I was a clumsy child—goofy but deeply shy, given to wearing costumes. This photo gets at the spirit of who I was, though it has little to do with the specifics of the story I’m about to tell. My parents worked very hard to destroy all evidence of this story—all records, all traces have since been expunged—and I don’t blame them.
When I was five years old, I had a nasty bike accident. Mind you, I wasn’t riding the bike at the time, only pushing it along the sidewalk. But still, I managed to tangle my foot in the pedals and fall face first onto the pavement. I ran the rest of the way home, blood pooling in my t-shirt. My panicked mother checked my mouth, shocked to find that my teeth were still intact. The area between my nose and mouth hadn’t fared as well, a nasty scrape becoming a scabby moustache as the weekend wore on.
On Monday morning, I refused to go to school. I looked monstrous. I imagined myself living in the basement forever as some kind of kindergarten Phantom of the Opera. But my mom wasn’t having it—I was going to school.
In a last ditch effort to conceal the scab-moustache, I put on a rubber cat nose I’d received as a party favor a few weeks before. To my eye, it was a flawless disguise. No evidence of a scrape at all—just a perfectly normal five-year-old with a cat nose.
I wore the nose to school every day. My parents bought me a handful of other noses—dog, rabbit, duck—both as a gesture of support and as a less-disgusting alternative to the rapidly deteriorating cat nose. The plan worked too well. Long after my mouth had healed, the noses stayed on.
I played the glockenspiel at my Kindermusik recital wearing a dog nose. I graduated from kindergarten in a black trash bag and a rabbit nose. I went to my sixth birthday party in a new outfit and the old cat nose. All of the other kids got noses as party favors, and we skated around the roller rink together like some unholy menagerie.
One night, the noses disappeared from their post next to my bed. I was devastated—and then promptly forgot about them.
When I was sixteen, my family moved—and somewhere in all of the packing and unpacking, I found the cat nose. Sure that it would make for an excellent prank, I decided to wear it around the house for the day. But the nose was unbearably uncomfortable—hot, damp, reeking of rubber. For the life of me, I don’t know how I wore it all those months.