We used to take or dog to the elementary school yard to meet up with her buddies and get some good doggie energy out on weekday afternoons. One day, my dog Mila and I were joined by my friend David and his dog, Ola. Suddenly a monstrous bee (believe me, the insects in Hawaii can be astronomical in size) began flirting with my head in an only slightly terrifying manor. Since I’d only ever received one small beesting on my foot as a child, I wasn’t one to get combative or - conversely - freaked out, by the hovering beauties.
But apparently this lil’ worker bee found me irresistible and wanted to come in for a kiss. Before I could properly shoo her away, she landed a smacker right in the cupid’s bow region between my nostrils and my upper lip, and the pain of the sting made my eyes water and wretched a “hork!” sound from my throat. I excused myself from David and Ola and took a confused Mila home to our place just a half block from the school, where I applied an ice cube to my throbbing lip.
I woke up to Hotdog Face.
The cool thing about this is that the following day was my school’s annual Lei Day festival, the biggest and most beautiful celebration of the year, with students, their families, fellow teachers, and community members all gathering to witness the splendor of rehearsed hula dances, reverential honoring of Hawaiian traditions, and a colorful maypole threaded by beautiful 8th graders who danced barefooted in all-white attire.
In other words, a picture-perfect day. A day in need of a photographer. A photographer who could seamlessly blend themself into the haku lei- and muumuu-clad participants to collect memories of merriment.
And guess who got to be the in-the-midst-of-it-all photographer that day?
There was no way to conceal my monstrous condition, my face bloating outward like the bow of a sturdy whitewater raft. The stretching of my inflamed lip was so fierce that it dragged the skin away from my eyes, making me look like a bedraggled Bassett hound who’d spent the night immersed in a marsh full of moonshine.
The giant Nikon did aid a bit in the concealment of my sudden disfiguration, but it wasn’t long before concerned parents and revelers began approaching with worried questions, ill-disguised horror haunting their eyes. This was a festival of beauty after all! Not even the giant hibiscus tucked behind my ear could mask the reaction that, had I paused to ponder remedies for a moment, really just needed a big dose of Benadryl.
“I’m fine!” I chirped away happily, doing my best to not betray the mortification murmuring in my hungry belly (it was not truly possible nor convenient to enjoy the laulau and poi with a misshapen mouth hole).
Finally the afternoon drifted dreamily to a flower-hued end, and I was able to trundle home a rest my face (and my ego). Now that I’m thinking about it, I never did see the photos I took from that day. I wonder if there was a ruinous, flesh-toned smear at the bottom of each one?
by Emily Nielsen
"I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition."
All posts are copyright ©Emily Nielsen