Pretty in the Right Light


December 15, 2012 by The Citron Review

by A.D. Carswell


Mine is the face of a villain, a gross misshaping of a normal visage. I like my eyes, though, as blue as they are. Navy rims circling daggers that shoot silver into the blackest of irises, kind of wolf-like. They are alertly clever, one larger than the other–I think this comes from laughing, even more so than the lines that are beginning to radiate from them. The laughing mouth, which jaw distends in a huge guffaw, is a nice compliment to lights that frolic amongst the chortle-tears that occasionally flow. In eye-shadow, browns and purples work best to highlight.

When it first began, they were small, more molehill than mountain-like. I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror I shared with my mother and sister, staring at each one, visually searching for an expiration date. When they melted back into my skin, the redness remained, leaving me with an inflamed face that I would cover with makeup too dark for my face. Only pictures were brave enough to tell me that I resembled a clown. Eventually, the tiny raised blemishes began to pull my skin upward into hulking, painful lumps. One in a million, is the type of acne that decimates the face on a Job-like scale. I, too, wondered if I were being tested by God. If so, I failed.

If you truly want to feel alive, live with a deformity. Haunt your neighborhood stores, like a ghost who still thrives with the intent to disturb and rattle the mental cans in your victim’s inner soup aisle. Be so present that no one can ignore your ghoulish countenance. Be unrepentant to the discomfort that you are causing by simply being there; be hyper-aware of this, the very thing that makes you different from them. Be the one to make children ask questions, to tug on their parent’s arm and point, the one to make parents shush their children as they look anywhere but at you. Be a work of art which could only be painted by the likes of Francis Bacon, a study in warped faces–there is beauty in it.

This marked a year of my life; pocks denote the days that passed like someone scratching time across a calendar. When I felt safe that it was over, I went to see a doctor–supposedly he’s the plastic-smile fixer of all the people over at CNN. For $5000 I let him take a laser beam to my face and emerged wrapped in gauze. I was left on the sidewalk, in a wheelchair, to await the car in plain-sight of passerbyers. If not for the big sign, which clearly labeled the building as a cosmetic surgery suite, many may have had the passing thought that I had been the victim of a fiery crash, or a scorned lover had thrown bleach upon my face–I would have. Weeks later, when the oozing stopped and the skin grew back, fresh and pink, I found myself 50% improved, though still shy of ordinary.

I told myself that it was good enough, but the mirror still said otherwise. In fluorescent, shadows do not play upon faces but indicate voids in structure; I never avoid mirrors, I’m drawn to them. I’m always in search of the soft-lit kind, which make me pretty in the right light. For $1600 I went to a local doctor, whom people told me was a quack, and let him take a diamond-studded wand to my face. I was not put under but was given a small blue pill, which I was told would knock me to a place where I wouldn’t feel anything. I was aware, then he reached my temples, and I was scrubbing my face upon the molten rocks of Hell. I opened my eyes to see him splattered in my blood, his mask being sucked between his lips as he screamed, “Close your damn eyes, close your damn eyes!” I did and bit my lips until they bled, too.

I am no longer in the pursuit of ordinary, though I’m not opposed to one day letting an attractive aesthetician smear acid on my face. Maybe you could erase the scars, but you can never erase the scene of the battle. My profile is a confrontation, a slap in the face of normal, a middle finger to the shallow. Even if I find the right light, I’m just as apt to step out of its glow into the dingy cast of an un-cloaked bulb. And I would look right in the mirror, with the shit-eating grin of the truly satisfied. I really do like my eyes.

A.D. Carswell lives and writes out of Northeast Georgia. She has been published in Poetry Quarterly, Sheepshead Review, and served as both an editor and contributor to Trillium, which won the top spot in the ezine category for the 2012 Southern Literary Festival.


One thought on “Pretty in the Right Light

  1. writingdianet says:

    Oh my goodness! This is so beautifully awful. Well done, A.D..

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