When I regained consciousness, I found myself lying on the bed in the sickroom. Doctor Clark and Nurse Williams sat close by, watching me worriedly. I turned my head to look at them, and the doctor immediately jumped to his feet and hurried to the side of the bed. He placed his hand on my head and looked deeply into my eyes.
“Erik, can you hear me?” he said anxiously.
I simply nodded, my despondency and self-loathing robbing me of any desire to speak.
“How are you feeling?” he continued.
I shrugged my shoulders and turned my face away from him toward the wall. My head and sides still ached, but the pain had receded to the dull throbbing that I was intimately familiar with, and as such, I could ignore it.
“Do you want to talk?” he pressed.
I shook my head silently. He sighed, and, accompanied by the sound of soft, receding footsteps, he and Nurse Williams left the room. They failed to closed the door completely, and with my sharp hearing, I could easily make out their voices in the hallway.
“What do you think, Henry?” Nurse Williams asked quietly.
“I'm not sure. I wasn’t expecting such a strong reaction from him, and I'm afraid that he will be unable to come to grips with the scarring. I’m worried that he will again begin to think his father was right about everything.”
Their voices faded as they moved away from the door, and I lay there, staring at the wall, feeling as if I was being suffocated by the emotions racing through my brain. The demons that I thought were gone had returned with a frenzy, and they taunted me with images of my father screaming at me about my ugliness, about my unworthiness to live. While my damaged face was covered with bandages and I was able to look at the unblemished side of my face, I had begun to think of myself as, if not good-looking, at least decent. I had begun to believe that children wouldn’t run and scream in fear when they saw my face. I had begun to understand that my father was a cruel, vindictive man who hated himself and the world, and that he used me as an outlet for that anger and hatred. Now, however, I knew that, even though my father may have been wrong before, if he had seen me then, he would have had every right to say those things to me, for they had become true.
A foreign blurring was affecting my vision, and I became aware that tears were slowly trickling down my cheek and soaking into the pillow. It seemed that since the barrier holding back my tears was gone, they found a clear path to freedom and easily took that path. The trickle did not increase, but it also did not slow, and I futilely tried to wipe it away. I didn’t want to seem weak as well as hideous, for that was a recipe for persecution and terror. As that thought raced through my brain, it was as if it set off a firestorm of realization.The tears slowed and then stopped, and I slowly sat up on the bed. I realized that there was little I could do about my face, but there was no reason for me to be weak. I had been weak my entire life, allowing my father to beat my mother and me, but that would no longer be the case. I felt the whirlwind of emotions inside of me harden into a core of steel deep in my soul. I decided that, from that point on, I would be strong and never allow anyone to hurt me ever again.