Saturday, March 12, 2011

Her Face

Through a thick fog she reached out her hand, looking for her brother.  She knew she was in bed, that she wasn’t home, and that she wanted to wrap her hand around her brother’s five digits.
Every other detail was lost in that thick hazy fog.
And she was too tired to find her way through it.  Sleep took her again.
For the next few days, she continued to enter and retreat from the haze.  Meanwhile, she’d been cut open, put back together, stitched and stapled up.  Sleep continued to take her frequently.
Eventually, she began to emerge from the fog for longer periods of time.  And what seemed like randomly scattered pieces, began connecting, creating pictures for her….of what brought her there, why the fog had been so heavy, and where she needed to go.
There was one picture she didn’t want to see.  So many visitors had come to see her, while she lay on that institutional hospital bed, and she saw their faces when they first entered her room.  They all had the same smile, while their eyes sang a different tune.  And upon their arrival and departure, they all kissed her on the same spot on the left side of her forehead. 
She can’t remember when or who first told her that her face hit the windshield, but she knew she was avoiding a mirror.
And then the first time she was able to leave her bed, she hobbled by something reflective on the wall and automatically glanced up.  She didn’t know what she saw.
Working her way back into the hospital bed, she realized what that was.
A week after an eighteen wheeler, two trailer big rig had gobbled her little car up for breakfast, she saw her face for the first time and like a waterfall, her salted tears broke the banks and gushed down her cheeks.
A nurse comforted her.  The nurse thought she was upset about what her face looked like, the scars that would inevitably remain.
But, that’s not what upset her.  She had seen the red, swollen, stitched up face in the mirror and she didn’t recognize it.
Her flash of a glance in the mirror had only revealed the right side of her face, the part of her face that had gone through the windshield.
With a relief filled gasp, she looked at her new face again in a mirror, this time seeing the cut and uncut pieces and portions.  She saw her twenty-one year old self again.  She breathed.
A social worker at the hospital had suggested a makeup artist to learn how to cover her healing face and new scars.  But, she wasn’t interested.  She rarely wore makeup before this; she didn’t understand why she should have to wear makeup after.
While attempting to pay for toilet paper, shampoo, and Kleenex one day a couple months later, she was reminded why.
The clerk asked her, “What the hell happened to your face?!”
Years later, she’s kicked herself that she wasn’t more quick witted to ask him, “What the hell happened to your mouth?!”
But, immediately she realized why she was urged to use makeup to cover her scars.  She realized it wasn’t about making herself look ‘good’ for herself; it was about making other people comfortable.
After that, it was rather easy for her to be comfortable with her choice to simply accept her scars as part of her new face.
And that anyone who had a problem with a face marked with a few of her challenges, need not look.

At The Red Dress Club we were prompted to write a short piece, either fiction or non-fiction, about something ugly - and find the beauty in it, with a 600 word limit.  The link up was on Friday, but exhaustion won against inspiration, until today. So I'm slipping this in before the link up closes.

Oh yea, and in case you are wondering, this piece is a true story; it's a piece of my story. :>


  1. It just breaks my heart to think of you going through this. Your accounting of this AMAZING and horrible time is brilliant. It's brilliant in it's detail, and perspective, but mostly, because it reveals the truest part of WHO you are, and who you were and HOW you navigate this life. WHAT a gift to HAVE you. A miracle, that you survived, but a GIFT in the person you share, so beautifully with the rest of us.

    THANK you for being SO strong, graceful and true! You are an amazing woman, and a delight in MY life!

  2. That is just beautiful Karen. Such a touching tale with so much that we can all learn from. I was riveted...I could read more and more about her. I have to say I love the line "What the hell happened to your mouth."

  3. I applaud you for not covering up your experience for the sake of others.
    If you are comfortable with who you are, others will be comfortable with you.

  4. Giz- Can I just say, I love you? Seriously. Having known you both before and after this... you are amazing. Period. I love your writing, and I thank you for letting me (all of us!) in to see even more of what makes you, you.

  5. thank you for your bravery in sharing a piece of your story with us. Your storytelling skills are fantastic. *HUG*

  6. Wow! I'm so, so glad that you ended up posting. This was an amazing piece and it breaks my heart to think of it as true and you experiencing that much pain.

    At the same time, I'm cheering for you because you see how beautiful you are.

    Loved this post.

  7. That's a powerful piece of knowledge that the makeup isn't for you but for others. This is a beautifully written piece - I truly enjoyed it.

  8. So brave and so beautiful. We should all be so grounded in ourselves. Good for you.

    (Found you via TRDC)

  9. I am so impressed that you, at the tender age of 21, had such a strong sense of self.

  10. I just kept reading this again and again. I Left a comment earlier, signed into the wrong account....under Courtney. Sorry about that!

  11. This is just beautiful. We do so many things to alter ourselves, or "cover up", for the benefit of others.
    You are amazing.

  12. Oh dear friend! Having only gotten to know you long after this experience, it was a gift to read your thoughts and feelings from that time. Even though I knew the "story", reading your words made it all ring home. You are a beautiful and brave girl and I am blessed to have your friendship!

  13. This is beautiful. And what the hell happened to that person's mouth?! I hope you use that sometimes now.


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