He was the ugly face of twinkdom – until he discovered he was a swan.
Esben has been the ugly duckling all his life, suffering the derision of
his family and his schoolmates. In adult life, even his best friends
talk about him disparagingly to his face, calling him butt ugly, playing
cruel jokes on him, until one night they go too far. Humiliated beyond
all endurance, drunk and alone, he decides to end it all but finds he is
too chicken even for that. A few drinks are all the courage he needs,
or so he thinks. He heads to the nearest bar where his misery is finally
laid to rest.
The wind was icy around my ears, but it scarcely registered. I had come this far and I so wanted to take that one step
more that would finally wipe away the years of pain. I had endured for
twenty long years, surely that was enough. I knew from experience that
God was a cruel bastard, I’d never realized until now He was also a
A lifetime of pain and misery versus sweet oblivion. It was a
no-brainer, and yet I hesitated. I was chicken shit. All those people
who’d called me names, who’d bullied and belittled me, were right. I
couldn’t let them be. That would be the ultimate humiliation. As the
only person who ever really loved me, I wrapped my arms around my body
in final surrender.
One last glance at the dark swirling waters below. It looked so
inviting, so warm from my position atop the railing meant to prevent
pedestrians from plummeting over the side of the bridge. Ah, sweet
serenity. I silently cursed the world. I jumped.
* * * *
“Ewww, he’s an ugly little bastard,” are the first words I remember
hearing as a child. My parents assured me they weren’t the first but all
comments, said within my hearing, were of a similar ilk. The one I
remember was uttered by my Uncle Joe when I was around four. My aunt
Connie reprimanded primly, “Joe. Manners.” Then peering at me through
her spectacles added, “But the little tyke is on the homely side.”
I discovered years later that I’d got my revenge in advance by pissing
on Connie’s nice new frock when she picked me up out of my crib as a
baby and let out an exclamation of surprise similar to her husband’s. I
wish I could remember that. It seems she’d commented on the excess of
hair on my portly little body by describing me as a ‘monkey baby.’
The same night as my uncle’s outburst I lay awake listening to my mum
sob in her bedroom next door. She and dad were discussing me loudly
enough that I could hear just about every word. They seemed to be of the
belief that with ugliness came deafness. It would have been a godsend.
“Perhaps we should check with the hospital. They might have given us the
wrong baby,” she said. I insulted her self-esteem because both my dad
and mum were singularly attractive – everyone said so – and were
expected to produce a brood of remarkable-looking offspring. Like my
older sister, for example, or my younger brother. Both excellent
examples of superior genetics.
My mother, for example, was the top-rated weather girl, as well as
moonlighting as the impeccably groomed wallpaper who turned the letters
around on a popular quiz program. My dad, was a local political figure
of whom great things were expected. They pushed family values and
old-fashioned mum and dad apple-pie virtues in my dad’s poll-time
literature, littered with family photos. Just not mine. I was never part
of that family.