I’m someone they call a pig person. No one else could take the things I tell myself. I’ve had fantasies of standing out at the highway with a suitcase and maybe a small dog should I meet one with nothing better to do than follow me and subsist on half of whatever I eat, but the facts are these: we don’t live in that gentle kind of world anymore: you have to make your way differently now, you can’t just walk off the edge. In this town I still have a sister and in another town I have a mother and father: sometimes we talk, sometimes we all talk: some days they’d all show up at the diner, not together but one at a time, one per meal, and complain about each other to me: I had fantasies that two of them would someday coincide, or all three: they’d all three show up at different doors, spot me at the counter, and say the name of whoever they were mad at: they’d all hear their names ring out, they’d crumple themselves up and smile: say Mom, Dad, Harriet, Dave, Jan, etc., mosey to the counter and meet in the middle and sit down in a happy, thwarted row: I have no idea where they go when they want to bitch about me. Maybe they go there: I haven’t shown up in two months: I don’t answer the calls, or didn’t when they’d call: I got sick of being called a pig person by the owner, the manager, and especially the dishwashers: them at least I could never put up with: if I didn’t agree to sleep with them, they’d oink at me and open the dishwasher so the steam would scald my face: if I did agree to sleep with them they joked they were going to sleep with the pig person, they’d oink about it: then I’d storm in and shout forget it, forget it, not with that attitude: they’d yell at me, call me crazy, the mad pig, and I’d pull the dishwasher open and scald all our faces. That’s how it was. Then the manager would yell at me and I’d cry, I’d be so frustrated, and I’d call Harriet, who’s friends with the manager: What did you do now, she’d say, and I’d yell down the line about dishwashers and the skin on my face and her birdy little friend the manager and Harriet (I could hear her clicking clothes racks, she works retail) would promise to intervene, or she’d say, This is your lucky day, I’m in a diplomatic mood, or she’d tell me, like she did last time, that she’d done enough, she couldn’t keep bailing me out, one day I’d have to stop being a pig and get a grip on myself, otherwise I’d never work retail, metal clothes hangers would never click through my fingers, and no one would ever call me for help: think for a minute what it means to have a sister like me: I’m only two years older but I feel like your ma, your grandma, your lawyer even, I’m always bailing you out. I said, Don’t bother, don’t bother. There’s nothing we have in common besides our parents’ anatomy and a college town. Harriet never lets anyone in and I never leave anyone out. That’s how it is. Half the reason people don’t respect me is I’m too nice. Do I get angry? Yes, but only when I’m pushed too far. Other times I settle, I’m content: I like being on my own, with one or two decent people to talk to: they don’t have to be my age: I do better with old folks anyway: they know where I’m coming from, or how to value my good qualities, or whatever it is that makes them less likely to take advantage of me, though they’re not all saints. After the diner, I looked around, I read literature in doctors’ offices: between two junk shops on the main drag we have a school of cosmetology, which I thought was about space debris, but it’s really about making you presentable: applying skincare treatments and clipping hair right and the whole deal, polishing and waxing and scraping, rubbing down accretions, whatever you need to claw a decent face out of the sour, lumpen material we mostly have to work with. Every head and every body has a distinct shape, says Dr. Alexander: that’s just a main fact of living: we all look different but we all fall into a determinable shape group, and by looking at charts or laying graphs over other graphs we form a pretty good idea of how to squeeze any kind of lemon, if you will: nobody or statistically nobody is incapable of being made to look relatively good. That’s our philosophy, our Hippocratic Oath, and I’ve found him to be substantially correct although I’ve only attended twelve nights. The idea is we’re supposed to come in four nights a week and put on our white cotton smocks and plastic bag gloves and sit in a circle of foldout chairs while we wait for Dr. Alexander, who steps in from the back where he has his lab: he specializes in revolutionary skincare treatments, which we sometimes hear about, though all we know is you could go in with potato skin and come out feeling like yoghurt: sometimes we can even smell it, or some substance that has to be part of it: while we wait, we’ll hear the mixing bowls turn and scent the vapors, like old hairs burning up, and he’ll come out looking tired, remove his face shield, and stand in the center of the circle with whichever of us has agreed to be the test subject or model of the evening. Whoever it is (it has yet to be me) takes a seat in the barber chair with a sheet over her: I guess she might be wearing undies and a bra but otherwise not a lot, because he’ll lift this or that corner of the sheet and show us how he’s going to beautify a shoulder or a foot or a kneecap or whatnot: then he’ll start pulling combs and ointments out of his workbench and slip them into the pockets of his smock: he’s very calm and quiet, but he’s like a magician, or a healer, and when he wanders up to that girl under that sheet, pockets bulging and the burnt-hair scent of his labors wafting as he goes by, we snap our eyes onto his hands: whatever he does will be some kind of witchcraft: whatever body part he touches will wind up looking like fine sheet cake. For God’s sake don’t trust that man, says Harriet, he’s just a grifter: he’s bilking you. No, I tell her, the girls look good, or their kneecaps do. Do you get to work on anyone for real? she wants to know, and I explain we all get worked on. No, I mean do you get to practice on anyone yourself? And I tell her, Not yet: so far I’m not proficient enough, but I’m working up to it: right now I don’t get to try on live people, just dummies with wigs, but Dr. Alexander comes by at the end of the night and checks what we’ve done: if we followed on the dummies what he demonstrated on us: if he likes it, he nods and gives us a packet of samples to go home with, and if he doesn’t, he very gently shows us what we did wrong: then he takes out his comb or the samples he was going to give us and fixes the dummy so we won’t screw up next time. I’m proud to say I bring home samples almost every night: not every girl can make that boast. It sounds like you’re being screwed over, says Harriet: what for sure do you know about this man? I tell her, I know he’s patient and gentle and it’s very probable his work in skincare will prove revolutionary. Well, you might be right, she says, but he has a name in this town, and it’s not a good name: he preys on wayward dropouts, it’s well understood: he’s not a legitimate cosmetologist and his history is clouded: it’s known he has a criminal past, he’s unhealthy, a murderer and killer. I can’t believe that: what does that mean? Well, she says, from what I know, he served a lengthy sentence before he went into beautician work: he killed someone in hot blood: that’s what’s hard to look past. Of course I yell at her and brush off the warning: I slide into bed angry and stare at the pile of samples on my sink. That’s Harriet: that’s this town: a constant warning not to do anything human.
A Second Visit to the Priest
by Tobias Ryan
... I'm sorry you had to find out this way ...
by Jules Lewis
... the child that does not believe in the very act of his creation, that bodies make other bodies ...