This was the year I lost my face. It was one of those gradual things. My features fell away from me in little flecks of flesh like lint, and each morning I woke to this strange light dusting on my pillow. Initially I invested in potions, plant aloes, all-natural oozes I could smear in radioactive hues across my cheeks, forehead, nose. When that didn’t work, I began to think, maybe, the problem was the drinking.
I guess I’d been indulgent. My stomach was cobwebbed with broken booze veins, and most days my heart felt engorged, laboring against its own weight. Of course, this was in a town where everyone had a face like a rubber mask designed to look like a face. I had enemies, people who wanted to vanquish me in dark, cornered places. My solace, then, was the whiskey in my coffee, the malt liquors plugging my apartment with their fruity-rotten, almost tropical reek, and naturally the bars, the bars, the bars.
But my face. Did you know they cut the cocaine with baby laxatives? Mornings I endured paralyzed, transfixed, cradling my stomach as I watched the sunbeams crawl along the walls, strips of skin peeling below my eyes. Do you remember all your childhood birthday parties? My face was turning to confetti.
What I mean to say is those days I wanted to experience nostalgia, a kind of practiced longing for myself. There were other parts of me I was certain I’d lost—silk ties, car keys, all my discarded hangnails—but what did I have to show for it? One night things got so desperate I brought a woman home, although she commented on the bareness of my walls and left when I took out the whiskey.
The truth is, I yearned for love, but I was not a salesman. The knack for eye contact eluded me. Perhaps, I would think in those days, perhaps if I had a cowboy hat…
On the beach I tried things on. Seaweed and carp. They dangled from my skull like dreadlocks, and it occurred to me that no one buries a dead fish—you’re supposed to leave the body there on the shore to glitter. The rum, all this while, floundering in my gut.
That’s when I had my brightest idea. There was this dead jellyfish, and I stretched it across my face like a swimmer’s cap. The texture was somewhere between plastic and lotion. Wearing one of those, it’s like the whole world’s gone to fog, and even in the dewy light of the bar there was this mucus greyness.
I felt, in short, impenetrable, like a manmade lake. I felt like I’d put fifty secret fortresses, all with complex passwords, between myself and my enemies.
And more importantly, I could go inward, dive deep within myself, and finally start remembering birthday parties I’d attended as a child. So many sunbaked Augusts spent staring at the bottom of swimming pools, the light down there golden, distended, rippling. I’ve been drowned at enough of these functions to know that’s the thing about distance—how beautiful it grows once it refracts.