I woke up one morning and my face was gone! Despite my sleep-filled eyes, I could see that the face that looked back at me from the bedroom mirror wasn’t mine. I live alone. So, if the face that looked back at me wasn’t mine, then whose was it? And where was mine? It took me some minutes to get oriented to the new day, and to the fact that I had lost my face. I simply stood still, looked, and wondered. Whatever had been on top of my neck was now replaced by a red, throbbing orb sprinkled with tiny specks of clear white skin and deep-set wrinkles.
As grotesque as it was, I forced myself to fix on the image in the mirror. There was little left to remind me of what I had been and might never be again. Yet, I persisted – forcing myself to peek out, through blood-shot swollen eyes , at the grotesque mess that had replaced the comfortable me.
The bizarre looking stranger who glared back at me refused to go away. In a horrifying moment I realized the obvious. As long as that face was there, mine would never return!
Perhaps I was in someone else’s body. I stepped back and looked down at the length of the full image in the standing mirror. No, one glance and I was certain that wasn’t so. The body was mine. Fairly tall, slim, not entirely bad, in fact pretty good. Except now it was topped by a grotesque ball of flesh that was surrounded by a mass of tangled blonde hair. If my face was gone, but my body was the same as it had always been, who was I now? And, was this horrific thing attached to my neck an indication of a general condition. Was I dying? And, what if I were dying? The thought of my imminent demise didn’t seem to bother me as much as the sight of my grotesque face.
My face had been a pretty good face. I was comfortable living with it, and people seemed to like it. At least I thought they did. That had made me feel pretty good about myself. How could I face anyone now? What would people think of me? No one would possibly want to be around a face like the one that now sat on top of my neck. Not that I would ever want to claim it as mine, but it was attached, so I’d have to acknowledge some association with it. What to do?
I returned to my bed and pulled the covers over my head. Next to the bathroom, hiding under bed covers was my favorite retreat at times of crisis. Yes, I needed help, but who could I possibly turn to?
There seemed to be no one now that the husband I had dearly loved had passed away two years ago –just ten days short of his fifty-fifth birthday. He was seven years my senior, which led me to see him as both lover and mentor. He had been all I had needed in life. We had no children. Our small family of relations was flung far and wide. In part due to circumstances, and in part because I had flung them there.
I had one sister, Ruth, living in Canada. You might say she was a relic of the Vietnam war. Many years-ago her husband, Leonard, fled North to avoid the draft. My sister, following in the footsteps of her biblical namesake had hued to the “whither thou goest” incantation, and had followed Leonard to Calgary, north and west far, far away. I always pictured her whipping a dog sled as she shushed through the tundra. I never adjusted that picture, because I never talked to her to discover what her life really was like.
I had managed to find some extraordinarily harsh words to describe Lenny as a deserter, a turncoat, a coward. I had done such a great job of berating the man she loved that my sister never spoke to me again. Perhaps I had overdone my critical review of my brother-in-law. However, I couldn’t resist offering, what I considered to be a fair assessment.
My parents were dead. One elderly aunt lived in Florida; I couldn’t remember where and, as to cousins, I had no contact with any of them. My parents never did, so why should I? My husband had been an only child and his parents had passed away.
Then there were business associates. They passed through my life and exited quickly. I have many degrees after my name and a long and impressive list of writings, lectures, and managerial positions. I’ve parleyed those accomplishments into a very successful consulting business dedicated to organizational development. I flit from place to place from project to project dropping my pearls of wisdom along the way. People pass in and out of my life. Perhaps I’ve chosen to avoid lasting contact with anyone but the one person I loved. When I left a site, I hardly remembered the place or the people. Why should I have? I had all I needed in life – my loving, caring husband. We were complete, just the two of us.
But where did that leave me now? In little time I realized I had two choices. I could call Louise and tell her what had happened – or not. I smiled to myself at the thought of that. What a call that would be! Louise would finally have to pay attention to me.
Louise Baumgarten and I had a rare friendship. Rare for me because it existed, and rare because its beginning dated back to kindergarten days, a little over forty-seven years ago. Through all that time I never really liked Louise Baumgarten. Yet, she held a strange hold over me.
Louise had always been very rich. Not that I was poor, but she was richer. She was one of the first to have her own car, a sky-blue convertible, one of the first to shop alone at Saks using her credit card, one of the first to travel to Europe. Her money gave her confidence. Maybe that was fair because she had little else that was special, not looks, not brains. I’ll give her an impressive body, but that’s all I’ll give her. That’s what probably made her one of the first to marry. All the rest of her probably made her one of the first to divorce. Louise was mean spirited, so mean spirited that she held me captive. I never could find the courage to free myself from the petty mean person I called my best friend.
In return for her flawed friendship Louise demanded attention, giving none in return. Now I’d have her attention, but Louise would never mix attention with compassion. Anyhow, being listened to wasn’t going to give me back my face. Granted, the response to the disclosure to Louise of my epic disfigurement might give me pleasure, a commodity I now greatly missed in my life, but there were other considerations that called for immediate redress.
I pushed the covers away. What are you thinking? This isn’t the time to repair your ego. It’s your face that needs emergency repair. Truth is I was beginning to think of them as one and the same. Maybe they were, and therein lay the problem.
I went to my desk and started turning pages in my address book, looking for a doctor who fixes faces. Some years ago, I had a face lift. The doctor was nice enough and he did send me out into the world feeling that I looked ten years younger. Everyone said I did. But, then again, I had made a public announcement that I was having my face lifted. Who among my few acquaintances of the moment could avoid telling me that I looked ten years younger? Come to think of it they all had opted for “you look ten years younger.” Did that doctor send them a note suggesting a reasonable compliment as a special add-on service? No one said I looked six and a half years younger. Yet, I must confess that I bought into the belief of having gained a well- rounded ten years in my appearance. and I lived my life accordingly. No low impact aerobics for me. However, that plastic surgeon who had given me a new face, a changed nose, and wide-open eyes wasn’t into the business of giving people back their old face, unscared, and certainly unscabbed. Now that’s all I wanted.
And, while I was at it, I thought I ought to find out why my face had disappeared. Maybe it was something I ate, something I used to preserve my usual face, or maybe just the aggravation of a now shitty life. No doubt about it, bad as it was, I wanted my face back so I could get on with it. It was comfortable. It was me. It was how everyone I came upon reacted to me. No, I never wanted to see this hideous blob again!
I suddenly realized that the time for hesitancy had passed. Time was of the essence! I decided that it wasn’t Louise I’d turned to. It was my internist. After all, I had always considered my internist to be the keeper of my body. He either took care of what ailed me or sent me to someone who would. I was very fond of him. He asked few questions and rarely weighed me. My pet name for him was Dracula because he only came out to see patients at night. Seems he shared parental responsibilities with his wife – another physician. How they managed their time was fine with me because I was busy in the daytime, while my nights were always open. Lately, there hasn’t been anyone or anything to occupy my evening hours.
After the loss of my husband, the most surprising and disturbing discovery that entered my new state of widowhood was the realization that everyone else I’d known lived their lives like the inhabitants of Noah’s Ark, traveling through life two by two. When my husband died, and his friends made weak attempts to keep in contact, out of what I suspect was a misguided sense of owing something to a memory, I discovered that uneven numbers make couples uneasy. Try as I might to be pleasant, and to pay my own way, my contact with married couples dwindled. So, Dracula’s nighttime appointments suited me just fine. The trouble was I needed him now, in the daytime.
I put in a call to Dracula’s office, determined to route him out of wherever he was hibernating.
A woman answered. “Dr. Lang’s office.”
I needed immediate, direct contact. “Is it really?”
“What’d you mean?”
“Are you actually sitting in Dr. Lang’s office? And, if you are, I need to speak to him now.”
“Is this an emergency?”
I considered the question. Could I, in fairness to Dracula, disturb him because of what had happened to me? “Yes. It’s an emergency!”
“If it’s an emergency, go right into the hospital. Shall I call an ambulance?”
“Look, Miss, would you just put me in direct contact with Dr. Lang. I called you so I certainly could have called my own ambulance,
if that’s what I needed.”
“You sound upset. Calm down, call an ambulance. Go to the hospital, and I’ll call Dr. Lang.”
“Just as I thought, you’re not in his office. You’re just an answering service.” As I announced the thought, I knew the word ‘just’ was going to get me into deep trouble. There are those put-down words – words that demean and infuriate. ‘Just’ is one among many.
“Look, Miss, if you want Dr. Lang, you go through me. If it’s an emergency, I’ll get hold of him and have him call you. If not, just give
me your number and he’ll call you back when he can. Your choice but make it quick 1 have other phones ringing.”
“Call him and have him call me immediately. It’s a horrible emergency.”
“Tell me what’s wrong so I can tell him.”
“I’m not telling you anything about me. All you need to say is that Samantha Raines called and something horrible has happened to her.”
“I’m not telling you. I’ll only tell him.”
“Because it’s too horrible to talk about, especially to someone who doesn’t like you to begin with.” My voice began to tear up.
“I don’t dislike you,” she purred.
“But you don’t like me.” The tears were now really coming down because, for some reason beyond my understanding,1 cared. 1 needed her to wrap her voice around me with kind words.
“I’ll call the Doctor. Give me your number and stay by the phone. Whatever it is that’s happened, if it gets worse, call an ambulance and have them take you to St. Luke’s.”
Didn’t she realize, it couldn’t get any worse, and I’d probably be seeing St. Luke and his fellow saints soon, perhaps even before I saw his hospital. I gave her my number and managed to whisper, “Thank you,” just in case I needed her in the future.
Dr. Lang called within five minutes. He asked a few perfunctory questions about my temperature and possible signs of illness before we finally got to the heart (or face) of the matter. After I explained that I’d lost my face and told him what had replaced it, he took over. “I’ll call your pharmacy and have them send over some medication. Apply it for five days. Call me in two days just let me know how you’re doing.”
“Don’t you want to see me?”
“I’m pretty certain I know what it is, and I can’t see you for two days, so apply the medication, give it a little time to see if you can tolerate it, and let’s see what happens.”
With that short instruction he was gone. He didn’t even want to see me, and I had pictured the look of sympathy on his face as I entered his office, his shock as he said, “Is that really you Samantha?” – the warmth of his arms around me as he murmured solicitously, “You poor thing.”
He had denied me all that. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine how I would have gotten to his office without wrapping my head in a super large gunny sack.
In short order the medicine was delivered. I had my doorman leave it outside my door. I couldn’t be seen by anyone. However, later that morning, I had to face the world in the form of Ms. Henrietta Beaumont, Ms. Henrietta, as I called her, because she called me Ms. Samantha. Ms. Henrietta was my very special version of Thelma Ritter.
She referred to herself as “the housekeeper,” but that wasn’t true. Over the ten some-odd years Ms. Henrietta had been with me, she had never kept the house. She made a bed from time to time and put a dish or two into the dishwasher, and she did walk around the place with a dust rag or mop in her hand stopping occasionally to move it around as she gazed out the windows. She did the laundry because she liked to iron. The washing part was just a lead-in to the warming wield of the iron. She ordered the food and did the cooking because she liked to cook. She certainly did manage Edwin, who came in once a week to really clean the place. And she certainly managed me.
Ms. Henrietta’s favorite place to play at housekeeping was at my desk, where she’d sit and read everything in sight, and advise me on how to handle my affairs. On occasion I had thought about letting her go, but, for some reason, unknown to me, my husband and Ms. Henrietta had developed a friendly rapport , and he would probably miss her presence. After my husband’s death I couldn’t imagine life without Ms. Henrietta. I needed her because she would never leave me.
That first morning, after I lost my face, as I heard Ms. Henrietta unlock the door, I scurried to stand in the vestibule and greet her, a rare act on my part. After Ms. Henrietta’s arrival, I usually managed to stay behind my bedroom door, for a while, with a cup of coffee and the paper. As she was my first encounter with the world each morning, putting off Ms. Henrietta meant avoiding people a little longer. However, I now needed confirmation that my situation truly was horrible.
The hand came into the room first, as it pushed the door open, followed by the tall, well-rounded body. Then she stopped short and looked at me. “What in the hell! What have you done to yourself now? Get into the bathroom and wipe that off. What an ugly mess. You always did have a warped sense of humor. Let me tell you something, this isn’t funny. It’s way too ugly to be funny!”
“You bet it isn’t funny. It’s me. A new really disgusting me. I woke up this way and here I am.” I burst into tears, and it hurt as the water hit the raw skin.
Ms. Henrietta then cupped her hand gently under my chin and raised my head so that it caught the overhead track lighting. She studied her subject carefully. “You need help. I’m going home to get some things. I’m moving in.” She was out the door before I could protest, but who wanted to?
From that moment on, my life followed no familiar pattern. I applied the medicine, but it failed me. I swaddled my head in kerchiefs in case I was forced to view the horrific image as I passed a mirror. As I slathered my face with Dracula’s prescribed cream, I became a hermit fixated on the grotesque head atop my neck.
The two trial days had passed when I called Dracula and informed him that nothing had changed.
“O.K. Take a picture of the area and send it to me. We may need to take a more aggressive approach.”
I hung up, whipped out my phone, took several shots of the thing I referred to as “my face,” and sent one.
The return call was immediate.
“You’re right!” he shouted in obvious disbelief .“ It’s horrible! OK let’s get you over to see a dermatologist. I’ll call, explain everything, and send him this picture. You should hear from his office shortly. His name is Helmut Manning and he’s among the best. Get to him immediately. The meds aren’t working. You really do need help.”
For a second I reveled in a “told you so” moment, and then I hunkered down in a chair clenching my phone in anticipation of an immediate call-back from Dr. Helmut Manning who, I was certain, would urge me to hurry over to his office immediately.
The call came, as anticipated. Dr. Helmut Manning’s voice had an attractive British accent that stirred my mind to conjure appealing pictures of his face, and other points of his anatomy. I quickly settled on the picture of someone who looked like a blend of Cary Grant and Laurence Olivier.
“Samantha Raines please.”
“Thank you for the photo. They’re very helpful. I understand the trial of medicine didn’t help. Let’s switch that. Give the new meds another two weeks and arrange a meeting. Should you run into any problem, with the new meds give me a ring. How does that plan sound to you? Sorry, it’s going to take some patience. I hope you’re up to it.”
“How dare you! Of course, I’m up to it! Besides, what choice do I have? And I thought you sounded so appealing!”
The two-week test time seemed interminable. I spent the days clinging to the safety of my apartment, and bemoaning my fate to Ms. Henrietta, who listened silently and patiently, and simply nodded her head.
My daily ritual began with a morning greeting as I came out of my bedroom to breakfast at the kitchen table, seeking her company. My words became a mantra. “Well here I am again. Nothing’s changed. I’m as disgusting as ever.”
Then, to my surprise, one morning the rules of the game were abruptly changed. I had walked into the kitchen to greet my one contact with the human race, who stood at the sink rinsing her breakfast dishes. I had finished my litany to a seemingly disinterested back. ” … I’m as disgusting as ever…”
At that moment, Ms. Henrietta turned and glared at me. “Yes, you are, only now you’re beginning to annoy me. If you don’t get out of here and leave me alone for a little while, I’m going home.”
“Are you crazy! 1 can’t go outside.”
“Look at me.”
“I am. That’s all 1 do with my life, look at you.”
“Don’t you find it horrible.”
“I don’t even notice it any more. It’s just the way you look.”
“You’re right. It’s just me.”
“I didn’t say that. I said it’s just the way you look. You think you’ve changed. Let me tell you what the real problem is. The real problem is you haven’t changed at all. You still don’t know how to live in this world. Believe me, it has nothing to do with your face. Now get out of here.”
I left meekly. I needed Ms. Henrietta so I showered, and began to dress, avoiding a mirror. Where to go and how to get there? It didn’t take me long to conclude that there was only one place I belonged, and it had to be dark – somewhere like a movie theater.
It was a very sunny day. That helped; large sun-glasses were in order; a scarf wouldn’t draw attention, and if I held my head down, maybe no one would notice me. When I entered the movie house, I went straight to the ticket machine to retrieve my order. While silently congratulating myself on my wiliness, head down, I quickly gave my ticket to an usher and entered the darkened theater. So far so good. I didn’t have to stand in lines and be gawked at or purchase a ticket where someone would spend some minutes looking at my face while directing me to a seat. When the lights went down and the show began, I managed to lose myself. It was as if I had walked onto the screen. I heard and saw everything. I was there in the picture…normally involved…where I wanted to be. I had managed to escape the pain of my life for a blessed while.
Talk about being clever. I outdid myself by ordering tickets to several movies, managing to spend the whole day and early evening scurrying between theaters within one movie house, always sitting on the aisle in the last row, leaving the theater quickly, entering the next one quickly and rarely even needing to rise from my seat to let someone in. People don’t want to sit in the last row, probably because they don’t want to be the last at anything.
When I ran out of tickets I emerged from the movies into the darkened night. Holding my head down and a hand to my eyes as a shade, as if I needed to be shielded from the wind. I returned to my house where I was relieved to enter a usually empty elevator. And when it wasn’t empty, I just kept my head down throughout the very short ride.
Ms. Henrietta had dinner ready and the table was set for one. She never sat at the table with me. Not out of deference, but out of other interests. Ms. Henrietta always read a Bible while eating. As she read, she scanned the words with a finger, and mouthed them silently, stopping from time to time to let out a soft “Amen” or to bellow a raucous “Hallelujah!”, which from time to time reached such a crescendo that she zealously rose from her chair and raised her hands to the heavens while a broad smile of joy suffused her face and lifted her body. She needed to be left alone at her mealtimes. Besides, I had no desire to tell her about where I had gone or what I had done. I had met her demands. Admittedly, I hadn’t addressed her intention.
The movie scheme went so well that I began to cast about for other places that might work, places that might get me out into the world, but protect me from any encounters with people.
I went to the theater, the ballet, and concerts, always in venues that were close to home, always purchasing tickets in advance through the phone, always insisting on a seat in the last row, always entering at the very last moment to avoid any possible lines, always attending a matinee.
This went on for some months as my face began to set in, still red but with the added feature of scaling, that couldn’t be washed or lotioned away. Yet I began to take heart at my ability to engage in the world. True on limited terms, but after all, I had declared the terms. I was in control and proud of myself.
It wasn’t too long into my deviously clever new life when Dr. Helmut Manning slid into my life quietly, and wedged himself there permanently. Yet, his presence gave me the sense of actively seeking a cure and his persistence validated the fact that what he and I sought was elusive, and required enormous patience. Dr. Manning assured me that the answer did exist and that we would come upon it eventually. Luckily Dr. Manning’s office was located near my home. A short walk took me there. He was curious but unaffected by the rubble that disfigured my face. He looked, he occasionally pressed and released, he asked if my face was the only affected area. When notified with a “That’s it!” response, he accepted the announcement without checking.
Dr. Helmut Manning was older than anticipated, had a slight tremor in his right hand, and was kind enough to look me straight into my wasted face and not flinch. Yet, Dr. Helmut Manning’s presence elicited no romantic fantasies. He did, however, fill the reasonable demand that I demonstrate some attention to trying to return to normalcy though I was convinced the goal was not attainable. What developed between us couldn’t be described as a relationship. It had become a simple proscribed encounter of mutual interest, with no known completion date. From my vantage point, Dr. Helmut Manning’s presence in my life served to validate the fact that I was pursuing a cure to my problem.
Through all my wanderings, Ms. Henrietta remained silent, never asking where I had been, never even mentioning that I had been out. After a few months, she announced that she was going home. “Unlike you, I have a life on hold that I need to get back to. I’ll be in during the day, but I need my own bed and my own nights. And, by the way, I’m not coming in on weekends at all.”
“Who’s going to cook for me?” It seemed a valid question considering that I didn’t know whether you boiled a three-minute egg by placing it in boiling water or cold water and then heated the water, or if you were supposed to wash steak before you broiled it. I was too far into cooking ignorance to get any answers from a book, and too embarrassed by the extent of my stupidity to ask any questions. And certainly, “ordering in” was out of the question. I tried appealing to her sense of responsibility. “Suppose I need something. Who’s going to get it?”
“You are, go out or call in. That’s how people do it.”
That weekend she was gone. It didn’t take an hour before I realized I was out of juice, fruit, and worst of all, there was no coffee in the house. Son of a gun, Ms. Henrietta, you’re toying with me. I’d show her. I called the local market and placed an order.
In a short time the bell rang, and a voice rang out, “Delivery, Ma’am.”
It was a word again that was causing trouble, “Ma’am”. How could I not tip such a polite person? I opened the door a crack, and he burst through with two packages. I kept my head down and handed him a large bill. “Keep the change,” I said quickly.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m certain. You’ve been very kind.” Thank you and goodbye.” All said while my eyes stared at the floor and my head followed. As he scurried away, I knew I had met a compassionate person.
In the weeks that followed, I contrived and schemed and took longer steps away from the house.
I couldn’t always avoid uncovering my face. Gradually, I began to play a silent game with those who saw me. Did they look away? Did they stay to stare? Did they show signs of sympathy? Did I hear short gasps of shock? With every silent answer I introduced myself to someone new, someone I now knew in a more meaningful way than anyone I had known before, perhaps even including my late husband. This was more interesting than the movies. Odd, it seemed to have little to do with me. There was a part of me that had slipped out of my skin and stood observing everything I came upon.
My new-found curiosity made me bold. I thought little of my face as I engaged in the world. I had a need to concentrate on things beyond me, believing that if I understood what I saw in others’ faces and what I felt about those about me, I would learn something very important. I left my cocoon and roamed about with purpose.
One day, as sunlight filled my bedroom, I felt the need to expand my thoughts and my life. It was time to dislodge the cave of blankets and expand my world. I needed to face the fact that my face might be permanently condemned to its grotesque form. It was time to emerge from the pile of blankets and step out into the sunlight – perhaps even time to say “goodbye” to Dr. Manning, after convincing him to join me in an admission of defeat. Enough!
So, the blankets were cast aside, and I took off to think in sunlight. As I walked through Central Park my head was held high while I stared straight at the people who passed by, forcing – no daring them to think about what they saw and challenging them to respond.
I had entered the Park through the entrance at the Tavern on the Green and, had found my way around the boathouse over to the pond where children could rent boats to sail – boats with remote controls. I stood watching the small crafts bob on the water and shift course with the whims of their young captains.
Leaving the pond, I started up a knoll when my attention was captured by the whimsical statue of Alice in Wonderland. Alice looked down on the children seated at the base of her statue, while a woman with a high hat pranced about obviously mimicking the Mad Hatter, reading from a large book with giant illustrations, as she paused from time to time to give the children pen drawings of the residents of Wonderland. I quickly came under Wonderland’s spell and sat on a bench slightly away from the group., but close enough to watch the activity.
The faux Mad Hatter had come to the poem of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” where:
‘The time has come, ‘ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
‘Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax –
Of cabbages – and kings –
The costumed Mad Hatter then reached into her pant pocket, took out some drawings and handed them to the children. “Here’s what the Walrus looks like.”
The air was filled with thin “Oh’ s” and even some “Oh No!s.” One beautiful blonde boy, about six years old, sat in a folding chair at the edge of the group in silence. A dark-haired woman sat next to him in a companion chair with a small jacket on her lap and a tote bag on the grass beside her. Her lips broadened in a smile as she looked down upon the beautiful blonde child seated beside her. As I watched, the boy looked down at the card he had been given, then looked up and over the grass to where I sat. He then rose and came to my bench.
Standing before me, photo in hand, looking straight at my savaged face, he said in a matter-of-fact tone, “You look like a walrus. See!” he insisted as he thrust the picture in front of me. It was a statement of fact, one that couldn’t sustain a smile, or a grimace, and his face showed none.
I looked down upon the boy’s extended hand holding the photo and was drawn into the picture with its bulbous grotesquely shaped head, the protruding tusks, and its wrinkled hairy red skin that formed itself in folds, seeming to beg to be kneaded into lustrous smoothness. But that might never be possible. I shifted my glance to look straight at the beautiful child who had presented the grotesque photo to me and asked,”Do I scare you?”
“No,” he said with certainty “but you’re really ugly. How’d you get that way?”
“I honestly don’t know. I woke up one morning and my face was gone, and I was left with this.”
“Did you go looking for your nice face?”
“I did, but as you can see, 1 didn’t find it.”
“Did you stop looking?”
I thought about that, before I answered, “I was just about to. Do you think I should give up on that and accept this.”
He thought for a moment. “I can’t be sure. I don’t know if you really looked everywhere, and I don’t know what you’ve done to try to change back to what you were. cause that’s when you’ll know to stop looking. That’s when you’ll know you tried your best “
I thought about that and realized that I hadn’t tried at all. Others had, and I had sat back and let them try to work their wonders.
“Who taught you that?”
“My nunero did. She teaches me everything.”
“Peter!” the woman called and gestured from across the lawn. “Don’t bother the lady.”
“1 have to go now.” He said rather quickly. As he turned to leave, he thrust the walrus picture into my hand. “Here, keep this. Don’t give up. You should go find your face or you’ll never be happy.”
Yes, I was unhappy. Time for me to engage, and if that didn’t’ work, time for me to learn to live with some grace despite what I had become.
I returned to a deserted home and Miss Henrietta’s note that she had left supper for me. The relief I felt at her absence was calming and the silence was appreciated. I had things to do, and Miss Henrietta’s presence would have been a distraction.
After finishing diner, rinsing the dishes, and preparing for bedtime, I searched for, found, and read a copy of “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” dubbed by many as a “nonsense poem.” Yet, my experience with its contents was anything but “nonsense.” To my mind, it had become a living affirmation of the life of a Walrus and what I had become, and how I had dealt with it.
How true the doggerel words rang as I thought of the challenging words of the beautiful blonde boy.
In the poem, it is the middle of the night, yet the sun is shining. Not a bird is flying and there are no clouds in the sky. Yet, the sea billows, and it is the middle of the night.
The Walrus and the Carpenter bewail the amount of sand that surrounds them and agree that, if only the sand were cleared away the surroundings would be perfect, The Walrus posits that clearing away the sand would take the work of “seven maids and seven mops.” Yet even then, posits the Carpenter, he doubts that would do the job.
Without a thought of the possibility of their own involvement in addressing the problem, the Walrus simply proposes a walk. And, off they go – the Walrus and the Carpenter, and dozens of young oysters, who are doomed to being eaten by the ambling Walrus and the Carpenter (the oldest oyster having wisely opted to stay in bed).
And, the sand is left to obscure the scene, and the world is left in its topsy-turvy state, and the remains of the young dead devoured oysters permeate the scene. Yet, neither the Walrus nor the Carpenter feel an urgency to personally engage. And who was I to lament this principle of their tale? I could only claim that right if I heeded the young boy’s words.
I pulled up the blankets, turned off the lights, and committed to a new day in which – no matter the outcome I would engage in a self-directed war upon the horrific Walrus – a war to retrieve what I could of my old face. Before the dreams overcame me, I wondered what I might become.