“the look”

[This is a creative nonfiction essay that I wrote for my AP Composition class, and I decided I wanted to post it as my first official blog post.]

“I could feel everybody watching us, wondering what was wrong with us, and whether it would kill us, and how heroic my mom must be, and everything else. That was the worst part about having cancer, sometimes: The physical evidence of disease separates you from other people. We were irreconcilably other, and never was it more obvious than when the three of us walked through the empty plane, the stewardess nodding sympathetically and gesturing us toward our row in the distant back.”

-John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

I most clearly remember the feeling. There are not a lot of things that I clearly remember about the past year of my life, but this is definitely something I could never forget. I could feel it radiating off of them: the feeling of pity, of sorrow, of relentless sympathy, with their heads slightly tilted and a concerned, but interested pout plastered across their face, saying “I’m so sorry you are going through this”. But all the while having the knowledge that he or she is thanking God in that exact moment that it is not them or their child or grandchild or friend who is bearing the burden I had to bear. I could feel the acid of animosity rise up through my insides and burn holes through my skull, trying so hard to force the reaction I most want to give out of me; but, as always, I swallow back the vile temptation and smile. A shocked expression flashes across their face for a fraction of a second, surprised by my reaction, quickly followed by a sympathetic smile. At this point, my smile softens and I slowly look away, averting my eyes to something that will seem more interesting. Be sure to take the term ‘smile’ very lightly in this case, because for half the year my smile was (and still is) recovering. For a few months after my surgery, the left side of my face hardly moved at all. This was just one of the things about me that stood out, aside from the fact I was completely hairless (and still one quarter bald), way too skinny, don’t eat normally (for now), very pale, swollen for some time, covered in scars, and now temporarily cheekless. Why wouldn’t they stare? They arguably have good reason to. It’s almost like I am a circus clown, walking around in my costume 24/7.