I lost my sunglasses three weeks ago. Rather, I left my sunglasses at my parents house, and haven’t seen my lunettes since. It hasn’t quite been in the cards for me to a) go back home to get them b) ask for their polite retrieval or c) buy a new pair of sunglasses. For me sunglasses are like shoes, buying them only when completely necessary and/or falling apart, still taking multiple weeks to finally settle on the right pair. (60’s frames, dark colored, for a big head, if you’re wondering my style.)
My eyes have been a little naked, and riding around town is different. Normally at 8:00AM when I take the bus ride to myself, I prefer to hide all of my grouch and grumpiness behind my lenses. But I’ve had to keep them open. As I board the bus, I catch not only the stares of men and women sizing me up “who is this girl?” but also more of their body language. Sometimes I make accidental eye contact, and witness their head turn, their breath, and their eventual settling back into their seat. I’ve also been able to take in much more.
There’s an older woman who wheels on at Sunset and Virgil, showing her recently amputated left foot, bandaged in what looks only like white gauze. I hate to want to look at the nub of what used to be her foot. I cringe. I find myself wishing for the politeness of a prosthetic foot so she could put a shoe over it. She grumbles as she maneuvers her wheelchair, and crows “Getting Off! Getting Off!” when we come to a stop just before Alvarado.
On the way back from the beach on the 4, a woman who hopped on around Fairfax begins to stare back demonically at me around La Brea. A less fortunate man with a couple beat up shopping bags, dirty skin and long dreadlocks sat across from her in the very front. He wasn’t particularly smelly, but according to this woman’s face, who stared back at me in the 2nd half of the bus, it was the most offensive, the most unearthly scent she had ever experienced. And her creepy gaze would not break. So I kept reading my book.
It left me pondering, I’ll say the least. How much do I really perceive? Taking a few days off from sunglasses, or from my iPhone, allows for the static to clear. A couple years ago, on a hike, a good friend shared an observation with me about sunglasses. After returning from a trip to New York City, she confessed how odd it was that for the most part New Yorkers don’t wear them. Yet here, in Los Angeles, or more specifically Hollywood, it’s the opposite. It’s rare to see a person without. New Yorkers may have their eyes naked to the elements, but they maintain the horse blinders and tunnel vision to walk through the streets. In Hollywood, our eyes may be covered, but the scope of vision is wide, and we are constantly observing one another.