MY BRAVE FACE, JERRY’S STORY
People like me shouldn’t be allowed to watch TV movies of the week. I’m not talking about the Wonderful World of Disney musicals or “The Facts of Life Goes to Australia”. I mean those tear-jerking movies that start out with a nice, normal, healthy family that, before the first commercial airs, gets ripped apart by some awful, unforeseen twist of fate, after which their lives will never be the same. Years of watching other people’s real life sob stories played out on screen have left me convinced that some sort of horrid, freakish tragedy is the inevitable consequence of the pursuit of happiness.
I worry about everything. Freak crane accidents, routine medical exams with unexpected results, botched surgeries, unshaven loners with semi-automatics and bizarre vendettas, unexpected late-night phone calls from people I haven’t heard from in years. When things are going well, that’s when I’m the most miserable. You’re living the first act of a TV movie, Jerry, I tell myself. Be afraid. I’m terrified of taking anything for granted, because the one thing you take for granted is the thing you’re sure to lose.
The other day, while crossing the street, a car blazed past me way too fast and way too close, sending a rush of wind past my nose. What if he’d been just a bit closer? I thought. What if he’d hit my nose? I decided I don’t appreciate my nose enough. If TV movies were any indication of how life worked, my nose was doomed. I started picturing the scenario in which it’d happen. I’ll be waiting for a train and I’ll bend down to pick up a tissue that fell out of my pocket when, suddenly, I slip. Oops! I just fell nose-first onto the tracks! Then WHAM! Commercial break!
I’ll survive the incident, but the nose, of course, will be history, leaving a gaping, unsightly hole in my face. I’ll have to adjust to children’s cruel jokes, adults’ wincing glances, and a plastic surgeon who finally sits me down, rests his hand on my shoulder, tears in his eyes, and tells me, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else I can do.” I’ll have to have a special contraption designed to hold up my glasses, and on Thanksgiving, Victoria or somebody will say will say to me, “Doesn’t that turkey smell good?” And everyone will turn and glare at her, then look at me with pity. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she’ll say. “I just forgot that–.” And I’ll throw a glass against the wall and scream, “Well, it looks like you’ve all found something to be thankful for — your noses!” And I’ll storm out, and everyone will turn to Victoria and say, “Nice job, Vic!”
Poor Drew will have to deal with things he never bargained for. It will be really hard on him, but he’ll stick it out for a long time. Finally, one day, he’ll break down, throw a glass against the wall and scream, “It’s not just the nose, Jerry! You’ve changed!” And I’ll realize he’s right. In a moment of selfless love, I’ll encourage him to move on. “You deserve a man with a complete face,” I’ll say, my voice sounding pinched and squeaky like when Lily Tomlin does the phone operator character.
Realizing I need to get my shit together, I’ll join a support group for people with no noses. I’ll be shocked to learn that there are others who’ve been through exactly what I’m going through. I’ll meet people like Nate, who was waiting for a bus when he bent down to tie his shoe, and Janet, whose backstory features a curb-jumping Hummer and a pooper scooper. “Join us,” they’ll say. “Let us be your new nostrils.” I’ll go see a priest, who’ll tell me, “This is all part of God’s plan. For some reason, he wanted you to lose your nose.” And somehow, in that moment, it’ll make sense. I’ll find my calling. I’ll lobby on Capitol Hill for a bill to protect the facially disfigured. I’ll meet with the President, and he’ll say, “Well, that’s a problem I hadn’t thought about, and you really nailed it.” And I’ll smile, wink at him and reply, “No, I hit it on the nose!” Closing credits.
And then I smiled, turned the radio on and continued driving to work. Sufficiently appreciated, my nose would now be safe for a while. My sanity, I feared, was another matter.