Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Thursday, 9 July 2015

What a Beautiful Face

Three scars on my body are from dead people. The first one is on my left cheek, the cheek on my face, just outside my first dimple. The scar beside the dimple is a small thin line. It’s from D’Arcy. We were three and four years old, and my mother had let us play with adult sewing scissors. I had the yellow ones, and his were orange. I really wanted the orange scissors. When D’Arcy said no, I snipped the air in front of my face. D’Arcy took his orange scissors and snipped the skin on my face. The doctors taped it together. My mother once said that D’Arcy was a strange child, perhaps because he was a test tube baby. But I started the fight. In his early twenties, D’Arcy died suddenly and mysteriously in his sleep, lying in his girlfriend’s arms. They think he choked.
My second scar blends in almost perfectly with my forehead wrinkles. It’s above my left eyebrow. The dent runs seamlessly into my lines of premature ageing. This scar is from Yarrow Viets’s s goggles. A swimming collision. My fault. I was always so focussed and obsessive that I did a terrible job looking in front of me. We were doing a bunch of 300’s when we crashed. I remember Yarrow covering her eye and weeping so delicately. I have never been a delicate weeper. Yarrow Viets was very beautiful. For the rest of practice, she rested. I plowed through, logging in 5000 or 6000 meters. When I got home, my mother pointed out that my forehead was cracked open. This time, the doctors closed up the wreckage with glue. On June 18, Yarrow Viets died of stage 4 colon cancer.  She had young twin boys and hundreds of friends. It was unbelievably sad.
My last scar is from Simon. A vague, faded red blob on my left thigh. All of my dead people scars are on the left.  This one happened on a Saturday morning. My friends Bobbi and Fern were going to pick me up and drive me to an A.A. meeting. Fern says that all the addictions are kind of the same, and so you can go to A.A. even if you just only have an eating disorder. Well, I love A.A. meetings. And I have put in sincere time trying to be an alcoholic, with minimal success. So I was getting ready. I had just poured boiling water into the French press when someone unlocked my door. It was Simon. Without thinking, I pushed down the plunger. The spout was open and coffee spilled all over my left thigh. Simon gave me ice. He asked if he could come to the A.A. meeting. I said yes, but I was terrified he would say something obnoxious and embarrassing. He did say something, though it wasn’t obnoxious. It made me kind of proud.
“Hi, my name is Simon.”
“Hi Simon.”
Simon was nine hours sober. He told us a story about him and his pop. They’d been going through rough times, not really communicating. Then a couple of days earlier, they’d had a moment.
“We were together, and my pop said something touching. And I knew that I loved him. And I felt at peace. Or close to peace.  And… I’m just glad I was sober.” With that, Simon started sobbing. He went up to the front of the room and took a beginner’s A.A. chip. At the end of the meeting, there was coffee and doughnuts. Everyone went to shake Simon’s hand. His was the share of the meeting. Simon basked in the doughnuts and the handshakes, until Bobbi cut in. “Good share. Let’s go,” said Bobbi, always down to business. For months, Simon said this over and over again. “Good share. Let’s go.”
The burn on my leg looked horrible and purple. I was afraid it would lead to blood poisoning, and that this would lead to amputation. Bobbi and Fern dropped us off at my shitty downtown apartment on Overdale Street. Simon and I fucked on my disgusting futon, on my disgusting floor. It felt like the start of something redeeming.
That afternoon, Simon brought aloe vera to the swimming pool where I was a lifeguard. That evening, he got drunk again. Everyone knows that Simon jumped off his apartment building on January 4th. Since he was a child, he always wanted to know what it was like to throw himself in the air from way up high. For three to seventeen seconds, I guess he got to know. His building is so high.  I brought daisies to the rooftop last Sunday. It was Simon’s 36th birthday, so wet and dreary and cold. I couldn’t look over the edge.
Good share. Let’s go.
I once helped get Simon a job, working with a man with cerebral palsy at a day centre. The man’s name is Antoine. (I changed it for the blog) It is nice when men with disabilities get to have male caregivers. So many caregivers are female and they’re lovely, but when you’ve been surrounded by women for much of your life, maybe you appreciate a change. Simon didn’t view Antoine as someone he had to take care of. He wanted to be his friend.
I feel so ready to give my inconditional love to someone like Antoine,” he wrote.
I just looked up these words in our old emails. In my head, I remember him saying: “I am ready to go crazy and open my heart and give Antoine all of my love.” He was so excited. Right before he got the job, he’d been kicked off welfare. Now he wouldn’t have to do so many drug studies for cash.
Together, Simon and Antoine had a wonderful blast. The teacher gave lessons on pictograms and phonograms. Simon made jokes the whole time, and Antoine burst into one fou rire after another. Fou Rire, crazy laugh. For an entire year, they worked on a text about hot dogs. I never got a chance to read it. Even after Simon left the job at the centre, he and Antoine used to go out for movies and hamburgers. Last fall they went to a safari park. There’s an amazing photo of them in the car. Simon’s feeding a camel a carrot. Antoine has this radiant and exquisite smile all over his face. One day after the movies, they went to McDonald’s. Together, they bought extra hamburgers. Simon led Antoine into the street where some kids were squeegeeing cars. Antoine gave the kids the bag of hamburgers. In this little moment, there must have been something for everyone.
On Sunday, June 28, I climbed the stairs of Simon’s apartment building. There were 23 floors, except the 12th floor skips to the 14th. Our world doesn’t believe in anything, and still, nobody wants to live on the 13th floor. Simon’s stairwell was grey and stark, with no windows. Like a prison cell made out of stairs. Layered in heavy clothes, Simon used to climb up and down. He wanted to get sweaty and skinny, without having to see or talk to anyone. Fair enough, I suppose.
My arms full of daisies, I climbed up. I peaked at the eighth floor, where Simon used to live.  As though gazing down the carpeted hallway would bring some sort of closure or revelation. Not really. At the top of the 23rd flight of stairs, the door was locked. It led to the pool. From there you could climb up onto the roof.  Some guy who was doing his laundry let me in.
“My ex-boyfriend jumped off this building in January.” Right away, the guy dropped his laundry hamper.
“Sorry about that,” he said. I stood on the lookout for a while, staring at Mont-Royal, the financial buildings, the wet streets. During my first year creative writing class, some girl wrote story about a woman with a dead boyfriend. It opened with the girlfriend standing in the rain carrying flowers.
"It is raining. I am wearing my shiny red dress. I am standing at your grave and watching the puddle form in front of it. My shoes are getting muddy."
Simon adored this beginning. Excellent, he called it. But my writing teacher said that its potential for narrative development was limited. “Her shoes can only get so muddy, and her dress can only get so wet.”
On top of Simon's building, there were stairs that led down from the lookout to the rest of the roof. It was covered in medium sized stones. I ducked under the yellow danger tape, and climbed down the stairs. Walking around the periphery, I remembered the rooftops in India. Under the moon or in the hot sun, I would sit there and think about the orphans. I could only stay for so long.
I had meant to throw the daisies off the building, but it was too high. Using a random cement block, I wedged them into the Northeast corner. That might have been where Simon jumped. I’m not sure. I picked one of the daisies off the bouquet, and let it go. I couldn’t see where it went. I was wearing my bright red raincoat. It was totally wet. So were my shoes and pants. I could only stay for so long. Before I left, I took another daisy. This one was for Simon’s front door. As I placed the daisy in the door frame, I listened for noises from inside his apartment. I heard nothing.
That day, I was out in the rain for so long that my teeth started to chatter and my hands went numb.
The End.

Title Inspired by all the beautiful faces, and by the Song, "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." Neutral Milk Hotel. It is the new song of my life.
 "What a beautiful dream that could flash on a screen in a blink of an eye and be gone"


  1. God, you're a good writer, Erica. Heartbreaking and beautiful.