Actually calling my job was not too bad. As Maggie pointed out, I was already going to be away so it was a simple matter to extend the time to six months. By that time I should know if I was going to have to quit or if I could go back. Or if I wanted to go back… I didn’t actually have to work, I mostly enjoyed working because not working left me feeling like a wastrel. Of course, my boss was curious about why the wedding was called off when it was so close but I didn’t elaborate and he couldn’t demand to know.
I waited for my father in the darkened library so he would hear me before he saw me. I think Maggie knew what I was doing because she didn’t interfere.
When he came in, he was on the phone, as usual but I heard him sign off fairly quickly. He’d be back on the phone in a minute or two so I carpe diem-ed like hell.
“Kyle? Where are you?”
“In the library. Could you come in here for a minute?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
As he came in, he reached for the light switch. What is it with people that they always have to turn on the lights? “Don’t turn on the light!” I said- louder and harsher than I meant to.
“Kyle? Son? What’s the matter?”
“Do you love me, Dad?”
“Of course I love you- you’re my son.” And he turned on the lights.
Ah, damn it! At least he didn’t scream- Laurel had been enough on that front. But I did have to go through the whole rig-a-ma-role of proving to him that I was still me even if I didn’t look like it. And even then he looked at me like I had just crawled out from under a rock and he wished I would crawl back.
“Kyle, what happened?”
“I can’t tell you, Dad, I just can’t.” I was getting pretty tired of the question- especially since I was liable to get put out and answer it… and then be stuck like this forever.
“Well, first thing in the morning, we’re going to see some people about fixing this. This wasn’t intentional, was it?”
“Oh, hell no!” How could he think I would ever want to look like this? Besides, couldn’t he see that I had scars- scars don’t come up over night. First you have to have cuts and then they have to heal… even tattoos take weeks to heal and no tattoo artist in the world would do such a massive whole body tattoo all at once. Even without me telling him, couldn’t he see that something else was going on?
Over the next several weeks, we must have seen every top doctor in the country. None of them could help me in any way. One very young and very bold doctor did try to remove one of the scars on my face… it made it worse. And the laser tattoo removal- that was a disaster. In a few cases, laser tattoo removal results in something called ‘paradoxical darkening’. It means that the treated tattoo, instead of breaking up and disappearing, gets darker and more prominent. Which is what happened to me.
On the plus side of the medical examinations, I was healthy as a horse and would probably live to be a hundred and ten. Assuming that no villagers took up pitchforks against me, of course. On the down side, I overheard my father telling one of the doctors that we’d risk anything to make me look more normal. Which let me know just exactly how important my appearance was to him- more than my life. That was when I told him no more.
Driving back to the city, he was unusually quiet. I think he’d actually turned his phone off, for once. But when we got close, the driver turned off in a different direction than our apartment building and pulled up in front of an old brownstone in a radically different neighbourhood.
My father turned to me. “I thought this would be a nice surprise. Nice and private where people can’t be staring all the time.”
We went in. All of my things were already there and Maggie was dashing about cleaning and putting things away. I didn’t have the heart to look around much but I did notice that it was only my things. “You’re keeping the apartment in the city?”
“Well, just so I’ll have some place to sleep if I’m running late. I still have to get my stuff moved in, it was more important to get yours here.”
“Where is your room?”
He pointed to a room across the hall from mine. It was completely empty. “I’ll be right here. And Maggie’s here- she’s going to stay in the house with us since we have so much more room. Now, I have an appointment in 30 minutes but I’ll be back later tonight.”
He hugged me and left. I didn’t expect him to come back that night… or any other. All the time we had been doing the medical exams, he tried but it was obvious how hard it was for him to look at me or touch me. To his credit, he had tried harder in the past few weeks to be a parent to me than he had since I was in junior high school but he just didn’t have it in him to love something ugly.
So my face was gone, my job was gone, my fiancé was gone, my friends were gone and now I had lost my home and my only family. Somebody once said that freedom’s just another word for nothing left to loose. If that were the case, I was the freest man in the history of the world.