The way some children know, at a tender age, that they will be a doctor or a painter -- in that same way I knew, at the age of four, that I was ugly. I was fitted for bifocals -- I had a lazy eye -- and I remember the shame I felt to be an ugly boy. My ugliness was the plot of nightmares. An evil old man with greasy gray hair waited for me on the stairs and chased me through black corridors. If he caught me, he'd tickle me and his touch would make me ugly, even uglier than now. Here was the thing: I was acceptable, barely acceptable, by just a fraction of a hair. If I became point-zero-five percent more ugly, I'd be cast out.
The first time I lost a fingernail, I didn't know they grew back. I looked at that black fingernail and thought, "That's it for me. I'm a goner."