- The Ugly
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i crashed my car in the middie of town watching a sundressed girl, and while the ambulance sped to collect me, I was lying on the ground next to my mashed-up car, just watching the tops of the post oaks. Cold air tapped [End Page 137] my teeth where my lips ought to be. I raised my hands to touch my face. There was dirt ground into my skin, mud in my beard; it felt like there were pieces missing—my mouth, my nose. I kept feeling for the hurt parts, until someone pulled my hand back and held it. It was June and white and hot. I couldn’t get my jaw to close, and it kept lolling back open all by itself, like I couldn’t shut up at the worried people ringing around me, me going, Good morning, good morning. Hey neighbors. Hello.
At Ruby Memorial Hospital they slept me on a white bed narrower than anything. I thought: maybe they keep the bed so narrow because it needs to fit in some other, cramped space. Under the twilight of morphine I imagined the doorways of the place getting narrower and narrower as you approached the heart of the building, until by the middle of it, the doors were too small for people. Like the bed and the doors were built for children or sticks or snakes.
Later, my sister told me that surgeons rushed in and closed up my face with needles and medical thread. Mostly I remember napping, waking up to watch bad TV, eating little cups of JELL-O with a plastic spoon. I would look at the flat and soapy-colored faces of the people on the screen—there they go: a beautiful one, a beautiful one, a beautiful one. I would try to tell them apart but I couldn’t. And I tried hard not to raise my hand to touch my face. I developed a tic, always scratching my chin instead.
When my family came to visit me, they couldn’t stop talking; they looked me square in the eye, real purposeful, like: HEY, I am looking you square in the eye. And not at your messed up face. My sister and mom discussed the size of the hospital, the shine of the doctors’ cars in the parking lot, the pattern on the nurses’ scrubs. Mom walked around adjusting the television and squeezing the pillows. She wouldn’t sit down. She kept saying it all seemed very nice, very clean; she was glad I was in a nice, clean room. Then she went to try and talk a doctor into listening to her heart, which she always thought was hiccupping, though she was the healthiest person I knew. After she left, my sister and I talked about how she would live forever.
Sissy asked, “What’d you crash for?”
“I don’t know. I guess I got confused.”
“Confused about where the road was?” She opened wide her dark eyes, the same kind as mine. She and I looked just the same when we were kids—button nose, round chin, bow lips—but she wore them better, smiling at everybody. Nowadays she plucks hairs and puts on bright makeup, and it makes it look like we’re not even brother and sister at all.
“I don’t know, Sissy. No. About the gas. I confused the gas pedal and the brake, I think.”
“Hmm.” She ran her eyes all over the medical equipment, the clipboards, [End Page 138] the tubes, the bag of clear fluid hanging above the bed. I didn’t like her visiting. The lights were yellow and when I saw Sissy wearing my self-same frown, it told me: that is not my frown anymore.
Sissy looked out the little square window to the corridor. “The hallway stinks like throw-up.” She looked back to me and touched her own nose. “How’s it feel?”
“Fine, I guess. Like nothing, ha-ha.” I scratched my chin again. “I’m like a cartoon monster, right,” and I meant it as a joke but out loud it...