Friday, June 24, 2011

Deformities: Mine And Thine

I only knew she had moved down to San Antonio and now that's where I was too. We'd both lived before in the halfwit conservative junk hole known as Amarillo, a place where I was always ashamed of living. I didn't want to have to admit living there because I didn't want to imply I condoned my presence there. Rather, it was just another loathed piece of my desperate life.

"She" was Teresa Terrific and we'd both worked at the same swank hotel (as swank as anything in Amarillo could be, that is). I was drifting in the universe, grabbing my get-by money doing light maintenance and janitorial cleaning while Teresa was what was called a hotel hostess, sort of like a cheerleader for the place - which worked out well because she had been a cheerleader in school. She'd always been a star.

I was thrilled to pieces she gave me the time of day and a slight but honest bond formed between us. She'd tell me about various events going on in her life and I'd tell her about...well, nothing. I had no events in my life. All I really had to offer was my thoughts on hers. Regardless, I always felt good in her presence, like a tonic for the soul. She was the total package and I dreamily wanted her. But fat chance of that.

We never saw each other outside of work. A day without her there was bleak indeed, like being left alone on the moon. But crashing her social circle would have been about as easy as trying to jump to the moon - at least in my eyes anyway. What would I even say to normal people? "Hey, Harry, what do you do for living?" "Wipe toilets! And you?" No, I could never picture myself walking into a party as self-conscious as a naked man while reeking of Lysol and cleaning rags.

So Teresa Terrific with her long auburn hair and shapely tan legs remained a bridge too far. But I never stopped thinking about her and the good feeling I got when I was with her. If only I had some place to go with it. I was pained when she moved away. Naturally someone as beautiful as she would move on to bigger and better things. She really had a gift for people (even as she secretly thought so little of many) and her magnetic personality made her that rare soul who had no enemies.

But now I had made the leap to the big city. I always wondered how much knowing Teresa was there played a role in my decision. I missed that bright light in my life. But as things fell apart for me in Amarillo and I needed to move to a real city with more prospects I had no doubt San Antonio would be my choice. Maybe I just wanted to pretend I had a life like Teresa had.

Truth is, I was still the same me. I didn't move there out of any sort of personal growth. I still stayed home playing video games, yelling at the computer and pounding keyboards if even the slightest thing went wrong. I've always lived on the edge. Nothing is more dangerous than living without courage. How the hell Teresa ever allowed a bond between us I'll never know. One thing I didn't tell her was it was the only bond I had.

Through an old mutual work acquaintance I found the name of the hotel where she now worked. This one was really fancy and I feared to tread upon its perfectly coiffed carpet and suffer my reflection in its glossy marbled lobby. I could save up my money to spend the night there but I had no business in a place like that. Disconcerted and feeling like I had "Interloper" written on my forehead, I gingerly entered the premises so that I might "accidentally" bump into Teresa Terrific.

The lights were kept to a warm glow so it took a minute for my eyes to adjust as I recognized her from afar. Her face lit up as she recognized me as I approached and my heart sang for joy. But then I noticed something completely different about her. Her face had changed, she'd been in a car wreck. In a rapid fire and earnest voice she spoke to me.

"Both my cheeks got puffed out -", she gestured to ensure I saw the bloated points, " - and I lost my left eye leaving only this socket - " again, she exposed the socket to me in a gross display, " - and my nose is flattened." My eyes dutifully noted each deformity listed but what I really noticed was the tone of her voice. It held a defensiveness I'd never heard before.

On one hand I was elated she shared these details with me just like in the old days. Shutting me out would have cruelly broken my heart. Inside I was shaking my head, wanting to say, "Who cares!" OK, so you told me, I just want to be with you! Why do you got your back up like that? Do you not trust me? Such were the things I was feeling as she stepped back to read my face.

Problem was, I had deformities of my own. I was terrified she'd see my whole feelings at last. Sure, I could say the words "Who cares?" to her but only if I emptied them of emotion first - and that would have made me sound manipulative. To me, nothing had changed, she was still an unreachable star. But from that hurt sound in her voice I wondered how many "friends" had deserted her. Admittedly, it wasn't until that moment I could tell you I didn't want her just for her looks.

Part of me took pleasure in her misfortune. Maybe the mountain can be climbed after all! Did I stand any sort of chance with her now? Had shallow jerks mistreated her to the point even I might look good to her? I wrestled with the massive guilt of these questionable thoughts and wondered what it said of my integrity if I were to seize the situation. For one flashing moment of high excitement the question all men have but so rarely speak crossed my mind: "Does this mean I can show you my dick!?"

I asked if I could meet her later after work and God be praised she said yes and gave me the time. I came back and we took a booth in the hotel bar as she explained to me her dilemma. I cannot tell you how gratified I was she still chose to confide in me. Maybe it was because I was outside her circle of actual friends, people she saw out of choice. In fact, this was the first time we'd ever been together while not working.

She said there was surgery that could be done but that it was dangerous. Infections could occur to make things even worse. She was of two minds as to what to do. In her heart of hearts I think she just wanted to let it go and think about it no more, be a free person. But I also think she feared she'd lose life's promise without the face that had brought her so much. My instinct was wholly with the former thought. You're fine, you'll be fine, life will be fine. But I suspect she found that too much to hope for.

I know that because I was struggling with the same thing. Could my loser ass, video game playing janitor ways ever be enough for her? Could she grant me access to her house without feeling shame? How could I ever knock on her door and not be sure I wasn't imposing? Dickhead Harry just wants to take advantage of her situation, doesn't he? With her original face he'd stand no chance. I asked about some of her previous friends who'd move down there with her.

Her eyes pleaded with me. "I'm ashamed to let them in the door."

Now I was really squirming on the hot seat, dying to hold her and embrace my feelings. But since I really did think no less of her, I dare not touch her lest she know everything - lest she know my own ugliness. I always wondered what she thought of me, of how I never mentioned a life worth living. Was she holding back her contempt? She could be so wicked funny when she spoke of other's phoniness! Turmoil consumed me. And fear.

I tried to comfort her but only while swallowing my feelings. I just can't be a creep and take advantage of this, I told myself. She's bound to have some real friends who'll stand by her. Even if she lets me in the door she'll kick me out later as soon as some guy realizes how wonderful she is regardless. Yes, most men are jerks but a real man will come along and thank his lucky stars. I wish the fuck that could be me.

We parted that night and I never saw her again. We talked a couple more times on the phone but then she stopped answering my number. Does she think I'm another "deserter"? Did she come to believe I was a creep who wanted her now that she was more desperate? Did she lose all trust in me, seeing I was hiding my true feelings and suspecting they were ones of disgust? I ask myself these barbs every single day.

What I dare not ask - what I dare not contemplate - was if she too wished us to be together. I certainly knew her so-called deformities were no problem for me - did she also think the same of mine? Oh, dear God in heaven. Now the light is gone with no hope of returning. I float down a river of guilt, washed away to the sea of loneliness. I could not step out of the darkness, and my name remains a mystery.

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