A week and a day ago my crooked smile disappeared. What I had left of a smile is now gone. Gone.

Poof.

It has vacated until further notice. It’s split and left no note or anything. You may be thinking that I’m speaking metaphorically when I say, “I have no smile now” or “I just can’t smile,” but no. I wish that were the case. Actually, I don’t because that would mean I would be severely depressed to the point of near catatonia again, and I definitely don’t want that. What I mean is that I’m saying this quite literally because the right side of my face is immovable, zombie-like, paralyzed. But now that I conjur metaphor, I will say that I also mean it metaphorically. After all, it’s difficult to smile inside when you lose such a basic function. It can be devastating.

On Wednesday morning of last week, just a day and two nights after arriving back in Houston, I woke up unable to move the right side of my face. The skin just hung there all soft and wobbly, like a dangling pancake. When I got up to get ready for my first therapy appointment since November, the delicate, pancake muscles on my cheek, lip, eyelid and eyebrow all slowly drooped; the nerve filaments microscopically scintillated inside.

Then, the tingling began, tiny sparks, growing stronger by the minute. That’s when I knew. I knew the facial paralysis, or rather Bell’s Palsy, had swooped in and struck me overnight.

When Bell’s Palsy strikes, it likes to do so incognito, in silence. It strikes like a ninja assassin sent to snap your seventh cranial nerve right there behind your ear. You may get the occasional warning–a spasm, soreness of the face, neck pain or a migraine perhaps–and many people do, but if and when you do, you’ll find yourself already struck before you can lift a leg for a roundhouse kick. In this case, however, you can’t even raise your brow to the mighty heavens and yell a crisp and clear “THE FUUUUUCK?!” because you can’t move your lips. Instead you sound like you have a moderate to mildly-severe retardation that causes your speech to slur and become nasally. Instead, your cry wheezes out with a lisp. It’s reduced to a faint, wispy whimper, “ph-puh-uuuck. “P”s, “M”s, “N”s, “B”s and “F”s are especially hard to enunciate .

This is the third time it has happened. The first time was in 2006…

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