THE NOSE ON MY FACE • by Mary J. Daley

The nose on my face is rare, perhaps historical. It’s a little fleshy and has a bit of a hook. It’s from my mother’s side although she hasn’t worn it since she was four. The last one to wear it, whether proudly or insecurely, throughout her entire life was my great-great-grandmother. If you’re wondering, I wear it proudly. I enjoy being an unaltered person in a world that doesn’t put much emphasis on that anymore. Regardless, after fifteen years I am now forced to part with it.

You see, I had a major reaction to the cosmetic glue during my stage one surgery when I was four. I almost died. My mom wanted to line me up with another surgeon, but my father got wind of it and stole me away in the night.

We ended up in a small naturalists’ compound near Lima, Peru. My father thought it best that I grew up around other unaltered children. We lived there for eleven years. The compound was high in the mountains and the only pills I had to take every day were the ones for radiation, and I got to eat things like real fruit. The ones you can peel.

My dad was not a true naturalist. He was just there for me. Like my mom, he had all four of the mandatory stages of childhood cosmetics. He also had muscle-shaping surgery during his teens because he was sport-inclined. And in his first year of University he had a partial brain remapping because he was interested in pursuing a career in particle theory.

However, after my near-death mishap he changed his views about human alterations, and started reading a great deal about natural selection, non-adjusted progression and the benefits of real-time aging. He began to share many of the naturalists’ views, like how cosmetic selection in humans had actually altered human evolution and the natural development of our species.

But the real reason my father became a born-again naturalist was because he loved me and he feared that another attempt at surgery might take my life.

The people at the compound made us feel very welcome, and I fitted in well with all the other unaffected children. I enjoyed my stay.

Unfortunately, my dad died two months ago from eating untreated appleberries, and my mom traveled the distance to fetch me home. She was simply horrified to find out that I had not one single enhancement in all that time. Not even corrective braces for my teeth, so that was the first thing she had me fitted with.

I was nervous at first around her because she is physically and emotionally perfect, and so I thought we wouldn’t have much in common, but we get along. We even laugh at the same things. But she refuses to listen when I tell her I am happy with the way I look.

At first I tried explaining what I learned at the compound about loving our natural selves, but she just nodded and told me I was brainwashed. It is so difficult to argue with a constantly calm person. It is like trying to get a stuffed animal to listen to you.

I don’t want to part with my nose. It’s mine, you know, and it fits who I am. I feel the same about my lips, chin and eyes. She wants those altered too of course.

Since we arrived back, I’ve already had two consultations with her surgeons. Since I am fifteen they believe I can undergo the first two stages together.  I guess they are not concerned I’ll have another reaction.

She prefers that I stay in my bedroom until then, but I am so bored I am climbing out of my skin. Well at least for now it’s still my skin. I think my dad would find that funny. I miss him.

I don’t remember this bedroom. Mom put up lots of mirrors and framed posters of movie stars. I think she believes if I start comparing their features with mine, I will eventually stop whining.

It’s hard not to compare, so instead I surf the Internet archives to look at the old photos of how diverse society once looked. I find reassurance in smiling faces that seem perfectly happy with their not-so-flawless or aging features. When I point them out to my mother she simply says people are different now. She’s right.

I miss my friends at the compound. I wish to go back but my mom made it too difficult to contemplate returning. Not only did she press charges over the appleberries, she made several accusations about my neglect and possible abuse. After the funeral I think they were glad to see the back of us.

Anyway, maybe it won’t be so bad. Mom loves me. And she has a great smile. It makes me wish to smile like that.

She told me that after the surgery we’d truly be mother and daughter. My new face will be the exact design that she and my Grandmother have. Tradition means a lot to them. But I think the real reason mom wishes for me to undergo surgery is so no one ever gets a glimpse of what she might have looked like if she wasn’t altered.

So, I’ll appease her, because Mom is family and she feels adamant that family should resemble family. Maybe she is right, and I put too much emphasis on my own image and not enough on hers. However, that doesn’t mean I’m conforming entirely.

I’m just waiting. I’ll wait inside my new face until the day that, hopefully, this nose gets passed down again. Cosmetic re-creation for all its praise can’t truly keep nature from marking us as individuals. So, when it appears again on the sweet untouched face of my newborn, I’ll let her decide if she is beautiful or not.

Mary J. Daley lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two daughters. Her short fiction has appeared in places like Allegory, Electric Spec, Gemini, and Moon Drenched Fables.

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