The Choir of Disembodied Faces

The sharp edges had gone. Fingertips dragged dumbly through clay, the sphere turned what could only be described as a misshapen lump, nothing more, nothing else. She had taken for granted discerning this nose from that nose. Instant cognizance was a given, before. And now: amorphous and yet not unfamiliar. Too familiar, in fact. All too familiar. All was too familiar. Each rubbery edge felt right, fled—with great speed and certainty—down that neural pathway screaming, “Ah yes, I know you.”


The particular quadratic equation that calculated the curve of that top eyelid and that mound of cheek, each swirl of pores, the hue differential between nose hair and nostril. She had seen this face before, if in another configuration. A flipbook of police artist facial features. Instantly found, instantly registered: Ah yes, ah yes.


Samuel Beckett and André the Giant in a pickup truck talking about cricket. The right front fender dipping toward the ground, the roof peeled back, windshield burst. Godot in the back, sprawled out in the truck bed like a for-hire day worker.


Two pairs of blue jeans: one worn, one not. Hidden in the back of a closet, the left cuff frayed where the bottom of the leg meets the top of the shoe. The zipper burst, beyond repair. The Dorian Gray of casual wear—doubled, decaying, out of sight, always in mind. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants did not fool thirteen-year-old her: there is no generative magic without depletion elsewhere.


Samuel and André, their matching denimed apple bottoms bouncing on the pleated leather seat. “Of course they fit us both.” “Your cheek mound is my cheek mound.”


The ability to distinguish between two nose bridges, evaporated; an illusion from the get-go, a construct of the collective imagination, she knew. Every neural pathway forged, open and ready for business—it was all there, they were all there. “Hi there! Oh my, it’s been ages! When was the last time? Must’ve been second year of uni, right?” She observed as familiarity reached critical mass, collapsed into unrecognizability. Surfeit of certainty inverted into vacuum of echoes. She was so confident she could cry.


Dexter, sinister: the one eye watches the other, watches the other, watches the one.


It was Samuel and André, holding hands, waving goodbye.


Zil Arthur is a writer based in Canada.

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