"Tip the First": Beauty may be only skin deep, but come on. Who wants a gorgeous liver?
I remember, when I was 4, Mum took me to Devon Lane Surgery, for a "check-over" with our G.P, just before my first big operation. The waiting room was hot and crowded and the stale second-hand air clung to my navy polar neck jumper. The people waiting with us looked at me with this kind of a disgruntled and awkward way, kind of intrigued, but trying to avoid my gaze nevertheless. I was irritated by it and the heat didn't help either. People did it on buses and trains too and I often asked Mum why. She said "You're too young to remember this, but when you were very little, there was a big fire in our old flat. The firemen tried to rescue you but your crib was set alight and you got burned very badly. We are very lucky that you didn't die, darling." Her eyes would well up slightly, like perfect crystals to match her perfect blue eyes. I was too busy thinking what it would be like to be a fireman. Anyway, I didn't see what being burned had to do with people staring at me.
The Doctor's surgery was much cooler, so I found my place with the plastic trucks, books and coloured bead toys by the wall with the peeling wallpapers and slivers of damp. Mum looked severe and gray and she nodded alot as Dr Lucas, the gawking man with the flakey nose and the squinty eyes, showed her a bunch of graphs and charts. Whilst I was playing the batterted toys I noticed that Dr. Lucas kept on using the word "normal". I wasn't a stupid kid, I'd heard the word before but... I wanted to know what it really meant. I queried Mum on it at bed time when she was leaning over to kiss me good night. She frowned in confusion and answered: "I suppose it means following and doing the things that those the same as you do."
So I guess that, if we're keeping to Mum's description, I am normal. I'm a normal kid. I watch SpongeBob, I play Mario Kart, I doodle on the back of EVERYTHING and I play the piano. I'm quite good at maths, terrible at geography, I do my homework, I visit my Nan every thursday after school to make sure she isn't dead and sometimes I go to the pond at the end of the park to feed the ducks on a Sunday afternoon after riding my bike. But the thing is, no matter how similar I am inside, it doesn't matter. Because I'm like a jigsaw piece that doesn't quite fit in with the rest. Sure, it's part of the overall picture, but it doesn't really slot in properly. Kind of like a dud.
I started school at the age of 8, not because of any reconstructive medical operations that were clogging up our calender constantly. No, they only happened 2 or 3 times a year. We finally discovered that no amount of reconstructive surgery was going to get rid of the damage only after Dad and Kevin had left to live in Brighton and, if you're wondering what I do look like, don't. It's worse. Anyway, the reason I joined school late was because I was utterly terrified. Not of getting lost or of forgetting my lunch money or forgetting to pack my bag properly. No, those things were silly. I was terrified of the other children and their stares. Their stares directed at my hideous, abnormal face.
I remember Mum combing my cropped hair on the morning of my first ever day at school. Her breathing was rattled, probably from the fags. I thought at the time but now I realise that she was just as scared as me. She pressed and flattened my knee-high ginham dress and brushed some toast crumbs off of my peter-pan collar. "Think of it as an adventure." She announced, tightening my shoe buckle. "Now, I'm going to take you to the Head Teacher's office and then I'll say goodbye to you. But you're going to be brave." She continued and handed me my book bag, bulging with things like dictionaries and plasters and other things that I knew I wouldn't need but Mum tended to put in anyway. "Just... make sure you talk to someone, darling. School is hard, but it's easier when you have friends. But you have to take into account... well, people might... well... Some children don't.... understand things as well as we do. They might stare a bit, like the silly people on the bus do sometimes." She caught me looking at her in angst. "But that's not to say that you can't show them what a good person you are." She enclosed my palm in her hand and we walked to school.
And Mum was right. They children did stare. And here's the thing: They've been staring at me all my life. I'm 15 now and they still won't let me show them who I am. Because they think they know what I am. I'm Baby Face Hemingway, the girl who will never be normal.
And this is my story.