He looked at himself in the mirror. Just stared at his reflection, pondering the quarter-sized red rash on his right cheek. The other over-sized looks like a big mosquito bite rash, above the cheek rash, on the edge of his right eye caused him to lean in, close to the mirror, just to see what exactly was happening to his skin. “I don’t get it,” he said, irritated. “Why do I even have this mess on my face?”
“Just keep applying the cream the doctor gave you. It should take a day or two before you see it looking better,” his mom said calmly.
The next morning, as he was getting ready for his first day of seventh grade, he, again, simply stared at himself, shaking his head to and fro.
His mother was watching him, hoping her close-by presence wasn’t a distraction. She was curious about his behavior towards the sudden change to his lovely little face. She didn’t want to interfere with his concentration. Didn’t want to make him feel worse. The less she said the easier it will be for him to handle as he walked around the halls at school, trying to look cool.
“I feel like crying,” he stated out loud, as if to himself, yet looking in her unhidden direction. She could hear a slight choke in his voice. She kept quiet. No need to baby him. That will only make him actually begin to cry. Which will then cause him to announce, “I am not going to school.” She knew him so well. Knew when to keep her thoughts to herself. Let him work it out on his own.
As she watched him she began to think about people. People she has seen on the streets. In TV documentaries. Read about in autobiographies. People who have disabilities, and deformities. On a daily basis, for life. She considered it interesting that her son had become insecure with a minor it will be gone in just a few days rash while there are people who must come to terms with their appearance. Learn to master confidence, every day; anew. Prevail no matter how often strangers stop and stare at them. She is sure they must adapt daily, love who they are, and move on. As best they know how. She is also aware that this is not the time to bring up that subject with her son. They’ve had the conversation before. About people. They will again. Just not today. Today is his day to feel the anguish. His anguish. No matter what anyone thinks his problem is huge. For him.
Interestingly, her son is full of charisma. The kind of kid that others tend to gravitate towards without knowing why. On the one hand she is grateful he doesn’t fully realize the impact he has on others, yet it’s so odd he just doesn’t see it. He could do anything, everything. Be a trend setter. Others would follow. Yet, there he was, looking in the mirror so worried what his peers at the middle school would say about the large rash on his face. She gets it. His mother does. He is not used to seeing himself with facial marking, and there they were. Like any of us, when something is different, he overly wondered what others would say. What they would think.
She wanted to tell him it would be fine. That the others kids might notice, but won’t care. They like him for who he is, not for his looks. She wanted to tell him but she knew he’d just shoo her away, tell her she doesn’t get it. So there she stood quietly observing her son. Observed him while he gently placed a not too big not too small band-aid on his cheek, covering his problem. He fixed his hair just right. Looked in the floor-length mirror to make sure his outfit was a good choice for day-number-one.
“Let’s go. I don’t want to be late on my first day,” he said as though nothing was wrong.
Later, in the afternoon, when he climbed into the car after school, she asked him how his day went.
“Any problems with your face?” his mom asked.
“Well, not really. Lots of people asked what happened. I said it was just a rash.”
“Yep. No one really even cared.”
She smiled. She thinks he is slowly learning how to handle situations. Situations that involve his appearance. Slowly. Yet, learning.