A glass lollipop. That’s what my sister thinks of the most important piece of scientific equipment I possess. And by the looks of it, she’s recently had it in her mouth. I need to find a better hiding place.
Walking into my bedroom, instrument in hand, I stand in front of my 5 drawer, oak veneer dresser, close my eyes, and yank sharply on the red knobs to break the seal to my sock drawer. My mother recently painted the dresser, deciding that everything in the house needed to be updated to suite her wildly swinging, short lived tastes, and now everything sticks to everything else. The drawers were so sticky the first few weeks I nearly pulled the dresser over on myself and once I punched myself in the eye when the drawer let loose unexpectedly.
After sliding out the top drawer, I stand on my toes and carefully reach into the sock mating ball. I stir my hand around awhile, mixing everything together and destroying any separation between sock ethnicities, until I feel one that is right. I pull out a perfectly white pair of tube socks with 3 green bands around the ankle. Why is it always 3 bands I wondered? I shrugged and turned the sock ball inside out with a well placed thumb, letting one of the socks fall to the floor. My mother’s method of keeping sock-mates together is to make little balls out of them that look like Gabriel’s Horn swallowing its own mouth-piece. I left all the other little cannibalistic sock-horns to fend for themselves and gently closed the drawer, making sure not to close it all the way.
I briefly hold the sock to my tongue to wet it and then begin to clean and polish the 3.5 inch diameter lens of my 10X, oak-handled, brass magnifying glass. This magnificent instrument was a birthday gift given to me 3 years ago at a party for my 7th birthday and is one of my most prized possessions. Strangely, I don’t remember who gave it to me. I rarely remember what happens at parties. It’s too much stimulation for me, so I normally excuse myself and escape to the back yard to play. No one seems to mind, if they notice my absence at all.
I lick the toe of my sock again, spitting out the bits that stick to my tongue, and continue the work of removing the smears of sister-drool from my precious, optical portal to the unknown. I work slowly, deliberately, and with great care while sitting cross-legged and barefoot on my bedroom floor. The floor is covered by a green shag carpet remnant that’s littered with dog hair, Cheerio crumbs and still smells musty from being stored in the basement. I make a quick mental note to take a closer look at the carpet once I finish the cleaning. I’m sure to find a dead mosquito or a flea whose life came to a quiet end, deep in the microscopic jungle of tangled green shag fibers.
The glass lens is thick and heavy. I pinch the center of it with my thumb and index finger and make a mental note. Three eights of an inch at the center. The lens is solid. No give whatsoever. Didn’t I hear one time that glass can flow; that old windows get thicker at the bottom after decades of wrestling with gravity. Looking down at my reflection in the glass, I realize that I’m squeezing the lens as hard as I can, imagining the glass deforming and flattening until my 2 fingers touch, forming a glass donut. It doesn’t. Without thinking, I puff up my right cheek and push the smooth, cold glass tight against my face. Only the center of the lens touches my cheek while the rest curves gently away in parabolic perfection. I close my eyes and roll the lens around, rocking it back and forth on my cheek, feeling all of it, exploring it with my face. It’s perfect.
I relax my lips and push the lens harder against my cheek, deeper into my face, pushing the air out slowly, in a prolonged raspberry, until I feel the glass close to my teeth. I imagine the lens is the eye of a squid, and the two of us are locked in mortal combat. Two faces smashed together at 20 fathoms.
I pull the lens away from my face and get back to the task at hand. I wipe the smudges of oil from my own face off the glass, and start to polish the pale flat band of brass that encircles the glass and holds it in place on the handle. There are symbols etched into the outer surface of the band that are unfamiliar to me. Runes of unknown origin and power I conclude. Holding the glass at arms length, I squint my eyes and imagine that it’s a magical ring. A golden, magical ring, tuned to my mind, capable of trapping inside of it whatever pieces of the world I choose to view through it, giving me powers over the elements as well as space and time. A wizard’s eye. I imagine a miniature sun rising and setting across a backdrop of clouds in my wizard’s eye as I hold it up to the scene looking into my bedroom window. The 9 inch long, lathe-turned handle is made of oak (the preferred wood of wizards if I recall) with 7 grooves cut around it, in two clusters of 3 at each end and a single groove at the mid-point. This pattern is significant and I attribute it to the age at which I received this wizard’s eye. I hold the end of the wooden handle to my tongue. The end of the handle is rough like a cylindrical bundle of toothpicks. The wood grain is exposed and it drinks up the water from my tongue and leaves a slightly salty aftertaste. I move the magnifying glass from my right hand to my left and back again, spinning it slowly it as it moves through the light from my window, sending projectiles of captured sun in all directions.
The balance, color and the weight of this magnifying glass stir something in me. It just feels good to hold, like a stick or a knife or a gun. A gun of science.
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