I miss my face, the one my parents gave me. It was the color of oatmeal and had an awkward smile that never lined up with my eyes. No one ever knew if I was happy or confused.
Practically though, having a face that changes every week hasn’t been hard. It started several weeks into lockdown. Computer programming already allowed me to work from home, and none of us wanted to turn the cameras on in 2020. We still don’t.
Avoiding people in the flesh is easy. I just hang out online, trading dark bars and happy hours for the neon glow of our new digital world.
There is little chance of seeing family. I don’t have any siblings, and my mom has been stuck on the other side of the world for a few years. She had a panic attack on a trip to Malaysia. The guy in the middle seat helped her through it, but it broke her even more than my dad’s heart attack. She refuses to fly again, so now she lives in Borneo.
I often think of her while I work, tapping my laptop like I’m sending morse code to Southeast Asia. I don’t know why I can’t bring myself to just email or call. Flying is out of the question – I wouldn’t get through customs with a passport that never looks a thing like me.
I did grow attached to a few of my faces, especially the one so narrow and angular I reminded myself of a great blue heron. I kept staring at a partitioned mirror, fascinated by how my long, elegant profile collapsed into a small point when I looked at my reflection straight on.
After two years and over one hundred changes, I’ve grown numb to faces. I don’t look in the mirror, and I have no idea what color my eyes are. I don’t notice other people’s faces anymore either. Everyone is smudged, like the man with a scythe in Van Gogh’s hay fields.
Every night I drink cold, stale coffee to fight off sleep, trying to delay the inevitable, the nightmare that will wake me in the night – that my mother has returned to surprise me, but we keep walking past each other on the city’s cracked sidewalks, neither of us able to recognize the other.