It was as if clothes spoke to each other…

Word count: 291 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a simile from the late Lucy Grealy.

I first learned about the late poet Lucy Grealy several years ago when reading Ann Patchet’s book, Truth and Beauty. I wasn’t terribly impressed with Patchet’s memoir, which chronicled her friendship with Grealy.  But at least it made me resolve to find Grealy’s story of her own life, Autobiography of a Face. (It took me several years to locate it because I’d idiotically transcribed the title incorrectly.)

Grealy had suffered a devastating illness as a child. At the age of nine, she was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer and she’d had to have part of her jaw removed. She looked profoundly different from other children and this launched her lifelong search for “normalcy.” Ultimately, Grealy had some 30 surgeries, none of which fully repaired her face. Sadly (although this isn’t recounted in her memoir), she became addicted to oxycontin as a result of one of her surgeries, and she died of a heroin overdose in 2002, at the age of 39.

The world lost a great writer. Here is an image from her book that particularly struck me:

It was as if clothes spoke to each other, our childish pajamas murmuring something special about us as we brushed past the suits and white coats and work clothes.

In recalling her time in hospital as a child, Grealy uses a childish image — imagine, clothes speaking to each other! But it works because it is precisely the way a 10-year-old might view the world.

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