When I Touch Your Face

The woman at the desk has frizzled hair and sharp teeth. We’re old friends.

“You don’t have to sign in.”

I wave and walk down the hall.

On Thursdays for community service hours, I read to the blind.

But like everyone else on this planet, the blind have no use for books.

I have lied about the Wizard of Oz. I have re-fabricated the false past. Huckleberry Kim. The Little Women all had flame throwers. Jane Eyre died in a spelunking accident.

The worst girl is by the window, maybe twenty. I am being punished by being given her. She is being punished harder by being sentenced to me. She has no pupils. Her eyes are solid milk.

I say, “Hello.”

She springs from her wheelchair—onto sure legs, surprises me.

“You don’t need that, I guess.”

“Oh me? I’m a back flipper from way back,” she says.

With her palms, she smooths the creases of a dress overrun with gold finches. Maybe she is at an eighth grade mixer waiting to be asked to dance, but is feral and just got done foaming at the mouth through the braces. I have no corsage. My parole officer wants me to take a job at the municipal dump: night shift.

“You can tell a lot of things about a person from their hand shake,” she says.

Her hands are like frostbit ice cream.

“What does mine say?”

“You were in a fire.” She grins.

I sit down on the bed. “Yeah, I was in a fire, Nancy Drew.”

She plops down in her wheelchair, proud of herself. Probably somebody else in the home told her about me already. They’re kicking field goals with me here. The blind have no love for me either.

“How’d the fire happen?”

“Ah shit, shut up. Why you roll around in a wheelchair if you don’t need it?”

“I like to bump into things, demolition derby-style. I’ve listened to them on TV. They sound fun. I’m tired of feeling around. How’d you get cooked?”

“Oh it was stupid. I was trying to set my motorcycle on fire. I was trying to blow it up. For the insurance money.”

“What’s it like to ride a motorcycle?”

“I’d feel bad describing it.”

“Probably feels like being a loud bird I’d guess. Did you hurt anyone else, burning the bike?”

“Just me.”

“Do you want to feel my face?” I ask.

“No, that’s okay.”

“Don’t you want to know what I look like?”

“I can tell from your voice and the things you say that you’re ugly, but don’t take that the wrong way. It’s the tone of your voice.”

I laugh. She’s right. I say, “You’re no looker either.”

“We make a good pair, an asshole and a blind girl.”

“Well, you’re not just blind, you’re also an asshole.”

She stands from the wheelchair and walks over. “I changed my mind, let me feel your face.”

I close my eyes and she runs her fingers across the rippled folds of my cheek, my brow, my chin, my twisted nose.

“You were foolish,” she says.

“I’ve heard that.”

“You don’t even have glasses on. Do you wear contact lenses?”

“No.”

“20/20 vision.”

She smiles again. Her teeth are perfect but for some reason still have metal braces. I let my lids fall.

She rests her fingers on my eyeballs, applies slight pressure.

With the pressure I see my blood vessels.

I see a faint purple light rising.

Then a pink.

The light becomes brighter. It transitions to orange and then white and then back to pink.

She presses slightly harder.

I sigh, completely relaxed.

“Here it comes,” she says.

This is when she rips my eyelashes off.

“Are you fucking kidding me!”

The orderly comes to the door and pushes her back in her wheel chair.

And I’m walking down the hallway with my hand over my face, just a little blood, but oh god the pain and he’s saying, “You okay, you okay? You okay?”

“I’m peachy.”

The woman at the desk says, “They love you here.”

I’m all temporary hate.

As she signs my paperwork. Hate is my world.

Two more community service hours.

“You coming back,” she says.

I say, “Everyone is hurt—everyone is angry.”

“Bout sums it up,” she says, passing my pink slip to me.

Then gets me an ice cube, slips it in a plastic bag.

I rub that against my eye.

There’s no iridescence anymore.

I step outside. Bright world, stupid world.

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