I was born marred.
The hideous scar on my right cheek defined my destiny.
As soon as my mother saw it, she abandoned me. She left me, a helpless baby, to fend for myself in a world that hated me for something that I did not choose.
Many who saw me screamed in horror and fled. The ones who didn’t laughed and jeered. They mocked my cries for help and delighted in my agony.
At last, broken and bruised, barely alive, I was sent to the Island of the Misfit Toys. I don’t remember how I got there or when I came. All I know is that warm hands found me and hoarse voices soothed my tears.
I have grown now. It’s been twenty-three years since I came to the Island. I’ve lived here for so long. This should feel like home.
Yet I am still searching, longing, for a place to belong.
I cannot stay here any longer. All around me are misfits. They’re scarred. They’re hideous. They’re broken. They’re ugly. Why would anyone want to be around such monsters?
As I walk through the streets, it’s as though my eyes are opened. I pass a man whose whole body has been severely burned. He smiles at me, but I look away. A woman with one arm brushes by me with a friendly greeting. Marred children – like I was once – look around in wonder and laugh for the first time.
Some would say this place is a paradise. There are kind people here. People who understand what I’ve been through; who understand the mocking and the hatred of the outside world. Here they are sheltered and at peace. But this place that was once a haven for me has become a prison. Every day I am reminded that I am different than the majority of the world. I am an exile here.
I don’t want to stay anymore. I am not like these people, am I? I’m not like these beasts. It was an accident that I was sent here.
My hand reaches towards my face. My fingertips brush against my old scar. It’s smaller now that I have grown. Perhaps people wouldn’t notice. Maybe they would overlook it. I can find a way to hide it.
I pack my bags slowly. The weight of my decision is heavy upon my heart. I hear footsteps behind me and see my first and best friend, P, behind me.
“What are you doing?”
Our eyes meet and she understands. I turn away and continue to fill my bag with my few possessions.
“No, C, please don’t go. The Outside World will show you no mercy. You don’t know what it’s like.”
“I have to find out. I have to go and find my place.”
I shoulder my bag and leave my friend with tears on her face. She once ventured to rejoin the Outside World. She came back beaten and bloody.
That wouldn’t happen to me. P was much different than Normal People. She was born deformed. I only have a scar; one, little scar.
I board a boat and as I sail towards the Outside, I look back and see the green Island fading into the distance. It seems so small on the horizon. Forgotten. Not many from the Outside could know that it was even there. If they did, would they care?
Thirteen long days later, I step off of the boat and find myself alone in the Outside World. I’m thankful for the icy wind that whips around me. No one will question the scarf that I have bound tightly around my neck and that covers my scar.
I look left and right, searching for a friendly face; for some word of welcome. This place, this other world, was where I was born. It’s my home, right? Being here will satisfy the emptiness inside of me.
I stand for a long time and I watch the faces of the people here. I am shocked by how different they are from the people on the Island. These faces, these perfectly formed and unblemished faces are sad, angry, fearful…anything but the joy that I see on the Island. Their eyes cling to the pavement. Their shoulders stoop. Their feet shuffle.
Timidly, I approach a young woman. She doesn’t look at me, she doesn’t offer a word of greeting.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, my curiosity pushing the words from my mouth. “Why are you so sad? Why is everyone so miserable?”
She looks at me in confusion. “Sad? No one here is sad. Perfection cannot be unhappy.”
“Don’t you ever laugh? Or smile?”
“Of course we do.” She says it so confidently, but her forehead knits in contemplation. “I just can’t remember when.”
I walk through the streets and look for a place to stay. Soon night will fall. I don’t want to spend it outside with the darkness and the cold.
I am near a market place. My stomach growls. I dig into my pockets and search for my coins. As I do, the wind catches my scarf and pulls it from my neck. I watch in horror as it disappears.
I hear gasps. Fingers are pointed at me. Women scream. Children sob. Men brandish torches. Then there’s noise. So much noise. Anger, confusion, rage and hatred all manifest in shouts and fire. A crowd circles me.
My hand finds its way to my cheek, but it is too late. They have seen my scar.
I gasp for air as a fist is shoved into my stomach. Hard boots kick my back and burry themselves in my ribs. My cheeks sting as hands slap me. Blood runs from my nose.
“Go back to your Island!”
“We don’t want your kind here!”
“You don’t belong here, beast!”
I curl into a ball on the cold ground and weep. Their words sting as much as their punches. I am dragged back to the dock and left all alone in the darkness.
Oh what a fool! What an idiot I was to believe that I could belong here in the Outside World! Everything is perfection in this place. I am broken, I am marred, I am the beast that they say I am. I will never have a place here.
Sobs tear from my lips as I stare into the black sky. Why was I marred? Why did this scar have to keep me from belonging to the world that I was born into?
A black shadow blocks out the stars. I tremble, afraid that the mob has returned. There is a scraping sound and a second later a gentle face was illuminated by the light of the lamp. I gasp and draw back in shock.
The old man laughs softly and points to the deep scars that line his forehead and cheeks. “You are surprised by my appearance.”
“No, it’s just…what are you doing here in the Outside World? Why aren’t you on the Island?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
I hang my head. My words come slowly at first, but at last my whole story pours out. I tell this stranger everything from the time that I was exiled to my return to the land of my birth. He listens in silence and only speaks when I have finished my tale.
“You don’t belong here.”
The words that I know are true – far too true – piece my heart.
“You belong on the Island.”
No, I want to say, that can’t be the place that I’m meant to be in. I’m not a monster. Am I?
“I sent you to the Island not because you’re a marred, but because you’re beautiful.”
I gawk. “It was you? You sent me to the Island?”
He nods. “Yes. I send many there.”
“Why?” Questions, questions, so many questions. “Why would you exile me?”
“Open your eyes. You weren’t in exile. The Island is a place of hope and joy; a place where you are not bound by the heavy weight of perfection. All of these people here in the Outside World live with the burden of being perfect. That’s why they’re miserable.”
A wave of emotion washes over me.
“But on the Island of the Misfit Toys, you are free from that. That scar on your cheek isn’t a curse. It’s a blessing.”
“Why do you stay here?”
“To try to bring some light to the people here who are trapped in the belief that to be loved they have to be perfect.”
“Do they listen?”
“Some do. Most just hate me and beat me.”
“I’m supposed to fit in here. This is where I was born. I just want to have a home.”
“What is your definition of home?”
Ah, that is something that I have long pondered. “Home is place where you are with people who are like you. Where you’re loved and where you find peace.”
“Do you have that here?”
I glance down at my cuts and bruises.
“Did you have that on the Island?”
“Those people aren’t anything like me. They’re ugly. They’re broken. I’m not like that.”
“Listen to me. The Island of Misfit Toys is filled with people who are complete opposites. It’s filled with people that the world would call freaks. But do you know what they have that the Outside World lacks?”
“They have love and hope. They are a family, C. They’re differences bring them together. Their mistakes, not their perfection, is what gives them empathy and kindness for other outcasts. It’s because of that that they took you in and nursed you to health.”
The man rises and adds, “You’ll find your place.”
He slips into the night. I watch as the light of his lantern fades away. One small light in a swirling deep of darkness. Somehow that little light had kindled a spark of hope inside of me.
Fourteen days later, I was once more stepping off of a boat and looking around me. The cold wind was not here. A gentle breeze caressed my scarred face. My shoulders were back and my head was held high.
A cry of welcome greeted my ears. A moment later P’s arms were thrown around my neck and I was held in a tight embrace. Others gathered around me. Friends, acquaintances, and people that I barely knew. They were here to welcome me back to the Island.
I looked in the marred and ugly faces of the people and I saw joy. And I realized that they were beautiful. Not by the standards of the Outside World but by the kindness and compassion that was in their hearts.
Seventeen years after first coming to the Island of the Misfit Toys, I’ve returned for good. I’ve come Home.