It is only after we completely run out of things to say when the truth comes out.
Congenital Associative Prosopagnosia. It affects 2.5% of the population of the United States. The statistic doesn’t even exist in India. Also called as face blindness, it is a cognitive disorder which results in an inability to recognize and discern faces, including one’s own. Do you know how hard it is to lead one’s entire life without having any clue what a face looks like? I just might.
20 years ago, a perfectly healthy kid was born in a quiet nursing home in the heart of the city. The parents were overwhelmed with joy over their first born and all was well. Until the first four years or so. It came as quite a shock when the parents found out as the boy had shown no indications of anything lacking, for he had been completely used to recognizing people with their voices, skin tones and any discerning features. Realising that, being his parents, it took them four years to find out something was wrong, and the fact that none of his friends and teachers at school had any clue, it was decided that things stay the way they were. The boy too, being a kid, didn’t realise the ramifications it would have on his life to come and agreed to keep his ‘superpower’ to himself. However little did they know that it had already begun affecting most of the decisions he made in his life. To this day he doesn’t bother to smile for a camera simply because it made no difference to him.
From a young age, he took a special liking to astronauts, for he could recognize masks and a job where you had to wear a helmet all the time meant he can technically look at everybody’s ‘faces’. This love for astronauts turned into a love for all things related to outer space and he would go on to pursue an engineering degree in the field of aerospace engineering. His parents realised that he showed no interest in TV and didn’t bother getting a cable connection in their house as well. He did enjoy the occasional cartoon, Tom and Jerry was his favourite as no one could see the face of the only human character in the show. However, his true love was reading. He ‘saw’ his first face in his mind’s eye from a children’s fantasy series, The Secrets of Droon. It was that of a young boy, Eric and the description of his face in the book stuck to his heart. The boy began to read everything he could get his hands on and it, in turn, opened him up a whole new world of faces that he could now project upon people he met in real life. He soon picked up the art of drawing, kids get a lot of free time when they don’t have television, although he stuck to cityscapes and landscapes only.
One of the biggest influences that face blindness brought to his life was his passion for superheroes. On one hand, superheroes were the only people he felt he could enjoy as much as anybody who’s normal because of their masks and individual, striking costumes, on the other, the fact that each of them held a secret regarding their identities and powers, unbeknownst to their friends and families gave him a sense of belonging as well. To this day, he doesn’t miss a single release of Marvel or DC superhero movie or TV show.
Puberty was a tough time. Everybody around him began to change, hairstyles changed, the voices of his friends deepened and it disrupted his system. While he didn’t have to care about his own acne or weirdly spiky hair, he had to constantly remember and search for new markers to identify his friends. Newer challenges were yet to come as well. He’s never been too keen about sports as he couldn’t tell his teammates from his opponents as they all ran around in the goddamn school uniform. But that was never a big deal until now. Now suddenly he wasn’t so ‘cool’. He tried getting a new gimmick but they usually didn’t get the required audience. Playing cards had been his favourite toy as a kid, for he could see the faces of the kings and queens, so he delved into card tricks and simple magic. Turns out only he found it cool. Even made his existing friends hate him as he refused to reveal the secrets. 7th graders are mean. He took on to psychology, for when you can’t read someone’s face, you have to read their bodies. Little did he realise how much this was going to help him later as he began dating.
Ah, dating. Lack of knowledge of how their faces looked meant he didn’t see beauty in the conventional sense. His friends would often find the women he had crushes on to be rather odd but he always had his reasons. Most of them were bespectacled, or too tall or too short, sometimes they had special features like a popping vein along the jaw everytime they smiled. His women really appreciated his ‘attention to the little things’ as he acknowledged stuff like a change of earrings, a new haircut or even a new nail polish. More often than not, he was just trying to make sure that the girl with his girlfriend’s voice but a different hairstyle was still his girlfriend and not somebody else. Although sometimes when things got intimate, there were complaints that he was more obsessed with, how do I put this delicately, their bosom. It gets tiresome to keep guessing where their lips are! He preferred texting to actual real-life conversations simply because texting was a much more wholesome experience for him.
However holding on to a secret all his life, the multitude of lies he’s spoken along the years to people he cared about just to hide his flaw, the inability to tell the girl he loved that she has beautiful eyes and to actually mean it, really weighed him down. And so he began a blog. Where he would tell all the stories he never could tell anyone else, where he would never refer to anyone by name for he felt someone’s name in writing is akin to someone’s face in real life, where he would one day tell his story.
Where he would one day pull an April Fools’ prank of epic proportions. Suck it losers! I can see all your stupid faces just as well as the next guy.
Adios. cue thug life music