My Best Face

Entry by: SuzanneB

12th June 2015
Big Nose

My first serenade, you who tied girls
to bedposts afterschool while I factored
my quadratic equations across town.
Such post-coital univariates, my coefficients
twisting in on themselves while you tossed
another cheerleader’s panties on the floor.

Our mothers warned Oregon girls
about California boys the year we tilted
our noses away from the magazine smell
of Corey Haim in Tiger Beat to the Technicolor glow,
such yellows and golds, almost the smell of lemons,
of real-life Sun-In. All those blonde bangs
we longed to tangle our mall-bangs in.

California boys could tune in
the one station that played Shake the Disease
on Friday night repeat while we waited
for our Top 40 call sign to lose its static,
while I waited for you to look up from your guitar
long enough to notice I could be more
than your girlfriend’s best friend.

She, the natural blonde who went through life
sucking down free milkshakes, her button nose
sewn to the exact middle of her face
while my bumped Roman nose bullied its way into every room.

A nose like the nose of a man on the cover of Time
during the Gulf War, and didn’t you laugh
as you Show-and-Told your way through the day
comparing my photo to his,
central Oregon’s only sand nigger, you said,
and didn’t she laugh, too, knowing, in 1991,
I was cast in our play as the ugly one.

In the bathroom after last period I let my tears intoxicate me.

Finally, something to cry over,
a small town, small school, small-halled injustice
while your band practiced Smiths’ songs in the music room.
While a friend of a friend passed me a note to ride
the afternoon bus one stop past my house to you,
with your a mom who worked downtown,
with your California father who for Christmas
brought guns and CDs from L.A.
Black and white checkered Vans.
Laser discs big as dinner plates.

I ignored your request and sewed black ribbon roses
on Goodwill sweaters, my big nose alive
in the air of late spring, Junior year,
when it almost didn’t matter
that I was the before picture for rhinoplasty.

The Friday before Prom I came over. She asked
for advice on dresses as we waited in your room,
on boutonnières, on how many muscle relaxants
would pour her body out of the dance and into your arms.

She offered to go for pizza if I paid,
girls with big noses trained to always carry cash,
so I waited for you as her blondness impressed
itself down your driveway and you returned
from wherever handsome boys spent their afternoons.

In your room I arranged my hair on your pillow
in a fairytale braid almost strong enough for you
to climb and counted your Swatch watches
in the twilight heat, pretending to sleep
as the song you sang entered my daydreams,

you strumming at the edge of your bed,
the taut-stringed tendons of your arms,
legs folded under when one eye peeked
like a painting called The American Dream,
a Southern radio song all the college stations played.

Your voice the deep register singing
about losing your religion to a face lost
in its own asymmetry, never quite white enough,
until you leaned to kiss the tip of my nose,
your eyes closed, then danced your fingers
across my forehead as if checking
for a fever just ready to break.