Embarrassing and Touching

Ever feel like you’ve just crushed somebody’s puppy? Though not that extreme, I still felt like I took a touching Hallmark card moment and shunned it like a leper.

I love to meet folks at conventions. There’s no need to apologize for my aberrant behavior or eccentric tastes. We geeks get together, chat, and party. So at AnachroCon 2013 in Atlanta two weekends ago I was sitting at my table when a lovely young lady asks, “So, tell me about your book.”

I ramble on about the plot and characters, the setting and the set up.

Then she asks, “So, tell me about yourself.”

I told her about my initial interest in writing, the naval career that diverted me for twenty-three years, and the subsequent brain surgery and the realization that I’d best take my writing more seriously if I ever wanted to do anything with it.

Her eyes lit up and she asked an odd question. “Do you have a loose screw?”

When they cut my skull open to remove the tumor wrapped around my optic nerve, snuggled up to my brain, they rebuilt me with five titanium plates and several screws. Not long after the surgery my right temple began to swell and eventually they took my face off a second time to discover that all the screws from one of the plates had come out. The loose hardware had started scarring me from the inside as it floated around. They removed the offending bits and discovered I’d healed well enough to not need that fifth plate after all. Since then I’ve noticed a pronounced bump near my temple, a loose screw, and though I’m a little concerned, I’m not inclined to have them take me apart again. All this flashes through my mind as she stares wide eyed, waiting for my response.

“Yeah,” I answer timidly.

“Can I feel it?”

“Sure,” I say with a weak chuckle.

She reaches out and runs her fingers across an area that gives me the creeps to even acknowledge it exists. All the while she seems thrilled. As she pulls back she says, “Okay, your turn.” She grabs my hand and places it on the top of her head where I feel three or four lumps like the tops of bolts. She explains she’s had a severe head injury and smiles.

To be honest I can’t remember what happened next. But once alone with my thoughts I felt horrible. She had found someone with whom she had a unique common bond and he just sat there like she’d invited him to her root canal. I felt so ashamed of my failure to give her a reassuring wink and a ‘thumbs up’, or whatever would’ve been cooler and more compassionate. She’d survived something huge and I just let the whole thing slide by.

The more I thought on it, the more I reviled my denial. I consistently attempt to ignore my minor disfiguration and dismiss my invisible handicap despite the fact it drives my wife and others nuts when I do some of the things I do (forget a lot, lose track of time, fly off the handle at the drop of a hat).

So if you’re reading this and you know the girl I’m speaking of, give her a hug for me; from one loose screw to another.


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