For my Advanced Nonfiction Writing class, we were given a prompt to write about a “physical ailment that resulted in a change in the way you were perceived.” Here’s my take on it:
I wasn’t born with the scar that’s above my left eye. It all happened in the fall of the year 2000, when my aunt ran a red light. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, and as we impacted the other vehicle, my head smashed against the windshield, leaving a part of me with it. When the paramedics arrived and asked, “Whose skin is that stuck in the windshield?” I nearly fainted. The amount of blood now made more sense. The blood’s iron mixed in bitterly with the remains of the shake and fries we had gone to get earlier that day. The paramedics assured me that I would be okay, but I knew that I would never look the same.
It only took but a brief second for my life to change. I had to get a total of four surgeries, all of them painful in more ways than one. My second surgery consisted of placing two silicone bags underneath my skin. There was one bag above my left eye and the other one to the left of it. These bags got inflated once or twice every week. By the end of the month, I looked like the Elephant Man. The bags were now the size of two softballs protruding from my skin. The doctor promised to make me look better when it all was finalized, but at that time, I avoided looking at any mirror.
The first time I looked in the mirror and saw how stretched my skin had become; I felt a wave of depression instantly overwhelm me. The first thought that entered my mind was, am I ever going to have a girlfriend? Am I ever going to get married? I was two months shy of 17 when the accident took place, so the opposite sex’s opinion of my appearance was high on the list. Then I thought of my two cousins and how one they would meet someone and get married. They didn’t have any scars. They didn’t have what looked like two bulging tumors over their faces. As for me, I would probably live in dark room, away from civilization. I would be the black sheep of the family. They would talk about me in whispers and wonder what could have been if the accident had never happened. They would talk about all the potential I had, until one day they would not talk about me again. I thought about these things often for than long month, waiting for my skin to stretch enough so that they could perform the reconstructive surgery.
Once the surgeon performed the final surgery, I was left with one scar that ran all the way from my hairline to my left eyebrow. In fact, part of my left my eyebrow hair is still missing. I had the option of going back in for more work, but I was done. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I was tired of going under the knife. But while this process was going on, I did attend school for a couple of weeks. This was before the bags were in and all I had was the skin draft and a massive patch covering it. The doctor told me that I couldn’t get any sunlight on it, so every morning I would readjust or apply a new patch before heading to school. The first time I returned to class after the accident, one kid in class said, “He got shot in the head!” and the entire class laughed and looked at me. I was in too much pain to even care at that moment, but it did bother me to see my teacher with a smirk on her face. Other kids in school would point at me, while others would ask me what happened. After a few months of complete strangers asking me what happened, I began to have fun with it and tell them stories of being involved in a gang fight.
I have learned to live with the fact than when people look at me, they always notice the scar first. On most days it doesn’t bother me. It’s been 14 years now, so I’ve gotten used to the stares and the questions. But everyone once in a while, I do wonder what I would look like “normal.” I can’t even remember the last time I saw a picture of me where the scar wasn’t in it. And when I look at pictures of myself, I always look at the scar first. It jumps out at me, like an anomaly, even after all these years. I may have gotten used to the inappropriate questions and looks, but I still haven’t gotten used to the scar itself. Sometimes I forget I have it, but then I look at a mirror and there it is, a reminder that I survived the accident. And that’s the best way to look at it. I’m a survivor.