Monday, February 07, 2011

CLOAKED IN WET FROST

After the shower, his body half-dry, his towel tied precariously around his pencil-thin waist, Perry popped his forehead’s first pimple between the thumb and index finger of his bony left hand, pinching tight, twisting almost like he was giving himself a purple-nurple, but this was not his nipple being tugged but the first honest and actual zit of his life, and looking at his small but intent movements in the bathroom mirror that hung over the sink like a glassy, glossy judge of all that he was and all that he probably would never turn out to be, he was kind of surprised at how much stuff could be squeezed out of something so tiny, red and white gunk suddenly splattering on his forehead in a rapid wet burst, almost as if he’d squished a bug on his brow, it was that unexpected and quick. A ruthless urge to smear that stuff across his finger and take a lick as he would with leftover ketchup on his plate after the fries were all gone came and went as fast and annoying as a mosquito’s low whine or a great fart still unleashed. He didn’t end up tasting this weirdly personal and glossy combination of various liquids, but he did spread it around his forehead for a little while, wondering what the white of the pus and the red of the blood would look like when they both merged together. Didn’t look like much of anything, turns out. Just a vaguely pinkish blob, a bland colour he might have accidentally while created mixing some paints in second-period art class. A tiny, slightly disgusting combo of internal juices, exposed. Perry stared in the mirror at that tiny section of his face now momentarily scarred, and he watched himself watching himself, and he wondered if this is what happened the moment you died, that somebody on the other side identical to you gave you the once-over, added things up. Decided what you were ultimately worth.

Vanessa’s annoying whine seemed to hike its way on its own up the stairs, quickly followed by his mother’s fervent declarations about something or other that thankfully lost its way in the ten-step short rise from the kitchen to the bathroom. If Perry eventually did get judged as to whether or not he was going to that fluffy-cloud-wonderland up above, or the pitch-fork-firestorm down below, he figured that the second option, should he be sent there, might turn out to be less of an excruciating eternal-burn and more of an unending sonic combination of a) his older sister's low moans and b) his mother’s endless proclamations and dissents, an unholy duet that would serve as the background chorus and curse for all eternity's song.

Well, fuck it. He wasn’t there yet. He tried to tune out his family’s morning ritual of vehement defiance intermingled with the occasional crunches of cereal and toast, settling on a lesser frequency, one almost inaudible. That zit hadn’t made much of a sound when it went, and that was the sound he was looking to dwell in for awhile, the sound of pretty much nothing at all.

That empty-echo sound he was after suddenly reminded him of something noble and gross. The other day, Tuesday or Wednesday, while walking home from school, Perry had seen a dead rabbit on the side of Highway Six, its dirty white fur all bloody and pink and almost the same colour as his freshly-popped zit. Probably been bounced off a car as it hopped across the road. Roadside gravel its grave. The eyes perfectly still, with that glassy, puzzled gaze that all rabbits seem to have, dead or alive. He saw a lot of dead animals each year by the road, small dogs and big cats and even the occasional deer, but this one had kind of got to him. Just sprawled there. In that oddly empty January silence. The same way he had wanted to take a taste of his pimple once it was gone, he had been tempted to bend down and rip off a hunk of its meat, bring it home, cook it up. A form of respect, almost. It wasn’t going to do anything anymore, that rabbit. Eating it might have been a way of performing some sort of mild grace. Once you were gone, you were gone, so whatever was left had to be used.

Perry told himself that he should probably go out and get dressed, but he lingered at the mirror, the way he sometimes did in the hallway when the blondes and brunettes passed on by, pretending to fiddle with the click of his lock’s rigid combo. Studying himself now, in the same shy and coy way he’d study those cheerleaders, those big-boobed bouncy sprites who seemed to glide straight out of his life and into other realms of existence. Did they, too, stand before mirrors and ponder their pimples?

A great sense of loss and confusion moved through him, almost like a wave of pure puke. Now that the zit was gone for good, he kind of wanted it back. Too many firsts were happening all at once. A couple of weeks back he’d found the first pubic hair of his life sprouting on the edge of his sac, solitary and black, alone in its sway. It was kind of like losing a tooth. That same feeling of loss and elation. Something was gone, he wasn’t sure what, but something else giant was coming, and he wasn’t quite sure what that would be either. If he plucked that dark hair from his testicle's edge, would others emerge to take its small place? For some reason the scary but thrilling sound of a train gathering speed sounded clear in his head.

Now this pimple had arrived and then left, and what was next stayed unknown. There was a whole constellation of budding blackheads now spread across his rather ample forehead, and he supposed they would soon sprout and mature into full-blooded zits. Would he kill all of them like he’d killed that first one? Run them down like that rabbit on the edge of its road?

The steam from his shower had now filled up the bathroom completely, clouding the mirror. He could see only part of his face, the left side. Or, rather, the mirror’s left side, which made it his right side, in real life. Why were mirrors designed to reflect life only by way of its opposite? He stared at his half-face in that frame and decided to stay in this spot until the whole thing got misty. Let all this condensation on glass cloak his face in wet frost. His mother’s rants of the morning and his sister’s grand sighs still offset his raw poise, but he accepted their noise as he would department store muzak. All he wanted right now and forever was to just stand here and stare until what he saw staring back was completely covered in cloud. He wasn’t sure how long that might take.

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