The Girl Who Took Off Her Face by Amanda Poirier

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1. When Beth was little, she dressed up as a princess and sang songs out of her bedroom window. The songs were all top forty hits; she never picked a song that was unpopular. Beth took breaks only to eat. When I walked the dog, the neighbors complimented my sister on her talents. She’s so special. It was the refrain of my life. I nodded my head and smiled like I agreed. When the moon was up and the rats were out, I enjoyed taking the dog out to poop on the same neighbors’ lawns that said all those brilliant things about my sister. It almost made me feel better.

2. No one was ever annoyed, except me. At least, that’s what my parents said. They said I needed to find my thing. They said they would support me no matter what. When I told them, my thing was killing cats, they said they couldn’t support that, and I should find another thing. I didn’t want to kill cats but after they said no, I yearned to murder one and leave the remains in their bed. I went so far as to chase a cat or miniature tiger down the street, but when it ran under a distressed porch I ran back home.

3. The afternoon Beth was interviewed by the newspaper, my hairline started to itch. It was the kind of itch that couldn’t be ignored. I scratched and scratched, thinking I might have been bitten by a giant mosquito.
            “Please go inside. You’re making Beth nervous,” mom said.
            It might have been the fact that it was the golden hour, or the attention she was receiving but Beth’s face glowed, and her hair fell into gilded ribbons.
            “See seems fine,” I said.
Mom sighed and walked away from me. Dad followed her. I continued to scratch. My entire face burned with discomfort. I got into mom’s face.
            “It’s serious!” Mom said a lot of words, “proud,” “excited,” and “blessed.” None of the words were directed at me.
            “Something really bad is happening!”
            Dad patted my shoulder and then told the journalist that he loved being her father (Beth’s father) more than anything.

4. In the bathroom, I washed my face. When that didn’t work, I found the pink lotion that I used the time I walked through poison ivy with the dog in the woods. I rubbed it all over my face and left it there for what felt like hours. The urge remained, so I bore down and scratched with an intensity only the dog could match. The itch was the kind of itch that got worse when I touched it. Not that that revelation stopped me from trying. My hands and then my nails were in my skin, ripping apart my pores, and opening windows into my insides. I drilled into the epidermis and then the dermis until my fingers found the tissue that covered my skull. It was soft and moist. I caressed it for a moment and then I tore into it and allowed my nails to shovel it out of my skull. The itch vanished as quickly as it arrived. It all seemed like a hallucination. The pink slab of skin in the sink told another story. It reminded me of rolled out Playdoh. Beth and I always loved rolling out new Playdoh. Back and forth, back and forth: it was hypnotizing. I turned my attention to the mirror and saw images from my biology textbook staring back at me: eye sockets, sinewy lines of red muscle, white curved bones the shape of a whale’s tail, and deep holes that seemed to have no end.

5. The front door opened and closed. Beth was singing about lost love and mom and dad were jabbering like a pair of drunks:
            “What a night!”
            “It couldn’t have gone better!”
            In bed, staring at the glow-in-the-dark constellations above my head, I rubbed the muscle and the bones and stuck my fingers in the holes searching for buried treasure. I felt squishy, like a jellyfish, and hard as a seashell, and it was all so interesting. I was interesting!

6. I stood in the dark hallways and watched them sip hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows. Beth was singing in-between sips and mom and dad were staring at her fondly. I stepped out the darkness, holding the molted skin in my hands. Beth shrieked, dropped her hot chocolate with a violent crash, and ran out of the living room.
            “Of all the days,” mom said.
            “Did you even think of Beth?” dad continued, as if they shared a brain.
            I wanted to tell them that this had nothing to do with Beth, but they were already running after Beth who was in her room screaming and crying. Beth was putting on the biggest show of her life.

7. The news crew showed up because I called them. From the front steps, I watched a woman in a cream-colored pants suit step out the news van. Her hair was Texas big, and her credentials swished back and forth as she walked up the walkway. Beth sang out the window. It was loud and desperate. My face didn’t glow like Beth’s, but it made the journalist’ lips draw back in amusement and curiosity. Her hand walked across her face as if to confirm that her skin was still there. I was about to say, it’s not contagious, when she asked, “May I touch?” When mom interrupted from Beth’s window with, “how about our daughter’s voice?” I felt like giving her and Beth the middle finger. But I was better than that. Dad, of course, was nowhere to be seen. I invited the journalist to touch my face, and she probed more than expected. It tickled, and I laughed. “Incredible,” she said as she played my veins like a guitar. We moved to the space on the lawn where the reporter had interviewed Beth. She asked me what my parents and sister thought about my new look. I went so far as to say that they blamed me for my appearance. I even cried real tears. The journalist smiled at this, so I tentatively smiled back. She put her hand on my shoulder, squeezed, and then walked away.
            From below Beth’s window, she asked, “do you mind answering a few questions?”
            “I’m not very good in front of the camera,” mom said. I almost laughed.
            “How about you?” the journalist asked Beth who was still singing from the window. “
            Of course!” Beth said. I felt naked standing out there on the lawn, and wished I had a coat, even though it was not coat weather.
            Moment later, the journalist asked Beth, “your sister is so special, how does that make you feel?” Beth ignored her question.
            “Did you hear me sing? I can sing any song. Pick a song, any song, really, I can do it!”
            The journalist asked her question again, but Beth had already started singing. Once she started singing a song, it was impossible to make her stop. Then, the journalist’s body language changed, she stepped toward Beth with the same curiosity she had for me moments earlier. She asked Beth if she was interested in trying out for one of the programs on the network. According to the journalist, who told Beth to call her, “Sheila,” Beth had talent. Mom ran out of the house and confirmed that Beth had serious talent and then dad appeared and double downed, “she has mountains of talent.”

8. I went for a walk with the dog. A neighbor stopped me, looked me in the eye and said, you’re so brave. Then, she told me to tell my sister that she stayed up late to watch the Beth Show and she knew with one-hundred percent certainty that the Beth Show would be on prime time soon enough. The sun was at its highest point in the day as I guided the dog to that same neighbor’s lawn and watched her poop. As I walked away, the neighbor called to me and said that I forgot to pick up the poop. I turned around and gave her the look she had given me when she called me brave. When I got home, I went to my room, stuck my head out my window, and screamed. Not even Beth could match my vocals.

Amanda Faith Poirier lives in Rhode Island. She does not tweet or snap and enjoys coffee, like most adult humans.


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