Tuesday, December 2, 2008

lopsided: the evolution of my lip

“Did you get punched in the mouth, or is your upper lip just naturally sexy and lopsided like that?” Mark Z. asked me as he swiveled around in his office chair. He passed me the Berry-Blast Gatorade he was drinking, and I drank some and passed it to Jack, because we were all re-hydrating from the night before. Jack and I were looking for jeans for me in Mark Z.’s studio, and Mark Z. had taken an interest in me in spite of the fact that I was seeing his good friend, Jack.

Mark Z. was making me nervous. He was, afterall, Mark Z., and the fact that he was known by just his first name and only a single initial by what seemed like the world to me made him intimidating. I was a little bit interested in him, in spite of the fact that I knew he was dating a well-known heiress-slash-model and, of course, in spite of Jack. Mark Z. was a fashion designer, constantly at glamorous parties absolutely everywhere in Manhattan, while Jack rarely migrated above Houston.

“I, um, got hit in the face when I was little,” I explained, while Jack picked out jeans for me. “I was a tomboy, I used to play softball, and this really tall girl named Jessica Kraft hit a line drive. Down first base line. I wasn’t paying attention and it got me in the mouth.”

“Its still swollen?” Mark Z. asked, approaching me to pinch the fatter side of my upper lip between his thumb and his forefinger. My skin immediately goose-bumped. Like Jack, Mark Z. was incredibly attractive for his age. I covertly admired his right sleeve of tattoos on his toned bicep. He was wearing thickly rimmed glasses and his lips were perfectly symmetrical.

From behind me, Jack answered for me. “No. It healed with a cyst. It’ll always be like that.”

Mark Z. released my upper lip and said “gross,” and walked away. Jack selected a pair of jeans for me and we left. On Broadway between Prince and Spring I kissed Jack goodbye, new designer jeans in hand, and I walked home, feeling heavier on one side than the other.

That night in my little bathroom I looked at my uneven upper lip in the mirror. Something about the scene in Mark Z.’s SoHo studio had left me ill at ease. I wondered if the cyst would always be there as Jack had said. How could Jack know? He wasn’t a doctor. He was just a mysteriously wealthy middle-aged divorcee with a penchant for twenty-one-year-old girls.

Dr. Steinbeck was a doctor. A handsome plastic surgeon. He was old, like Jack, but much better preserved. When I went in for my consultation with him he plopped a book of samples into my lap. Sample boob jobs. Female torsos posed for the camera, on the left side with pretty little boobies and on the right side with water balloon mammaries.

“No,” I said, “I want to scrape the cyst off of the left side of my upper lips.”

Dr. Steinbeck squinted.

“You want to make your upper lip thinner?”

He said that it would be less intrusive to pump the right side with a collagen like substance called juvederm.

“Would it be balanced, then? More symmetrical?”

He nodded. Yes. I would be symmetrical, balanced, and I wouldn’t feel so off-balance and available to critique. Dr. Steinbeck was my hero. He was also mildly handsome. I wondered if he would date someone without a doctorate.

“I even did my boyfriend’s lips,” he said, showing me a picture. I sighed deeply and let my thoughts swirl back to Jack and Mark Z. (Only, not in that order.)

It cost me $750.00 of hard-earned waitressing money for my even upper lip. The next time I saw Mark Z. I was with Jack and he was with the heiress. I sat on the bench in the back of Lucky Strike between Jack and Mark Z., hoping Mark Z. would acknowledge me. He didn’t say anything at first, but when the rich girl’s car service came to pick her up he patted my lip and I squeezed his knee while Jack played with a lock of my hair.


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