Stories for Lent: #39 Scapegoat

“Would you like to get coffee with me?”

I was so shy the first time I did this, I had to pass a note. No, I wasn’t 9. I had the good luck of sitting next to the boy I fancied in my French class and I could slide the piece of paper to him without the teacher noticing. My heart stopped when he leaned in and whispered ‘Oui’, in that amused tone of voice people get sometimes around me. I think I had died.

By luck of timing, we had lunch instead, and chatted for two hours on topics that brought us both interest. We exchanged numbers after parting. He didn’t call me again.

*

It took me years to ask someone out, and even when I did, there was lots of time between these proto-dates for me to continue to call myself a late bloomer, even in my twenties. It wasn’t that I was ugly – by that time, I’d started to dress better, and even mastered rudimentary make-up application techniques. But I was shy, and I was constantly making excuses.

He’s too cool to want to hang out.

I’m too busy.

I’m too sick.

Illness, as covered, is a big deal for me, and one of those things I still find hard to talk about. I mean… what the what? What am I supposed to say? I have a rare condition that makes me look weird and also causes my skin to turn scaly? How do you lead into that?

*

I’m reading David Wright’s memoir, “Deafness” and only about a 100 pages in I recognize so many things I can relate to. Not necessarily losing my hearing to scarlet fever, but everything else. The anxiousness of the parents. The child being treated as special and entitled, even when he wasn’t supposed to be. Using the handicap as a scapegoat. Oh, if only I wasn’t sick… Outwardly, I would resist being defined by my illness, but I would continue to use it as an excuse. Sure, from time to time it was justified – like when an attack made it impossible for me to go on a writer’s retreat, or every time a fever prevents me from hanging out with my friends – but most of the time, it is a useful thing to hide behind. Nobody, I thought, would understand the way that I feel. Nobody could possibly know.

And maybe they couldn’t. I never really gave them a chance, did I?

I find myself now, sitting at home with yet another fever threatening to stand in the way of a good time, and I’m wondering… what is bravery? How do you find it?

Maybe David Wright doesn’t have the answers, but he’s the next best thing. Read away.

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