When I was about nine years old, we lived next door to a young man named Jim. The left side of Jim’s face and all the way down his neck was completely white. Part of his nose was missing and the ear on that side of his head was very small. Although he seemed nice, I thought he looked like some kind of monster and used to have nightmares about him.
One day his wife, Anne, was having coffee with my mother and I overheard her tell the story about her husband’s scars.
She said that when Jim was nineteen and she was eighteen, they became engaged. Soon after that, he went into the Army. It was during WWII. Just weeks before he was to be discharged, the plane in which Jim was the navigator was hit and went down in flames. The pilot was able to land the plane, but Jim and some of the others on the plane were badly burned. Jim wrote Anne and told her about what had happened. He said that he didn’t look the same as when she last saw him and never would again. He said she might not even recognize him and that if she wanted to break their engagement, he would understand. Anne’s mother urged her to call off the engagement, saying that Anne was too young to spend the rest of her life caring for a disfigured man.
Many months went by, but as soon as he was well enough, Jim was sent home. Anne said that she went to the airport to meet his plane, but because she didn’t know how she would feel when she saw him, she didn’t tell Jim that she would be there. She waited in a crowd of people gathered on the tarmac. When the door of the plane opened, the first person to come down the stairs was Jim.
“I knew it was him the minute I saw him,” said Anne. “I screamed his name and went running across the tarmac. I grabbed him and screamed, ‘You haven’t changed, you haven’t changed. You look just the same. You look just the same.’ And, you know, to me he hadn’t changed. He looked just the same as I remembered him and he still does.”
I was too young to understand what Anne meant. Why didn’t she see what was so obvious to everyone else. I asked my mother about it later. “Love is blind” she said.