12.01.2010

The Nose on One's Face


[Note: It's definitely been a while since I wrote some pure fiction pulled straight out of the air. Critiques invited by all.]

Big nose. Actually, enormous nose. Big enough to store farm equipment in. The kind of disfigurement that makes you realize why some plastic surgery should not be considered "elective." Sure, God gave it to him, but couldn't one argue that God also gave us rhinoplasty?

Rhinoplasty. Now there's a word that doesn't exactly feel good spilling out the mouth. Rhinoplasty, he thought. "Rhinoplasty," he said aloud, and as he did, he felt heads in the waiting room turn toward him. He didn't need to look around to know that he'd slipped. He didn't need to see their faces to know that his voice had invited them finally take a good look at the monstrosity that had brought him to this place. He had felt their eyes on him when he had first walked in, but they were more discreet then, peeking over opened People magazines, pretending to stretch so they could twist their necks and hide their faces behind their raised arms, dropping things accidentally-on-purpose so they could stare up at him from the floor.

Pathetic, he thought. They are pathetic in their unsneakiness. They think I don't see them. Puh-leeze.

Pathetic, he thought. I am pathetic in my patheticness. I see them. I see them wishing they could get a really good look at me and burn the image of my supernaturally unnatural face in their brains so they will have an interesting story to tell to their spouses at dinner or to their coworkers at happy hour or to their neighbors at the block party about the circus freak they saw at the office where beautiful people go to be made more beautiful. Quidnuncs, he thought. I see them in their smugness, in their silent gratitude that they are, however imperfect, not as hideous as I am.

I see them. I see them see me. I wish I were unseeable, he thought.

He pulled the rim of his baseball cap down a bit. Checked to make sure his sunglasses were still on. Flipped the collar of his jacket up. Yanked his scarf into position so as to cover just a little more of his face. Pulled his iPhone out of his pocket, bent down over his lap, and pretended to be engrossed in whatever it is that keeps normal people attached to their portable technology. But I'm not normal, he whispered. I'm not normal now, but I will be. I will be.

He opened his email. Fourteen new messages since he had checked just an hour ago. All from women. Some he knew, some he didn't. Some old, some young. Some attractive, some super attractive. All of them out of his league. All of them asking him out, calling him sexy, making indecent proposals, describing what they would do to him if given the chance, professing crushes and infatuation and even love. But he knew they were all liars. The world is full of women who get off on mocking the ugly guy. Bitches, he decided.

When the nurse called his name, he didn't notice until the third time, and again, he felt the eyes of the room on him, silently piercing him with their pity, disgust, curiosity. For the last time, he thought. "For the last time," he said aloud, and he got up and followed the woman in scrubs from his old, pathetic life to the beginning of his new, normal life.

* * * * *

He never knew that when the door closed behind him, people in the waiting room shifted in their seats, uncomfortable with the thoughts and wonderings and imaginings that had started in their stomaches and been climbing into their chests and up their throats longing to burst from their individual and collective lips as they had stolen glances at the man in the baseball cap and sunglasses and flipped-up collar and bulky scarf. Everyone made subtle invitations for eye contact with someone across from them or next to them, eager to put words to the feelings they had been holding in silence out of courtesy and politeness.

A woman, unable to contain herself any longer, inhaled deeply, exhaled a sigh that was a curious combination of relief and arousal, then said it first and said it best and without the least bit of irony: "My God, isn't he positively gorgeous?"


* * * * Same Ending, Said Differently. * * * *

He never knew that when the door closed behind him, the waiting room filled with chatter. With the door closed behind him, those waiting in the waiting room finally turned--either to those they knew, or those they didn't--eager to speak the thoughts and words that were ready to burst from their mouths as they had been stealing glances at the man in the baseball cap and sunglasses and flipped-up collar and bulky scarf. With longing and arousal and not the least bit of irony, one woman said it first and said it best and the room agreed with nods and sighs and some licking of lips: "My God, isn't he positively gorgeous?"

* * * Logophiles, which do you like better? Help! Anonymous opinions count, too. * * *

10 comments:

Christine said...

You DID use quidnuncs! And it turns out that maybe they were, but in a good way. Bravo! Or Brava!
Thank you so much for your kind words on my photo blog. You gave me quite a smile!

Happy Dog said...

First, you are very welcome...I love your photos, really.

Second, thanks for reading. It's been 20 years since I wrote my own stuff for an audience's pure entertainment. Rusty, rusty. Knowing something will be read forces holding oneself to a higher standard, doesn't it? And with ALL the writing begging for an audience, I thank you for being part of mine for however long you wish.

Jayne said...

Hello! I absolutely loved your comments on my blog - thank you! :)

Aw the poor guy. I think you got into his mindset really well. I want someone to tell him he is lovely so he believes it. Actually I think we all could benefit from a little bit of that! And I didn't guess the ending so that was a nice twist to read.

ChickenFreak said...

Ooh. I like it a lot. The funny narrative voice with the serious subject, and also a funny narrative voice that _flows_. Funny so often stumbles and tromps along instead. The details, like the dropping things accidentally-on-purpose. His thoughts as he reads his mail, leading us juuuust to the edge of the conclusion, but not handing it to us. Love that.

My only suggestion is about the fact that you give the reader the conclusion in the last paragraph, rather than making us work for it. If you just provided the scene and action and the woman's statement without any explanation, I think we could grab the conclusion and enjoy it more, because we earned it just a little bit.

And now I run away nervously. Aieee!

Happy Dog said...

Oh, Chickenfreak, you are RIGHT, dammit. And I knew it, too, but couldn't figure out how to improve it without practically burning that last paragraph to the ground and starting over. I finally rewrote it, splitting it into two paragraphs and angsting over words that have dual connotations...let's just say I guess deep down I knew why I had avoided this last paragraph: it took me almost as long to rewrite this as it took to write most of the original piece. There's still something awkward about the first sentence of the rewrite, but I want it to be long and leading. May come up for revision again; we'll see.

Many thanks for your input. Don't run away. Hit me. I need honest suggestions. My friends just tell me how great I am, which helps the ego, but not the craft. I'm sure you get it!

Below is the previous (pre-Chickened) concluding paragraph:

He never knew that when the door closed behind him, the waiting room filled with chatter. He never heard them say what he was sure they would say, because they never said it. He never heard what they said because he had heard it so many, many times before and either couldn't or wouldn't hear it. What they said was the truth, and a truth to which he was deaf and blind. With the door closed behind him, those waiting in the waiting room finally turned--either to those they knew, or those they didn't--eager to speak the thoughts and words that were ready to burst from their mouths as they had been stealing glances at the man in the baseball cap and sunglasses and flipped-up collar and bulky scarf and perfect nose set in a perfect face. With longing and arousal and not the least bit of irony, one woman said it first and said it best and the room agreed with nods and sighs and some licking of lips: "My God, isn't he positively gorgeous?"

ChickenFreak said...

Actually, I had a specific rewrite suggestion, but I suppressed myself because it seemed Wrong to get so specific. But I'll do it anyway. :) The suggestion was, starting with your original last paragraph:

- Eliminate the second, third, and fourth sentence.
- Snip the "perfect face" sentence back so that it ends with "bulky scarf".

I think that the ending would be perfect then.

Happy Dog said...

Yeah, that would have been much easier! And maybe better. I need to step away from this piece for a day or two. ESPECIALLY because I JUST realized why my last two paragraphs sound so familiar. I quite unintentionally, yet unabashedly copied the rhythm of the last bit of Guy de Maupassant's short story "The Necklace." Ugh. Have I no original thought? Must look it up now to see exactly how awful my imitation is!

Happy Dog said...

The translation I am thinking of does not appear to be online, but on Monday, I will get it out of the anthology I have at school and see how bad the stealing is. I admit that I do love that story!

Anonymous said...

May I jump into the fray?

1) I like Chicken Freak's suggestion although I felt your first ending was actually quite subtle.

2) I needed to read this twice to fully appreciate it and am asking myself why. I think it's partially because the inner monologue at the beginning is a bit long winded. Was that the effect you were going for to develop his character? I thought so until I noticed the same style in your second to last paragraph. Was that an intentional mirroring? Or was unintentionally long sentence?

3) I find the subject matter next to brilliant. This would have been trite had it featured an anorexic girl but to have a beautiful male was positively clever.

Happy Dog said...

Good question. I definitely wanted the last few sentences to be long, and actually, I think several sentences in the piece are long-ish. Looking now, yes, I think the first several sentences deserve to be considered. Perhaps that is not the best introduction to the character. But the inner dialogue throughout is important (I think) and funny (I hope), e.g., the quidnuncs and bitches thoughts. Syntactically short, on purpose. So, I will think about the intro. Isn't is funny that the beginning and end are worse than the "muddle"? I forget who said that. But I seem to do it in reverse: soggy bun, meaty meat, soggy bun. Sigh.