I've Just Seen a Face
That morning I applied my makeup in thick stripes across my cheeks like tribal war paint. In a way it was symbolic, because every day for me was a battle: a battle with my skin.
I'd been suffering from acne since I was 18 years old, and at 25 my face still resembled a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with a generous helping of tomato sauce. I attributed everything I hated about my life to my acne problem: my lack of a boyfriend, my crummy temp job, my slum apartment, all my problems stemmed from my being riddled with ugly zits. I knew if I could just have clear skin, my life would be perfect.
I pondered this as I boarded the train for work that wet Friday morning. I took one of the many empty seats and placed my purse beside me so no one would sit there. Of course, someone sat there anyway. She nudged my Kate Spade bag aside without even a glance at me. I grabbed it protectively and turned to give her a dirty look.
She was an obvious bottle blonde in a lavender Chanel suit. Her legs were long and slender, her teeth were sparkling white, and her fingernails were exquisitely manicured in lavender lacquer. Every accessory she carried with her was adorned in the same shade of lavender: her purse, her umbrella, her shoes, even her iPhone was lavender. I thought she probably pissed lavender. I wanted to punch her in the face and see if she bled lavender.
She ignored me while she chattered and cackled loudly into her phone, oblivious to the annoyed glares and shushes she was getting from other passengers. “What was she thinking wearing a crop top with her figure?” she said. “All her fat rolls jiggling around! Lose a few pounds first, Honey, am I right?” she laughed and the fuzzy voice on the speakerphone joined her. “And those shorts! All that cellulite! And those stretchmarks! They made me wanna puke!”
I stared at her as she continued her raucous fat-shaming bitchfest. Her features were unremarkable, but her skin was pure perfection. It was tanned, clear, and smooth without a bump, blemish, or blackhead in sight. I wanted it. I wanted that skin to be mine more than I’d ever wanted anything in my life. I wanted to rip it off this lavender-clad asshole and put it on my face.
I don't know exactly what made me follow her off of the train. She got off two stops before mine and walked a few blocks, yakking on her phone all the way about which of her friends she thought needed a nose job or liposuction or breast implants. She went into a squat brick building that looked like it had once been a gas station. The rustic wood sign outside read “Artisan Ale LLC.” She sat at a desk in front of a large plate glass window, giving me the perfect view. I sat on a bench at the bus stop across the street, staring straight ahead, unable to take my eyes off of her beautiful skin.
Lavender did some light typing on a crappy Dell desktop, but mostly she just talked on the phone. At one point she stopped to eat a yogurt.
Meanwhile, I sat at my post, watching through the plate glass window, gazing at her perfectly clear skin. Buses came and went, temporarily obscuring my view. Passengers toting briefcases and shopping bags pushed past me. A homeless man ambled by and asked me for change, then cursed me under his breath when I waved him away. A man in coveralls instructed me to smile; I instructed him to go fuck himself. As he walked away, he called me a “fucking slut” and in the same breath suggested I was bitter because I needed to “get laid.” I silently pondered how one could be a slut and not get laid.
A woman ordered her two pasty blonde kids to sit on the bench next to me. The boy one stared at me with his finger shoved up his snot-crusted nose and a red lollipop sticking out of his mouth. “You’re ugly,” he said through a mouthful of lollipop.
I covertly pushed him off the bench while his mother was looking at her phone. He screeched and pointed his candy-coated finger at me. His sister laughed.
“Douggie, I told you to sit still!” his mother shouted, dragging him onto the waiting bus.
The rain started up again, and heavy droplets landed on my head, but I didn't move. My phone vibrated in my pocket; I turned it off. I could think only of Lavender's radiant skin and how much I wanted it.
As the sun began to set, Lavender slipped on her coat (which was actually more of a plum color), and waved goodbye to a group of bearded white men in flannel shirts and tight jeans.
Soaked and stiff, I pushed myself up from the bench and looked around. There was a dilapidated building with boarded up windows behind me. One corner of it had dissolved into a pile of dusty red bricks. I picked up a brick and held it behind my back while I waited in the shadows for Lavender to leave.
Finally she walked out and opened her lavender umbrella (even though it was no longer raining). I followed her at a safe distance as she headed down the deserted street. She stopped at the corner and scrolled through her phone while she waited for the light to change (even though there were no cars around). I ran up behind her and slammed my shoulder into her back, making her drop her umbrella.
“Hey, watch it, bitch!” she cried.
As she leaned over to pick up her umbrella, I slammed the brick into the back of her head. She grunted and fell over sideways. I hit her again, careful to avoid her face. The second blow knocked her out. I dragged her into an alley and used her phone to order an Uber.
Minutes later, a gray sportscar pulled up in front of the alley. I shoved Lavender and all her accessories onto the back seat. The inside of the car smelled like stale cigarettes. A man’s voice came from the radio, shouting angrily about how the Democrats were trying to take his guns. The driver glanced at me in the rearview mirror from under the brim of a red trucker hat.
“My friend had a little too much to drink,” I said.
He stared straight ahead and started the car, as if he either didn't hear me or simply didn't care.
When we pulled up in front of my apartment, I thanked the driver and shoved Lavender out onto the sidewalk. One of my neighbors was sitting on the stoop of my building, smoking a crack pipe while his toddler son sat on the ground, wearing only a diaper and playing with a lighter. He gave me a cursory glance as I hauled Lavender and all her lavender accessories up the steps.
I dragged her into the building and upstairs to my apartment, then dropped her on the kitchen floor. She was still breathing. I would have to do something about that. I reached into a drawer where I kept a collection of sharp stainless steel knives (a gift from a well-meaning relative who hoped I might start cooking for myself instead of subsisting on ramen and TV dinners), took out the biggest one I could find, and knelt on the floor beside Lavender. I grabbed a fistful of her bleached blonde hair and held the knife under her chin. She opened her eyes and stared blankly up at me as I pulled the blade across her throat.
Her blood wasn't lavender after all, but dark red. It seeped out quickly over her lavender suit and onto the linoleum floor, coming dangerously close to my knees.
I stood up to steer clear of its path. “Shit,” I muttered, thinking I probably should’ve put down some towels or something before I cut her.
Lavender's eyes rolled back into her head and she stopped breathing. I ran a hand along her cheek and felt her silken skin against my fingers. I couldn't wait to make that cheek mine, to feel that silky smoothness on my face instead of the icky bubble wrap texture I was used to.
My hands shook as I cut off her skin, but I think it was more out of excitement than nervousness or revulsion. All I could think about was getting that velvety soft skin off that blonde bitch and onto my face. It was the solution to all my problems.
Pulling off the skin was harder than I’d thought it would be. It was thick and heavy, and it stuck to Lavender worse than those annoying labels stick to new CDs. It felt like a bag of warm tuna salad in my hands as I wrenched it off her face, and the sensation made me slightly nauseous.
Attaching the skin to my face was even harder. The only surgical instruments I had were a travel sized sewing kit, some frozen peas, and half a bottle of Jack Daniels that had been left under the kitchen sink by a previous tenant. I think I blacked out once or twice in the process, and the end result was more than a little jagged and uneven (I've never been much of a seamstress). Still, I was pleased with my new clear complexion.
I spent the rest of the night cleaning up all the blood (hers and mine) and admiring my reflection in the bathroom mirror. When my kitchen floor was clean and Lavender's remains were in the dumpster out back, I relaxed in front of an old episode of Seinfeld. George was driving what he thought was Jon Voight's car. Classic.