Skin Deep

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I don’t really remember my accident that well. A plump nurse in serious need of an eyebrow wax and a manicure told me that I had been practically squished by a Toyota Corolla. What an inglorious way to go down, I had thought. Had it been a Ferrari or even a Lexus, then my accident would have maintained a certain degree of dignity, but being run over by the obsolete piece of metal that was the Corolla – I considered that to be truly disgraceful.

“You’re pretty banged up sweetie, and your arm is broken, but I daresay you’ll survive,” said the nurse in a mysterious variation of a Spanish accent, waddling across my hospital room. Maybe it was the sight of her butt, a small satellite bouncing and jiggling up and down like a basketball, but I found it impossible to repress a wheezy giggle, arrogantly echoing in the stark room and enveloping the nurse’s bulky figure. Bed, IV tube and machinery rattled in tune with my laughter, even long after the nurse turned around with a puzzled look on her face.

“Is there something wrong?” she asked pointedly, raising an eyebrow in as if to challenge me. I pulled it together quickly, half embarrassed and half terrified of her petrifying stare.

“Uh, no, no, I’m sorry, everything’s ok.”

“Mmmh,” she mumbled as she started unhooking the tubes and needles and wires attached to my body one by one, generating curios popping sounds that only made me snigger some more.

“Sorry,” I mouthed when I met her annoyed glance.

“Alright, my name’s Stella, I’ll be downstairs, press the red button if you need me. You can walk around and stretch your legs if you’d like, but I really wouldn’t advise it. Please don’t leave the room. Bathroom’s over there,” she said curtly, pointing at the button and a door in the far end of the room as she spoke, then she wobbled away into the hallway, leaving me to my own devices.

I sat on my bed in silence for a couple of minutes, uncertain of what to do with myself. I turned on the TV, played with the light switch, turned off the TV, messed with the various pillows piled behind my back, turned the TV back on again; altogether, my small frenzy of activities wasted around three minutes of my life. Smothered by boredom much more significantly than I was by physical pain, I took the brave initiative of exploring my hospital room. I walked around aimlessly for a while, scrutinizing the white walls and ceiling, and eventually my legs carried me to the bathroom. It was an ordinary bathroom all right, with a toilet, sink and shower and everything; what wasn’t normal was the face that greeted me on the other side of the mirror hanging on left wall.

She wasn’t me. She couldn’t possibly have been me, because I don’t have angry bruises swallowing my cheeks and temples, different shades of black, blue and yellow spotted around my face. A swollen, red ball composed of puss and bloody scabs nestled on her upper lip; it seemed as if it could have exploded at any second, showering the entire room with its foul contents. I gingerly raised a hand towards my face and pushed back a strand of blonde hair. I looked like a cross between a panda and a Dalmatian with a bad case of acne. I wasn’t sure whether I should be crying or laughing.

Stella burst through the door, temporarily halting the upwelling of panic rushing through my chest.

“Your boyfriend’s here to visit you. Should I send him up?” she said with audible irritation in her voice while holding the bathroom door open. It took me a while to register what she had just said, probably because I was still a bit shaken; it was the word “boyfriend” that dragged me back onto planet earth. As I heard it, I saw football fields, cheerleaders, fattening foods, leather balls, muscular men, and lastly, his face. The boyfriend’s, that is. My boyfriend’s, that same boyfriend who thought he was dating Miss Alabama.

“Uhm, actually, Stella, I, uh, I am sick. Very sick. I mean, I just don’t feel really good right now. Could you please tell him that?”

“Sure. I’ll be back to give you more painkillers in five. You shouldn’t be walking around like that though, you need the rest. You could have had some serious injuries back there, but you’re not exactly in tip-top shape either. Don’t push your luck.”
Wait, so was she actually suggesting that the disfigured blob that was my face wasn’t a significant injury?
“Ok, I’ll try to go to sleep,” I responded meekly, figuring that there was no need to aggravate her more than I already had.
I didn’t stay in bed however. Dullness has a way of creeping up on its unsuspecting victim much like a lioness stalks its prey; it’s close to impossible to see it coming, but when it gets you, it will choke and maul you until you are nothing but a miserable pile of bones and mangled flesh. I figured Stella would forgive me if I decided to investigate around my temporary home for a while, so I threw on a robe and started wandering around the sterile corridors of St. Mary’s Hospital.
After around ten minutes, salvation came to me under the form of a vending machine. I walked up to it, fishing around for quarters in my pockets, and when I found none in there, I tried seeing if I had any luck in the coin return slot. I hit the real jackpot when I looked up to see a man approaching me, however. He wasn’t anywhere near as handsome as my average conquest, but a little fun wasn’t going to hurt me; I flashed my winning smile as he came closer, exposing all thirty-two teeth, but at the same time pushing my lips forwards so they would appear invitingly plump.
“Hi,” I said, my voice a couple of decibels higher than usual.
This was when he was so supposed to reply with a warm, playful tone, attempt to engage in a conversation, maybe even offer to buy me snack. Instead, the stranger averted his eyes and mumbled an undecipherable response, slipped a coin into the machine, took a Gatorade and walked away. I was left there alone, bewildered, leaning against the glass pane still smiling out of sheer incredulity. And then finally, a few moments later, it hit me. My face was still swollen, still that sickly violet color with the red flecks of coagulated blood scattered around it, the same milk curdling wound on my upper lip.
I wasn’t beautiful; therefore, I was not worth being looked at. The logic flowed seamlessly.
I floated back to my room, a parade of thoughts surging in my mind as the wheelchairs and stethoscopes blurred past. Make-up and skin, skin and make-up and hair, make-up and curling irons, skin and lotion and fishnets and make-up, all jumbled together in my head, dancing with each other in a dangerous whirlpool. I had forgotten the point and significance to any of those items.
I flung the door open, and Stella was already there waiting for me, a cross expression legible in her bushy eyebrows.
“Oh my Lord, there you are, where on earth have you been! You’ve just been in an accident, you need to stay in bed and get some rest! Jesus, why do I get all the jumpy patients? Lay down, let me give you some sleeping medicine,” she said brandishing a small, round tablet. I obeyed her and crawled onto the rickety hospital bed like a child caught doing something wrong.
“Uh Stella,” I squeaked timidly. The pitch of my voice was high and squeaky; I cleared my throat and started again, “Stella, I was just wondering when the bruising and the swelling on my face and all that’s going to go down. Is it like–” I almost spat out the last part, “permanent?”
She looked at me with a flicker of pity dancing across her irises, “Of course it’s not permanent darling. It will be all gone in around a month, although the infection on your lip might take a while longer to heal.”
My mouth curled around the shape of an O as I exhaled in relief. Thank God. Admittedly, a whole month in there would not exactly flash by in the blink of an eye, seeing as I was already having trouble living through thirty minutes, but at least it didn’t bear the same heavy connotation as forever. I could put the vending machine fiasco behind me; I would never allow it so repeat itself. Every muscle in my body stretched and relaxed in response to the therapeutic music of Stella’s words.
“There will be scars where the wounds where, though,” she added as she placed a glass of what I took to be the medicine next to my good arm.
The scars, right, there would probably be some of those, I though as I started drifting off to sleep. Oh well, scars are not that bad. There’s always make up to cover those up.





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