Your Face is Not My Face

I was walking down 14th street on my way from—I don’t know where, therapy perhaps—and I was flagged down by one of the Greenpeace solicitors. I decided to stop and chat. I was too jaded to think Greenpeace was going to save the world, but at the same time I wanted to feel altruistic, and he was androgynously attractive, his long silky brown hair matted down by the fall drizzle. I gave him my credit card number and agreed to give the minimum monthly donation—$15—and then we went for tea. Jay had died less than four months ago. I could never figure out how to refer to him, since he wasn’t technically my ex-boyfriend since we never technically broke up. It was easier to just call him Jay.

Tom was from England, or so he claimed. He grew up in the English countryside. He spoke with the affected accent of somebody who had spent his childhood in the English countryside, or perhaps the American South. It reminds me of Nicolas Cage’s accent in the vastly underappreciated cinematic gem, Vampire’s Kiss. He plays a literary agent slowly descending into madness, convinced his lover bit him and turned him into a Vampire. He eats a pigeon, wears sunglasses at night, and rapes his secretary, presumably for losing a contract. He attacks a woman in a crowded New York City club and blood spurts from her neck. The film culminates with him lying underneath his makeshift coffin (an overturned sofa) as his secretary’s brother stabs him in the heart with a wooden stake.

But one of my favorite lines from the cult film happens when he’s sitting in a taxi next to his secretary, who had called in sick after being raped. Cage’s character goes berserk and tracks her down at home, forcing her to come back to work.

Cage and his distraught secretary are sitting in the back seat of the car and he proceeds to harass her about the lost contract.

It never just….goes away,” he mutters in his drawl to the secretary. “THE GODDAMN CONTRACT IS SOMEWHERE IN THE GODDAMN FILE!”

Anyway, Tom spoke kind of the same way.

I found out later that he was not from England, he was not born there, he did not grow up there, he had never even been there. His parents were from Canada.

One night we walk through Zucotti Park, past police horses and plumes of sage. I think we might be tripping. The police horses look disturbingly large. I see kids I know from my private university holding signs that say, “Someday the poor will have nothing to eat but the rich,” and “We are the 99%.” One of these girls used to dry-clean every item of clothing because she didn’t know how to use the laundry machines on campus. Occupy Wall Street is letting us down.

***
I am walking to my therapist’s office on Lexington Avenue.  It’s 2011. There are a slew of paparazzi crowded on the corner, blocking my path.  I’m vaguely curious as to who they’re there for, who I’m about to see. But I’m running late and more annoyed at the diversion, if anything. I’m smoking a Marlboro 27. I turn the corner, exhaling a cloud of smoke into Kim Kardashian’s face.

I didn’t do it on purpose—she was just right in my path. She didn’t seem fazed. She was smaller in real life than she is on TV. Not that I really watch that show, but somehow I know.

She’s flanked by two bodyguards and her mother, Kris Jenner.

I’m wondering for a moment if she thought terrible things about me when I blew smoke into her pristine, artisanal skin. I’m wondering where she keeps her pores.

I’m wondering if she’s a client of my therapist as well. I’m wondering if that’s where she’s coming from.

Out of all the clouds of smoke I exhale walking through the city, out of all the corners I exhale smoke on, it’s this corner, this cloud of smoke that seeps into her pores.

And out of all the city-blocks she walks with her entourage, out of all the clouds of secondhand smoke she inhales, our paths cross and we, for one moment, are breathing the same polluted air.

The bodyguards whisk her away into a limo and paparazzi follow, I’m still wondering, and then I move on with my day and don’t think about it for a very long time.

***

In middle school I was friends with five girls and we had a clique. It was always inconvenient when it came to finding group partners.

In high school our clique evolved to include several others, around 9 or 10. It was always very uncomfortable when it came time to choosing our top eight on Myspace.

Eventually four of the new additions branched off and claimed themselves as the original-founding members. They called themselves the core four.

There was a turf war between white girls.

I was always the outsider, even if the others didn’t see it that way. I was always wanting to be in somebody else’s skin.

***

Amanda Knox was on trial when I was dating Tom and seeing that therapist on Lexinton Avenue. Her trial was all they talked about on the news, that and Occupy Wall Street.

Out of all the interviews and true crime stories I watched, one sentence stuck with me. “Io Sonno Innocente.”

I would think of this late at night, when I was trying to fall asleep, as the Ambien slowly seeped through my bloodstream. Io sonno innocente. Io sonno innocente.

I told my therapist about this.

“Do you feel like Amanda Knox?” She asked.

It occurred to me at that moment that yes, I did.

***

One fall afternoon Tom told me that if I took my top off in the middle of Fifth Avenue it would help him raise more money for Greenpeace. Tits for trees.

***

It’s 2016. Kim Kardashian is tied up, robbed at gunpoint—by men disguised as police, nonetheless—in Paris. She manages to escape after pleading for her life. She might have wondered iff she was going to be raped; if her family would find out about her murder on Twitter.

No one seemed to have much sympathy.

Male talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien, desperately trying to stay relevant, made boring, vaguely xenophobic jokes.

“If we find out you harmed even a single extension on her People’s Choice Award-winning head,” said O’Brien, “We will find you and make you so Les Misérables, you’ll wish you were never born to a woman who doesn’t shave her armpits.”

Somebody I’m friends with on Facebook commented something along the lines of, “What does she expect.” This person was a woman.

It stings more coming from a woman.

***

I shaved my head on November 2, 2011. All Souls Day. Two weeks later I broke up with Tom after he got fired from Greenpeace for forging credit card numbers.

***

One day I’m walking through SoHo after breaking up with Tom and feeling like a boy in all the wrong ways. Nobody asks if I’m gay anymore; my buzz cut grew out and now all that’s left is a patchy mullet.

It’s spring and I eye a girl with lustrous blonde hair that sways with every step she takes. She’s wearing floor-length, effervescent green Palazzo pants that I know are from American Apparel. These sway in tandem with her long, hippie hair.

Since I can’t buy her hair, I buy the pants.  They’re $50 and I don’t need them and don’t really like them and I stain them with pizza grease the next day. I’m so distraught, I contemplate buying a replacement pair—for these pants I had never wanted so badly until I saw them on this stranger. What I really wanted was to feel okay about myself again. In my heart, I knew that girl would never get grease stains on her Palazzo pants.

We covet what we see every day.

***

I grow a little more every year. It’s nearly 2017. What trips me out is feeling jealous of myself at 17, 18, 19, 20 years old. It’s not that I was particularly happier or prettier or more confident than I am at 25—by far the opposite. But sometimes I think of the nights I spent alone, writing the kind of poetry I can only glean from my mind when I’m clinically depressed—chain-smoking cigarettes, not yet concerned with wrinkles—wearing “going out” tops, unironically—or taking long walks through cities in which I had no destination, and no intent on finding out.

by Lisa Di