His mother wore oven mitts as she wrapped him in aluminum foil for his first day of school. She placed welding goggles over his eyes and smiled down at him.
“Be yourself and try to make friends, okay, Billy?”
Billy nodded. “Yes, mum.”
He didn’t want to go to school.
“And no burning anyone, alright? You be careful.”
His mother made sure to pack plenty of extra aluminum foil and muffler tape into his knapsack. She pinned a note for his teacher on his chest and sent him out to catch the bus.
The other kids in his class sat far away and the teacher had to bring in a special desk for him, one without any wood. At recess they called him names; some were clever and some were crude.
As he grew older the names grew more clever and more crude but they all hurt just the same.
He got work where he could, where he had advantages: a refractory, a steel mill, a glassworks. The names were there too, and the bullying, and the looks: looks of disgust, distrust and anger. Those looks didn’t bother him as much as the other kind; the looks of fear were the ones that cut the deepest.
“I worry about you, you know,” his mother said over the phone. “I wish you’d meet a nice girl. I want grand-kids someday.”
“I know, mum. I’ve been really busy with work. Maybe I’ll have more time next year.”
He didn’t say that the girls were all afraid of him. He didn’t say that he could never lie with a woman, not without the sheets catching fire, not without burning her. His mother must have known all that but she pretended it wasn’t true. She always pretended and that hurt more than anything else.
He didn’t like his job but he was good at it and it was one of the few times that he didn’t have to wear his aluminum foil. He could do things with the glass that others couldn’t. No one appreciated it though; his boss didn’t like him much.
He slept on a steel slab. It was uncomfortable and he couldn’t have blankets. He was always cold at night. No one ever understood that, but how could they?
He met Molly at the grocery store. She was wearing plastic wrap and bright yellow boots. She left puddles everywhere she went. He loved her right away.
“She’s always getting the carpets wet. Why can’t you meet a normal girl?”
“Because I’m not normal, mum.”
She held to the familiar dance of pretending not to hear anything uncomfortable. He didn’t bring Molly around his mother much anymore.
Molly’s father was worse.
“Why can’t you meet a normal boy? He’s no good for you.”
Molly told him that she slept in a big empty tub. By morning it was always full and if she slept in, the downstairs neighbors would complain.
Billy and Molly got married in aluminum foil and plastic wrap, smiling in front of a frowning crowd. His mother was sad and her father was angry, but they were happy. When they lay together for the first time, it was on a normal bed, for the first time. When they touched, he no longer needed his aluminum foil, and she no longer needed her plastic wrap.
Steven M.S Godon is a Canadian artist and writer currently living in Ottawa Ontario. Glass-blowing, pottery, painting and carpentry are among his various passions. He enjoys sharing his soul through art forms of any medium as a way to connect with other people. He takes joy in evincing emotional reactions through his art and hopes do bring joy into peoples lives with everything he creates.