Fiction

Rubber Face

By: Nicole Lynn

  
Photo by Daria Liudnaya on Pexels.com
   

Sometimes I remember your face looking like it was made of rubber. Smooth and supple, a canvas of silicone stretched tight over framework bones. Your smile was a malleable one. You carried around expressions like they’re cheap dangly earrings, slipping new ones on when it struck your fancy. I read somewhere that the average person smiled 20 times a day. The way I remember it, you smiled once.

It feels wrong to criticize you. The hollow look in your eye can be easily mistaken for innocence, and I am one who makes many mistakes. It’s the naivety in the way I perceive you that muddles the once clear rationale that makes its home inside my head. Deep down inside I know who you are.

When you were eleven you told me you had a dream inside your heart that would rip its way out whether you tried to stop it or not. I was only nine, and the prophecies you tried to gather in my head simply floated out the moment I opened my mouth. It enraged you. Two weeks later you broke my favorite doll. One clean wrench and the head can come right off.

In high school you had a girlfriend named Mary. She smelled like cheap perfume and Marlboro’s. You would spend the nights at her place, sticky summer nights where you’d come back smelling like sweat and booze. I’d try to force the truth out of you, pressing on your chest with my words, but all you vomited up was denial and heartbreak. I didn’t want to look at it, so I didn’t. I swept it under the bed and let it fester.

When you were 18 you stole a yellow Buick. A conspicuous car for a felony was the first thing that popped into my mind, but it must have obviously not popped into yours. All I can say was that you looked confused when they took you in. Spiky hair that was matted on one side and puppy dog eyes that asked every officer you came across just what you had done to be placed in that cell. Mom refused to post bail and I had to stand there and take your spittle and anger right in the face because she wasn’t man enough to tell you herself. I’m not your mediator.

By the time you got out Mary had skipped town. Six beer cans and a dirty pillowcase. That was all that was left when you stumbled through the crumbling door, eyes sunken in with the weight of accountability. What a novel concept. I guess you got bitter with nobody to feed you sugar.

I never wanted to be anything like you. You were twisted and smudged in all the wrong places, digging holes into the ground with the heels of your shoes. You lashed out and sunk your claws into the nearest victim, sharp talons that cut right to the quick in hopes that they’d bleed out. My skin was thick, callouses of resistance layered on those of necessity. I kept my nails filed down to the nubs, terrified my next movement would be someone’s last, frozen at the thought of sapping a life force with the same ease you had.

At the age of 24 you disappeared. The smog that had settled into the spongy flesh of my lungs dribbled out like water, and I realized that I had forgotten how to breathe without you. I seemed to be the only one that cared, and I mourned the loss of a weight only I could feel. Your bedroom became a home office. Oily leather seats and garish modern paintings that toed the line between art and sacrilege. Letting you go was a death sentence, and you were my executioner. 

Two years later I got a postcard from Munich. The stamps were uneven and torn at the corners, and I couldn’t help but think that the postal workers had delivered it with more care than you had written it. There wasn’t a date, and I shouldn’t have even looked for a return address. “Not dead” was scrawled across the painted clouds in stick straight letters. You never did like rounding your curves.

The last time I saw you was at Mom’s funeral. The tears had soaked into the carpet, and I had to lift my feet with an intention I rarely needed. You sat in the last pew, dressed head to toe in black like a jilted lover. Your love was a labor of pain, born out of bloodlines and survival. I tried to push my way through the throngs to reach you, but you had gone. I suppose I never really expected you to say goodbye.

Categories: Fiction

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