Terrance Harper Personal Narrative

Here’s a window into GCAA student Terrance Harper’s world, written in Writing Workshop. For his personal narrative essay, Terrance focused largely on creative writing techniques like imagery and tension:


My good eye is like your first cup of coffee of the day — filled with cream and sugar. Through my good eye I see my black, furry, eager-eyed Mason named Hide. Through my good eye I see a hulking, big red white and blue bus. Through my good eye I see Phillips 66, Rally’s, and finally, a large stone building with big glass windows and a bright antennae on top. If you get there early enough you can see the antennae light up.

Then there’s my bad eye. It all started when I was sitting in my mother’s room, on her queen sized bed with her power chair next to it, holding all of her gum and combs and hair stuff. We were watching “Romeo Must Die” when I noticed that my left eye was getting blurry. So I started to rub it. It felt like someone had put a bomb in my eye, like someone had stomped me right in the eye, had taken a Samuri sword to my eye, like a nuke went off in my eye.

I walked into the bathroom and noticed that there was a gray mass sitting in the middle of my eye. I took a Q-tip and tried to remove it. I spread my eyelids apart, and slowly inched the Q-tip near my eye. As soon as it touched, I screamed out in pain. The Q-tip felt like someone had taken a size 12 Timberland boot and threw it dead in the middle of my eye. I screamed as if someone had set my eye on fire. My mom yelled out from her chair, “What happened??” “Call somebody!” I shouted. So she got on the phone with my sister Quiara. “Get over here as fast you can!” she cried, tearfully.

I found myself sitting in the emergency room at DePaul Hospital. The room was filled with my mother in her wheelchair, an old lady with a quilt over her legs, and a marble desk with two receptionists behind it. Eventually I was led into a private room. A bed sat in the middle of the room. Behind it were blinds and a window. On the left hand side sat a cabinet, filled with miscellaneous items. My step-father Cornelius had joined us by now. My mother was also there, as well as three doctors: an ontologist, and two cornea specialists. The ontologist was trying to figure out the grey mass on my eye, while the two cornea specialists talked amongst themselves. “On a scale of 1-10, how much pain are you in?” one of the cornea specialist asked. “A even 20,” I replied. Then all three of the doctors left to check on another patient. I kept wondering… Will they have to cut out my eye? The fear was like a strike of lightning through my spine. Meanwhile, my bad eye saw a kaleidescope of flushed out colors — a cheerful and benign pink and navy blue looked black and magenta.

We waited a few more hours.

I began to ponder life with an eye patch. I was thinking I’d look like Colonel Nick Fury, peacoat and all.

For the rest of the school year I struggled at school. Seeing basic words on the board was a challenge. The pain had decreased from a 20 to a 15. I had to squint my right eye really hard to see the board. My mood was like Saul Goodman’s car: one minute he would put the key into the ignition, and it would turn on just right. The other minute, he’d put the key in, and it would not work at all. You could say I needed a mechanic of sorts.

Summer of 2016: the doctor tells me that the gray mass that’s in my eye is a puff of air between my cornea and the rest of my eye, which means that I have a crack in my cornea. Tall, with grey hair, my doctor looked like Steve Martin from Cheaper By The Dozen. He was wearing a sky blue shirt. He was dancing around the serious news he gave me, trying to make everything lighthearted. Basically, I came to the realization that I might need to replace my cornea. This time, my mom wasn’t with me because I was old enough to visit the doctor by myself. When I received this news, I was both angered and relieved. What made me angry was the way the doctor had told me. It was almost as if he was the doctor from Family Guy trying to cut away from the news by talking about something different. He kept asking me, “Are you into sports?” and “What instrument do you play?” Of course I went along with it, because I thought that if I didn’t say anything, he wouldn’t give me the news, but inside, it bothered me a lot… to give my personal information to a stranger. Overall, though, I was relieved… thank goodness I wasn’t going blind.

Applying the first creamy eye drop was really awkward: I spread my eyelid as far apart as I could, and used all the force in my left hand to keep it from blinking. The first two times I missed and hit the bridge of my nose. But as everyone says, the third time is the charm, and the drop landed square dead in the middle of my eye. It didn’t feel good at all — it felt like someone had just thumped me directly in the pupil. Fours later I had to administer another, different eye drop. This one was clear as day. I was a little weary about putting this one in my eye. I didn’t want it to sting like the first one. As soon as the drop landed in my eye, I lowered my head into the palm of my hand. It felt like I had just been electrocuted through my pupil. I started to rub my eye, and I saw a symphony of colors and shapes. Then I went into my room to try to take my mind off the pain.

I’m still waiting to get my surgery. It costs $1600. The waiting is like when you see your favorite video game has a new trailer — you watch it in anticipation, waiting for the release date, but it keeps getting pushed back, over and over again. As I wait, I go on Facebook and watch funny videos. I come across a link called “Rage On.” I liked what I saw. You can make money off of this, I thought, so I started designing sweatshirts, iPhone cases, pillow cases, jumpsuits, bandanas, comforters, shower curtains, and towels. My design style is whatever looks awesome to me in a particular moment; it’s all over the place: one minute I’m doing something about Pokemon, and the next minute, I’m doing something about Pulp Fiction. So far I’ve earned $0.13 because I helped another person on the website sell a Biggie Smalls shirt and another person, an Avenger’s Collage shirt. I’d say the coolest thing on my site is my Spirit Animal shirt — red, white, and black, with a werewolf staring right into your eyes, as if he can see right into your soul, in a Native American style.

For now, I’ll be applying two eye drops every four hours, with 30 minutes in between. I’ll be designing more shirts, pillow cases, and iPhone covers. In my bad eye, I’ll be staring at Mrs. O’Donnell in English class, with double vision. In my good eye, I’ll be staring at Mrs. York in Life After High School in high definition. So you could say I’ll be living in two worlds. One world echoes, vibrates, and unsettles, and the other is calm and still.


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