Downward-Facing Dog By Rochelle Spencer

January 18, 2016 Comments Off on Downward-Facing Dog By Rochelle Spencer

“Namaste,” said Jay, the instructor, as he exhaled and facial yoga class drew to a close. Janice and I picked up our mats. The class had been challenging but necessary. Neither of us could afford a face transplant and our other efforts to reduce facial chubbiness weren’t working.

Jay’d led us through difficult poses, including the lip-eye-teeth Cobra: lift the top lip while winking the left eye and moving the tongue.

“I can’t close my eyes,” Janice told me. We sat at the tea shop next to the yoga studio, mopping sweat off our faces with paper napkins. “How am I going to sleep tonight?”

“Here.” I tried to press Janice’s eyelids down. They wouldn’t move. They sprang against my fingertips and made them vibrate. “You overdid it,” I said. “You’ll probably need to ice your face.”

“Mother told me if I made faces, it’d eventually stay like that.”

“Should have listened.”

“Should have. But I got another idea for getting rid of these fat faces.”

I stared at Janice’s (literally) wide-eyed expression and sipped my tea.

“There’s this doctor offering discounts–” Janice began but stopped when she saw the look on my face.

“Why don’t we just diet?”

“Not targeted or effective.”

I stared at my twin, at her thin body and balloon-like head. Our broad faces had cost us romantic partners and work promotions. Everywhere we went, we encountered snickers and jokes and cruel signs that read NO UGLIES ALLOWED. There had been, in recent years, attempts to fight ugly-ism, but it remained America’s last prejudice. Considering all this, my face burning from downward-facing dog eye blinks, what else could I say to my sister but “yes”?

Dr. Caromale had once been a gynecologist, and a good one, but in 2030, there’d been a sudden flood of ugly babies, a generation termed “Gen Ugly” by an ugly-hating media. Dr. Caromale, not one to turn down a moneymaking opportunity, did a second residency and became the country’s top plastic surgeon.

“I’m scared,” I said.

From her pillow, Janice turned to see me better. “Don’t be,” she said. “This surgery will change our lives.”

Dr. Caromale walked in then, a worried expression on her symmetrical face.

“Listen,” she said, looking not at us but at her clipboard. “Yours was an extreme case. You both have these enormous heads — big and square, like giant blocks of cheese. Your necks got used to supporting all that weight. It was hard finding a face transplant donor who matched.”

“So we’re ruined?”

Dr. Caromale shook her beautiful head. “I went with another solution. I think it works; though it’s not what you were expecting.”

With that, Dr. Caromale began unwrapping Janice’s bandages. I stared because whatever Dr. Caromale had done to my twin she’d also done to me, but I soon found myself staring at nothing. Absolutely nothing. The bandages removed, nothing remained of Janet except her eyes. They floated in the air where the bandages had once been.

“Wow,” I gasped. “I never knew she had such beautiful eyes.”

© 2015 Rochelle Spencer

Rochelle Spencer is co-editor of the anthology All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2014), a member of the National Book Critics Circle, and a recipient of fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center and the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. She holds an MFA from New York University and is currently working on a dissertation on Afro-Surrealist literature at the University of Indiana at Pennsylvania.

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