The Human Face

Of course, my shrink was two tables over watching me through the whole dinner. Not that he meant to. In fact, he probably was trying to avoid looking at me, as I was him. I did feel a bit like putting on a show, though, so I laughed often and tried to contribute as much conversation as I could with my friends. We talked about the word schnitzel. How attractive it was and how someone had to order the pork schnitzel just to say it. And then we turned to body odor. It didn’t matter if my shrink new what we were talking about, only that I looked happy. He drank a beer and ate a burger and seemed to enjoy his conversation with his wife. I had to perform at least that well. My wife, my friends and I talked about how difficult it is to tell someone when they smell. I told them the story of how before dinner my wife and I had walked into a drugstore to drop off my prescription and how I’d pointed out the cashier who was dirty and stank last time I was in. I wanted to buy mints but paid for them in the photo section instead. My wife said she felt bad for the smelly young man and we all agreed. And then we split the bill and left. My shrink was already gone so I couldn’t wave to him one more time as I exited. This would have felt right somehow. Anyway, we were outside when my friend continued a story about a fellow cast member from Jesus Christ Superstar. He’d spied his underwear once before a performance, found himself at face level, in fact. “It was as if these things had been worn by farm animals,” he said. But we had to top him somehow. This is the way we do toward the end of our visits with these particular friends. We see just how far we can take it. And so we mention the Jehovah’s Witness with a giant tumor on his face we’d seen on TV. The thing grew to cover his eyes and then his nose and mouth. It hung down to his chest and hunched him over. He had to lift it to eat. But he wouldn’t have it removed because surgery would require taking blood, which is against his faith. “You win,” my friend said to my wife and me. We then went back to the drug store to get my anti-depressants. The stinky guy was still there, and I wondered if he was on anti-depressants as well. He looked sad really and I felt bad for even bringing him up. My wife and I walked home in the dark looking at stars, wanting to see a UFO. That would be a story. I wondered if my shrink would believe me. We talked about red and blue shift and noticed what must have been a planet pulsing from red to blue to green. We passed by a house where a woman was out in a screened-in deck by herself watching television. Perhaps there was something grotesque on there, I thought, like the tumor guy. “Now that’s a lonely image,” my wife said. “Yeah,” I said, watching the woman’s face flicker in and out of view.