He pauses to study his face in the mirror, to see what others see when they look at him.
A huge mass of flesh balloons from the left side of his face. The main body of tissue, 1)laced with blue veins, 2)swells in a 3)dome from 4)sideburn level to chin. The mass draws his left eye into a 5)slit, 6)warps his mouth into a small inverted half-moon. It looks as though someone had slapped three pounds of wet clay onto his face, where it clings, burying the boy inside.
But his right eye is clear and perfectly formed. His 7)iris is a deep, penetrating brown, and one third of his face surrounding this normal eye gives the impression of a normal teenager. Sam’s 8)close-cropped hair is shaped carefully, 9)trimmed neatly behind his delicate right ear. His right cheek glows with the blushing good health that the rest of his face has obscured.
There is the mask.
And there is the boy behind the mask.
The last school bell rings, and students crowd out of classrooms and jam the halls. They gather in front of lockers to talk, they shout and make plans for the afternoon. Sam slips through them unnoticed and heads home on a winding street.
When reaching home, he goes upstairs directly. He walks along the hall to the door with the toy 10)license plate announcing “Sam.” In his room he 11)fiddles with a 12)laptop, leafs through a motorcycle magazine, and plays with a 13)foam basketball.
He sits on the bed and 14)tosses the ball across the room, hitting a poster on the wall. His mother made that poster, assembling family photographs and documents and then 15)laminating them. They are the 16)remnants of a fading childhood.
In the middle of the poster is a questionnaire Sam filled out when he was eight. He had been asked to list his three greatest wishes. First, he said, he wanted $1 million. Next, a dog. On the third line, he 17)doodled three question marks——back then, he couldn’t think of anything else he wanted or needed. If he could be granted one wish now, it would be to look better. Not perfect. Not like a model. Sam just wants to look a little more normal. He wants people to see beyond his face.
He hears the back door shut downstairs. His father is home. Sam goes to his door. He can hear his parents talking, and he listens carefully, but he can’t make out the words. Maybe his parents are talking about him.
He changes into his clothes for the 18)open house, the shirt and pants he selected with such care. All eighth-graders are 19)obsessed with how they look and how they’ll 20)fit in at school. Sam is no different. He watches MTV. He knows what’s considered popular and cool. He knows what girls like. Everyone talks about beauty being on the inside, but Sam knows that’s only what people tell themselves. It may seem true to little kids, or to men and women in their forties. But to a teenager like Sam, it’s a lie.
When Sam 21)was due to arrive at middle school, his fifth-grade teacher, worried that he would be teased and misunderstood, created a slide show on his life. She gathered photographs of Sam from his family, and asked students who knew him in grade school to write letters of introduction. Then she held an assembly at the middle school, and at all the 22)grade schools that would send kids to 23)Gregory Heights. After the students had seen pictures of Sam, she read the letters written by his schoolmates.
“I’ve known Sam for the greater portion of my time at Rose City Park,” one student wrote. “Not very well until this year, though. I remember that kids, ignorant, hateful kids, would make fun of him....Think how horrible it was for him. I, like many other people, did nothing. I was quiet and got my fair share of teasing....I deeply regret [that I did nothing]. I wasn’t in Sam’s class again until fifth grade. I saw a tremendous improvement in the other kids. Perhaps ignorance was our biggest enemy. I saw a new side of Sam, too. A side that had always been there, a side that only needed a closer look. So I ask you, before you judge Sam, or anyone for that matter, remember that a person’s true beauty is not on the outside, but within their heart.”
Sam’s teacher ended the assemblies by reminding students that while Sam looked different, he was a normal boy. They didn’t have to be his best friends, but they should not be afraid of him, or make fun of him.
Life hasn’t been perfect for Sam in middle school. Teachers were shocked when they first saw him. When he walked down the halls 24)early on, he knew that a lot of kids and teachers assumed he was a special education student. In time, though, everyone in the school has come to see him as just Sam. They don’t care about the 25)disfiguring mass, or at least they don’t show it if they do. But high school and beyond, he knows, will be different. No matter what people tell him, Sam recognizes that he is moving into a larger world of judgmental teenagers. And he carries with him a terrible handicap, a face that scares others.
He checks the clock, and sees that it’s almost time to go. He takes a deep breath. He hopes he’s picked the right clothes.
汤姆·霍曼二世（Tom Hallman, Jr.）因发表在波特兰《奥瑞冈人》（Oregonian）报纸上一系列有关山姆·赖特纳的报导而获2001年普利策报导文学奖。他从1980年任职《奥瑞冈人》至今，是具有25年以上经验的资深记者，主要撰写专题报导和叙事文稿。
霍曼土生土长于波特兰，毕业于美国德雷克大学（Drake University），曾任纽约《赫斯特杂志》（Hearst Magazines）改稿编辑、奥瑞冈州《先趋报》（Herald）及华盛顿州《三城先趋报》（Tri-City Herald）记者，之后加入《奥瑞冈人》，负责采访报导警界长达十年。同时，霍曼也将关注角度落在一般民众的生活上。