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The Man with the Nose


The first time I saw him, I saw him from behind. He was waiting on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building where we both lived. He was well dressed with a medium build. His silver hair in a tidy haircut just brushed the top of his shirt collar. I was curious about him. When I walked near him I caught a glimpse of something on his face but he turned away from me quickly, seemingly to shield his face from my view. A car pulled up to the curb and he got in. I assumed it was his ride to work.

Several mornings a week I walked past him as he waited for his ride. I walked down the block each morning to the garage where I parked my car. Parking was at a premium living in the middle of the city.

Each time he caught sight of me he would turn away quickly and shield his face. One morning though he could not turn away. He was sitting in a chair in the lobby of our building talking with a woman sitting across from him. As I walked into the lobby he saw me and appeared quite flustered. He looked like he felt trapped, as if he would like to jump up and run away. I saw a full view of his face and realized why he felt the need to shield it from my view. His nose looked like it was sliding off of his face and it ended in a giant red pitted bulb that drooped so far down it covered his mouth. It looked similar to this http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Feb/21/Nose.jpg but worse. I was taken aback by the sight of it but felt empathy for him at the same time. I made a conscious effort not to turn away or look horrified. I looked at him straight on and smiled what I hoped was a warm and friendly smile. I cannot imagine what it must be like to go through life with such an affliction.

The next time we passed on the sidewalk he greeted me with “good morning.” I returned his greeting, smiled warmly and went on my way. I made a point of trying to lengthen the greeting each time I saw him by adding “how are you,” “what a beautiful day” or “brrr, sure is cold today.” He always responded appropriately and seemed to be warming up to me. I was hoping that we would eventually become friends. He seemed like a nice guy and I was curious about his story. I wondered what had caused his nose to become that way and also what he did for a living, if, perhaps his work is somehow tied in with his nose trouble.

I started spending a lot of time away from my apartment. I travel a lot and spend most weekends elsewhere. Eventually, I moved to another apartment down the block. I haven’t seen the man with the nose for a couple of months. I miss him. I am sad that we won’t be able to get to know each other. I would at least have liked to know his name.


David Klamet 8 years, 4 months ago

20 years ago I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myasthenia_gravis). I've been lucky and it has, for the most part, stayed in remission. But when it's not, it affects the muscles in and around my left eye. Sometimes I get double vision and have to wear an eyepatch. Sometimes that eyelid droops.

Even though my condition is relatively mild, I remember how self-conscious I felt, especially for the first few years.

Now I'm an old, probably more crotchety, guy and what people think and do doesn't affect me as much. Maybe this experience is one of the reasons why.

I'm sure that if I had his affliction, I would wish I didn't. In my case I'm tempted to say that the lessons I've learned are worth the difficulties. I just happened to do a post on that subject. http://bit.ly/aGsFsB

RoeDapple 8 years, 4 months ago

My wife, coming from a small town, left for college in the early '70's. Days after moving into her dorm, she walked into a class behind a small group of students. As they filtered through the door she met face to face with a young man who had been severely burned in his youth, without ears, nose, lips or hair, covered in scar tissue, with only stumps for hands. It shocked her so badly she screamed and tried to back up but the students coming in behind her prevented her retreat. His reaction? "Yeah, I get that a lot!" They did become friends and shared a few classes her freshman and sophomore years.

Ronda Miller 8 years, 4 months ago

Interesting article, Joyce. There is a person with a similar condition (or so it seems to my non professional eye) here in Lawrence. I agree with pyw that it looks like:

"Rhinophyma - Severe Acne Rosacea Severe acne rosacea leading to an enlarged nose occurs most commonly in men and is referred to as rhinophyma. This condition can be surgically treated using several lasers currently available at our facility. This entire procedure can be performed in our office in approximately 45-90 minutes and involves only minimal pain. The skin is normally resurfaced in 10-14 days from the surgery and a complete recovery is expected in 4 to 6 weeks. "

I copied this from the link she pasted. What is incredible is how drastic the look is from before and after. In this case, the opening to the nostrils was severely restricted which I hope means it would be covered by insurance - should the person be so lucky as to have it!

I think it is important to remember, due to life experiences, some people carry their disfigurements or scars where all can view - and others carry them inside. Probably a good reason to treat everyone equally kind. Yeah, even marion! ;) We've all got some insecurity - that's a fact.

David Lignell 8 years, 3 months ago

Honest and descriptive post, Joyce. You don't sugarcoat your reaction and we grow from it. Someday we'll move beyond the physical to the spiritual, but today is not that day. At least not for me. It may be a nose today or lack of sufficient height tomorrow or a strange culture or religion different from what I've known and am comfortable with or maybe it's a gender thing or sexual preference or political right or [add uncomfortable difference here]. No matter...your post shows that it's better to be honest than preachy.

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