He’d heard the stories. A guy has a problem that everyone else can see. Then one day he looks in the mirror. Suddenly, he see himself as everyone else does. It’s shocking. Shatters his self-construction and spurs him to change.
Caesar hadn’t ever had that moment. But he knew the feeling.
He had been living with roommates that summer. It was over a decade ago, back when he was still in college. A roommate had forgotten to turn the iron off and left it out overnight. As Caesar reached for a book in the morning, he recoiled, forearm burned. He over-reacted, lashing out. First, at the wrong roommate, who calmly gave him neosporin and helped him bandage his arm.
Beyond eventually hissing at the guilty roommate, Caesar stewed. He grew preoccupied with the burn. He googled on how to prevent scarring. He sent a photo to a doctor. He went so far as to ask about cutting around the scar and stitching it up.
His days went about apace - going to work, hanging out with friends, reading, all his normal stuff. But his mind always strayed back to this scar and it left a cloud over him. Its weight smothering whatever happiness that almost surfaced.
He obsessed until she said something. Ten days earlier, Ceaser had met a girl. It was a powerful, instantaneous connection. In retrospect, they’d both agree that they it was that feeling of infatuation only possible in youth or with extreme naiveté. For a bit, she was his world. They talked of everything, including this new scar.
She didn’t say much. But the impact of what she did say never left. You shouldn’t be like that. It’s vain. They both were probably guilty of falsely idealizing. Placing the other on a pedestal of perfection; the embodiment of all desired. Regardless, her dozen words made it clear she believed him to be more. More than the burn, that feeling seared into his memory.
Today, she’s a non-presence. Someone that Ceaser used to know. Yet he was reminded of her, when almost ten yeas to that day, he did it again. This time he was visiting friends in London and he was the one who was careless. He again burned his right arm with an iron. His eyes wandered back to his forearm, looking for something, and someone, he hadn’t thought of in years. It was still there, clear but also faint. Once so bold and defining, now a whisper of what was once.
Even that trace will someday disappear. Yet, her reflection of him would forever stay. A reminder that the slightest word, from the right person, can forever change you.