By Sara Fathima
Smooth, smooth, smooth everywhere. No ridges or depressions, no interruptions, it was all smooth, the touch burned her fingers, invisible flames kissed her skin.
It was no use, no use, but she couldn't help herself, couldn't help but stand in front of the mirror every morning, hoping, praying that she'd see something, anything. She felt her face with her fingers, searching, searching desperately, never missing a spot, over and over, trying to find a break in the appalling evenness, something, anything other than smooth skin.
She did this everyday, felt her face everyday. One day, one day, her mother had said. They'd all be there, finally. She'd have a beautiful pair of eyes, a nose and a mouth full of teeth, she would speak one day, her mother had said as she heaved her last breath.
She still believed it even after all these years. Believed that they'd come one day and she'd be the most beautiful girl this city had ever seen.
She carried a mirror with her everywhere she went, surrounded herself with them, just in case they decided to grow suddenly, come suddenly, so she'd be prepared for it, prepared to see what it should’ve been and what it was going to be for the rest of her life. Then she'd dance in the rain, feeling its every drop grace her new face. She believed that it wouldn't matter if it hurt, if the water burned her, if it poisoned her, if it seeped through her skin and diluted her very blood because she'd at least have felt it slide down the side of her nose and into her eyes. Felt what it was like, and if it had to end that way, she'd die peacefully, even as she laid under the weeping clouds, she wouldn't let loose a tear and as her heart stilled, she'd smile bright at the sky.
She has always been like this, without any features on her face, only smooth skin wrapped over her skull. I saw how the colour drained from her mother's face as she held her baby, I saw how she handed it back with revulsion dripping from her eyes.
She said that the baby wasn't hers, how could it be? It didn't have a face. It didn't have what it took to breathe, to live. I saw the desperation on her face as she begged the doctors to put it back in and stich her tear back up, to glue the umbilical cord back to the thing’s navel, to do anything it would take to get her to be normal. But nothing could be done and so, she carried her faceless baby home.
She wasn't bullied or hated, but she wasn't loved either, no one cared that she didn't have a face, she didn't make national headlines for her abnormality, she wasn’t cut open by a group of surgeons who wished to inquire what was wrong with her. She was like a machine with faulty wiring.
She had planned on naming her little girl 'Zuri' but didn't in the end, I felt like a taunt to give a faceless girl a name that means beautiful.
In the end, she didn't name her. What was a name for a child who could never hear?
She didn't have much of a life outside her mirrors. She was insignificant, unimportant, everyone forgot her, just like the way God had forgotten to give her a face. She was the last person that came to everyone's minds, or sometimes she didn't have a place, not even the last.
She couldn't breathe, nor could she see, or hear or eat, no one knew how she lived, but they simply didn't care enough to find the reason.
She always stood in the back, she insisted on going to school, she said that they'd think she was cool but they didn't care, they just pushed past her as if she was invisible, she fell to the ground in the hallway but no one halted or turned to help her, they went on with their lives, they left her behind as if, as if she was nothing, as if she was invisible.
And maybe, she was invisible after all, a single drop of oil in a vast ocean, she wasn't big enough to inconvenience, so she was just left to rot, all alone, in a pit of uncertainty and unknown.
Perhaps they didn’t even need to forget her existence. Why would anyone care about a person with no face, with no identity? she didn't have anything that needed forgetting, she wasn't a face you could easily forget because she simply didn't have one.
She spent her days alone, she didn't go to school anymore, her mother was dead and buried in a grave she couldn’t see or talk to, a woman that she loved but didn't know, a woman for whom her heart ached but her eyes didn't leak. As her mother's hand went limp in her own and as her lungs and bones grew teeth and bit off pieces of her heart, she hoped that her eyes would finally open and she could finally cry for the only soul she'd ever loved. But they did not...
She didn't love herself, she couldn't, she tried her best but how could she? How could she love a soul she didn't know if even was hers? Fancy a face she didn't have? Admire a mind that she shut off?
She dreamed of the same person over and over, a girl with soft eyes and a warm smile. She wished that when she was finally whole, she'd look like the woman in her dreams.
She didn't linger much in her mind, she did everything she could to block it all off, she couldn't bear it, her mind. She didn't have a voice in her head that told her to do things, even if she did have one, she would never understand it. Her mind was empty, she couldn't think like the others did, her mind didn't interact with her but she believed that it loved her as it showed her the smiling woman everyday. She believed that it would finally speak one day and the sound would shake the ground beneath her feet.
These beliefs were like instincts, she just knew, her mind didn't speak but it knew that she wanted a face, it knew when her mom died, it knew what she wanted to do when she was finally whole, what she wanted to feel.
She didn't like to admit it but she was lonely, she couldn't cry or scream and what is crueller to a soul to not sob as its heart broke and not scream as its soul cleaved?
She carved her face sometimes, when her heart felt too heavy, she took a blade and cut her smooth skin, she carved what she believed to be a face, from her memory of when she touched her mother's face, she shook so violently when she left her mother's face that she slept and slept for days on end, and that's when she first saw the beautiful woman.
She didn't know how she came to know about mirrors, she just woke up one day and knew that she needed them for that fateful day.
Her wounds were always deep, and lined her face with blood, blood that she imagined to be tears and after the wounds almost closed, she felt her face over and over, felt her made up face and jumped in delight.
I'm always watching her, I'm everywhere, in the mirrors that hang from every wall and the blades that she uses to draw up her face. It breaks me every time I look at her for, she is the most alluring being I’ve ever seen. Her face, a blank canvas, free of judgement and a window into infinity. I know, with all that I am, that she'll never stop hoping and praying. Even as her skin folds and her flesh loosens and her bones grow brittle. And as God takes more than He ever gave her, she'll still wake up and hope to see the woman from her dreams.
By Sara Fathima