coach tries to get him to do the hurdles and Lu finally has to tell him about his eyesight. He admits that even with the lenses in he can’t really judge where the hurdles are.

That was me growing up, but I was very, very nearsighted. The glasses helped, but not enough. I knew how Lu felt.

Coach had a plan. He had Lu practice running the hurdles with his lenses out. He counted his steps (12) to the first hurdle and his steps to the next three. It worked.

I too did a lot of counting because I only wore my glasses when I thought they might help. They distorted my face. Even in the first row in class with my glasses on I couldn’t see the blackboard. I couldn’t see the numbers on the classroom doors, or the numbers on the hall lockers. I had to count them all to get to the one I wanted. If I got distracted I was lost and would walk until I could find a bearing. I definitely understood Lu.


Girl in thick glasses cropped

The book goes on.There’s a lot going on. Lu’s mom in pregnant, there are drugs, there are bullies, there are illnesses, family strains, friendships, jealousies.

But one thought of Lu’s toward the end of the book caught me by surprise and and I realized this book was meant to find me. At the end of a long day Lou “went into [his] room, took out [his] contacts, blurred out, laid in [his] bed. . .”

I was about 60 years old when my cataracts were removed and corrective lenses were implanted in my eyes. When I would tell people that I missed being able to take out my lenses at the end of the day they would reply that I could close my eyes at any time. And I would say “No, that’s not the same.”

But I know Lu would understand if I told him I miss turning off the world.

Thank you Jason Reynolds.


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