My left eyelid hung lower than the right one. Doctors called it a lazy eyelid. In Elementary school I was asked about it more times than I could count. At first it was just curiosity, kids wondering why my left eyelid was different than my right one. It didn’t bother me at first. I would just explain what the doctors had called it and that would be enough. Then the question changed to, what’s wrong with your eye? My answer remained the same but over time the question began to gnaw at me. I started to feel like their was something wrong with me, that this thing that I was born with and had no control over was somehow my fault. It was the loneliest feeling in the world.
After the questions there came the jokes. Jokes were meant to be funny and to be laughed at but the ones I’d heard left me feeling depressed and worthless. I was the joke. I was the reason for children’s laughter. I would stop making eye contact because I just knew someone would say something. If I saw someone staring at me I just knew that they were going to laugh at me any second. They’d call me Cyclops or One-Eyed Willie or a long list of other nicknames I’d already heard. This thing I had been born with had turned into a punishment but I didn’t know what I had done to deserve it. All I knew was that it had to have been something really bad.
At the time, I could count all of my friends on one hand. Surgery would change that. I was sure of it. I couldn’t wait for the day and finally, after elementary school had ended the day had come. I had my eyelid reduced to normal size and that meant nobody could hurt me anymore.
Finally school started and I was once again surrounded by other children. A lot of them were the same I had dealt with in elementary school. I remember coming across a group of them who hadn’t forgot the names they came up with for me. They decided I needed reminded of them but this time I was prepared. I pointed out there their was no longer anything wrong with my eyelid and for a moment I felt untouchable, on top of the world, but only for a moment. Without my eyelid to make fun of they just found something else to take it’s place. This time it was my weight. No matter what I did there was always going to be something wrong with me.
I went back to keeping my distance from others. It was safer that way. I would pick an empty table at lunchtime and hope that no one noticed me. Occasionally I would have to share the table with someone else. That’s when I started to notice that I wasn’t the only one that hid from others. In fact if I looked around the cafeteria I could see other kids sitting by themselves and hoping to remain alone. I knew that wanted to be left alone because they hung their head like I did. I saw that we had something in common and that helped to ease the pain I felt inside. I didn’t dare approach them. After all, there was a reason we had to sit alone. We all had something wrong with us. I wasn’t truly alone though and somehow that made things better.
Words can hurt. That can leave wounds that never fully heal. Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror I remember the names people called me. They are echoes from the past but they cut me just the same. I see the little boy with the lazy eyelid who couldn’t do a thing to stop
the words that hurt him and I know that I will never make fun of someone else’s appearance. I know this because after years after altering my own appearance and trying to erase the person that I was, I can’t forget the words. They will always be with me.