In my dreams you are Pasadena heat during that dankless summer in which it didn’t rain once, despite frequent gray skies. The skies were gloomy because of the wildfires that erupted, spreading their ash into the air, into our mouths and chests. A Northeast girl at heart, I craved rain, static-filled humid calm before an explosion. But you were a dry heat, calm, barren. My hair is bewildered by you.
Maybe you scare me. But I don’t think that’s it. I come from generations of women who delivered sturdy babies themselves in shtetls and plucked shards of heartbreak out of their chests. We have the same sturdy noses: OK at the slope but with a rounded tip, just enough to prevent a face from ever being classically beautiful. I will grow into the face of my mother, who tells me that I will someday cherish my chubby cheeks because they will keep me young. I try to remember this when my professor asks if I’m bulimic. But you don’t know this, any of it, because you never asked and I never shared.
You have a worse nose than me. It lies on your face like an inherited footrest. It is there; it serves a purpose; it honors your dead grandfather. A man can get away with an ugly nose, because he can pass it off as character. As if below the surface, there is something more that is masked behind bulbous shnozzes and inane dribble and dry, dry heat.
When I met you I found you dull, in the way that most men are for most of their lives. I tried to mock you, but you never laughed. Your eyes would blink, earnestly for a moment, before your brain would reject the joke, flashing “does not compute.” No outpour, nothing. I tried to remember what I found appealing about you, and could only think of your eyes. If they are the window to the soul, I think they might be deceiving. I think you have placed a landscape against the glass. There is no majesty to your being.
I am supposed to be charming on dates. Interesting, humid, exotic, thick with intrigue. I am supposed to make your palms damp. I am supposed to use the magnified mirror to check the quality of my pores, the creases in my makeup, before I see you. Put on deodorant for the fifth time, open up my eyes wide because that makes my face look better (I am told). If I smile in a certain way the fat on my cheeks can look like cheekbones.
You sit, legs spread like there is a great ocean between your feet. Your hand drapes near your crotch — is this posturing intentional? You sit, offering nothing, conversation is slow, you do not attempt to smile in cheekbone-highlighting ways. You are lax, telling the world with your body and dullness “here I am.” I sweat and I don’t know why, embarrassed by my own effort maybe, by the contouring of my nose to seem straighter. Yours is still there, bulbous as ever. “Hello,” it says. “I am here.”
I don’t even care, and yet I do, not so much about you. Maybe about you not finding me off-putting or my own nose too knobby or my voice creaky. I could criticize you, the pimple above your lip (or is it herpes?), the hunch of your back, but instead I look in. I forget how to hold my face on dates, my hands develop personalities of their own. My tongue is slow and unwitty. I speak with a mouth full of cotton. I think about the part of my hair. There is a pointlessness to it all. I contemplate you naked for a moment, wondering if your nude self is any more interesting. It’s not, I later learned.
Loneliness is a funny thing. Stepping into air conditioning on a steamy day, a second of frigid envelopment, the air numbs your bones, supermarket yogurt shopping in shorts, your skin prickles and you envision warmth again.
I remember leaving you. Standing outside in soggy boots, a rainstorm brewing. You texted me to come over. I never responded, but I found myself at your building. I stood, damp and dry, my hair curling, makeup melting off. I watched your apartment from outside, a light flickered, a head passed the window. I could have rung your doorbell, walked in, a body, warmth, entanglement, two flawed noses.
My shoes squelched in the gutter; they turned around without thinking. I deleted your number; I closed my umbrella; I gave myself to rain.
Contact Vicki Beizer at firstname.lastname@example.org .