The affliction did not arise overnight, not this time. Over a period of months, from the September of the previous year to the May that followed I noticed that my right eye was gradually moving out of sync with the other. When glancing quickly to the right I was presented with two images, next to each other, from which, as the condition worsened with the gap between replicated objects growing larger and larger, I had to choose one on which to trust when making those routine decisions and judgments of sight; the speed and distance of an approaching car to give you but one example.
Concerned that this seeing double may soon cover my entire field of vision I made a number of visits, at first to my doctor and then to a consultant at Moorfields, on each visit following the line of thick green paint along the pavements north of Old Street to the hospital’s entrance on City Road. Just as was the case the first time no cause was found. There was the suggestion of a damaged nerve and a weakened muscle on the inner corner of my right eye, but no certainty on the matter was ever reached and it was on that basis that I refused the surgery that I was advised could correct the problem. I opted instead to live with this duplicated world to my right hand side and agreed to return to my doctor only if the condition worsened.
Relieved that I didn’t appear to be suffering from a tumour of the brain or in the early stages of multiple sclerosis, the emergence of double vision being a well-known early symptom, I rarely found myself troubled by my condition and found various ways to adapt to the restrictions it put on me. The simplest way was to close one eye when turning to the right and it was mercifully rare that I found myself winking into the face of a stranger. Only occasionally I might grumble about the disorientating effect it could have on me, especially when turning to someone on my right with whom I wanted to speak. In such a situation I would be presented with identical twins that moved and talked in perfect unison and only by turning my head or whole body so that I faced them directly could I continue. This confrontational stance did I think unnerve some when what was intended was only a fleeting exchange of words but by my full facial engagement was given, in appearance only, much greater significance.
For some months my eyes stabilized, no change occurred in my vision and eventually it was as if it had always been so, just as many dramatic events are absorbed into and then simply become part of daily life. However, following a severe bout of flu, which left me bed-ridden and quite delirious for a number of days, I found my visual disturbance to be accompanied by a terrible feeling of unease. It seemed also that the eye now pulled round, straining to see something more. Once I noticed this, it played much on my mind and within a few days I became quite sure of something, someone there, just out of sight, always just beyond sight. This feeling could not be assuaged. Not by turning the head or the body, at any speed, fast or slow could any glimpse be caught that might give form to this sensation or presence. It could not be tricked, it would not be seen. Only when all my efforts were exhausted did I settle with the thought that it wished to remain out of sight more than I wished now to see it.