It’s Official. I’m a Freak.

I’ve finally figured it all out.

I am a freak. Seriously. I’m a genuine freak and I saw definitive proof yesterday morning.

All it took was a routine dental exam and a new-fangled panoramic x-ray machine to uncover the evidence.

Living right there in my gums above my two front teeth is an extra tooth. It’s true. And it has gone undetected for more years than I care to share with you.

Of course, my twisted (freaky) mind immediately latched onto Stephen King’s, The Dark Half. I was so excited I almost started a manic plot description for the hygienist and dentist recounting Thad Beaumont and his pen-name turned alter-ego-psycho-killer, George Stark. Instead, I wisely chose to silently recall Thad Beaumont and the twin he absorbed in utero. The twin was discovered after Thad suffered debilitating headaches as a child. Initially, the headaches were blamed on a mass in Thad’s brain but, when the surgeon opened Thad’s skull, he found (GASP!) a nostril, fingernails, part of an eye and…wait for it…TEETH!

Purdy, ain't I?

Okay, so I’ll admit that my weird extra tooth wasn’t causing the dentist any visible alarm. It was merely my over-active writer’s imagination at work, but I was momentarily placed in a state of awe while I mentally reviewed the plot of The Dark Half. I might have a partially absorbed psycho-killer twin living in my head at this very moment! Think about it. It explains a lot. Like that time when I was eight and I cornered my brother and sister in the kitchen with a butter knife and threatened to kill them. They shouldn’t have teased me because evidently, they angered my toothy twin.

Anywho…

It turns out the dentist was more worried about the two wisdom teeth I need to have yanked. One grew when I was in my twenties and never really caused me any problems…until now. It seems my rogue tooth has, indeed, gone rogue. Sad to say, but it’s time to say goodbye to my beloved tooth and it’s impacted friend. They will be extracted by an oral surgeon at some yet-to-be-determined date in the near future.

Whatever. I always have time for oral surgery, graduate school, three children and a husband as long as I’m offered a hearty dose of anesthesia and a couple of Percocet for my trouble.  Also, my absorbed twin likes things like Percocet and booze. I find that keeping it medicated alleviates the anger it feels because I absorbed it in utero. Who the hell wants to share the spotlight with a twin? Sheesh. I’m way too selfish for all that business!

It’s a Tumor

As a kid, I was obsessed with the 1800’s or, as I referred to them, “The Olden Days.” So in 1976, I proudly donned a hand-sewn calico dress, apron and bonnet for the bicentennial parade in our tiny lakeside town. I was beautiful…or at least I thought so. In my tiny bubble of a world, I was simply stunning. I thought, surely people are looking at me because I stand out in this sea of children dressed in period costume. My dress is authentic, sewn by my mother’s magical fingers into a cloak of disguise. Someone might even mistake me for Laura Ingalls. Yes, I was a weird kid and here is part of the reason why…

I was born in Westchester County, New York at the end of peace and love and hurtling toward the disco era. I entered the world with a tumor on my right eye. To be exact, it was a congenital hemangioma. As far as hemangiomas go, I really lucked out. It seems hemangiomas that form in the womb are rare, and those that are fully formed at birth are the very rarest of all vascular tumors. Yay, me!

Back in the early 70’s, surgeons shied away from performing surgeries on infants with hemangiomas simply because the spongy, vascular tissue poses a serious threat of hemorrhage when operated on. So my big, ol’ golf ball sized eyelid stayed with me for four years, sealing my right eye nearly shut and robbing my vision.

Some of my earliest memories are the dark mahogany walls in the Park Avenue office of my highly-credentialed eye surgeon. He sat behind a sprawling desk and discussed a treatment plan with my parents while I stared at the painting behind him. It was a gloomy, rain drenched scene. I have seen prints of that mid-century painting at random places throughout my life and it always transports me back to the office of Dr. Byron Smith where I kept my tiny body stiffly perched in a fancy, leather upholstered chair, marveling at the lack of sound in the posh suite of rooms. My memory provides me with the view as just my four-year-old self experienced it. Played back in my mind, everything about that office remains enormous and I am again small.

At some point, my surgeon at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital declared the danger of hemorrhaging had passed and my first eye surgery was finally performed. The tumor was removed but I was left with a droopy eyelid and a right eye that was blind and extremely lazy. I had surgeries to address those as well and for a time, walked around with a patch over my “good” eye, in hopes that my “bad” eye would catch up. Oh, that bad, bad, lazy eye! The patch didn’t help. Instead, I constantly bumped into the walls that I couldn’t see and I’d peel up a corner of the patch to cheat with my ‘good’ eye.

A few years later, my final “cosmetic” surgery was completed. I was in fourth grade. The funny thing about that cosmetic surgery is that eventually it made my eye almost perfect, but I still can’t see. I don’t feel bad about that though, I’ve only ever seen the world from the perspective of my left eye and that’s just fine with me. You don’t miss what you don’t know. The one thing that cosmetic surgery couldn’t remove were the ugly scars that deeply marred my self esteem. Some of my earliest memories are those of people, both adults and children, stopping in their tracks to gawk at me. As if I couldn’t see them, some would even point or pull back their faces in sneering disgust.

6 years old

In my preschool class, there were two little girls who never failed to be cruel. I have two distinct memories of them. In one, they picked up their coloring books and moved to another table when I sat down with them. The blond turned and told me, “we don’t sit with ugly people.” I quietly cried and looked to the teacher, but she went and sat next to the pretty girls to color. Another day, they turned their backs to me at the playroom kitchen, creating a wall of bitchy exclusion. Angry and frustrated, I picked up a tin pot by it’s red handle and brought it down on the blonde’s head as hard as I could. The tinny clanging sound reverberated through the room and she began to wail. Her friend stared at me with fear and it felt good. I was happy that I hurt that girl. I stubbornly refused to apologize so the angry teacher placed me on a chair near the coats until my uncle Joe came to pick me up.

He stood at the doorway as the teacher spoke to him, jabbing an accusatory finger in my direction. Afraid that he’d be angry with me, I began to cry. I was livid that those cruel, pretty girls were allowed to stay and I was the one being sent home. I heard my uncle laugh and saw his warm, smiling eyes come to rest on my face. He helped me into his red truck and drove me to the hot dog man. I still remember his soothing voice say, “Those jugheads deserved a good whack on the head.” I giggled, delighted that someone agreed with my vigilante justice.

9 years old, following cosmetic surgery

The thing about my family was, they never failed to tell me how beautiful I was. So two years after my run-in with those nasty girls, I proudly marched down the middle of the street wearing my bicentennial costume, banging my cymbals and believing in my beauty. I believed my mother had sewn me a costume that disguised all of me, cloaking my eye and magically providing onlookers with the appearance of a perfect girl. As I got older my family continued to reassure me that I was, in fact, beautiful – that no one noticed my eye except me, I’d smile at their reassuring words but I knew they were wrong.

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