by Iris N. Schwartz
From less than half a block away, her date stared at Corinne. He matched his Internet photo perfectly. Corinne raised her chin to signal him. He looked again, then turned and walked away.
She could see it in his face. Disappointment. Anger. Revulsion.
It was too soon. How could it not be? Today marked three months. Why had she let Stacey talk her into this? No, she couldn’t blame her best friend. It was her own fault, answering a dating site post with a BS photograph — a “before scar” shot. The real BS was believing anyone would be interested again, ever.
Corinne remembered looking at it, for the first time, in the bathroom mirror at her doctor’s office. It started an inch down from the middle of her left eye, and continued, nearly straight the whole way, down to her jawline. What the doctor called a cicatrix defined the left side of her face — in essence, bisecting it. The scar was medium-thin, mean. It didn’t belong. This was a Cubist painting. This couldn’t be Corinne’s face.
Now sitting on a bench in Father Demo Square, the twenty-six-year-old felt sweat bead her hairline. Her right-hand fingers started shaking, and then the entire hand performed a sort of palsied dance.
Corinne breathed slowly and deeply. Her hand grew still. Then, a brain hijacking: the thought, I am going to look like this for the rest of my life.
No, oh God, no. Perspiration spilled down her forehead; tears and sweat traveled to her cheeks and chin. Her eyes burned from melting makeup. She hurried through her tiny date handbag for tissues, located a single crumpled one, and gingerly pressed it to various sites on her face and neck.
She pictured the muscular man on the bench across from hers enveloping her in his arms, stroking her hair, whispering, “Corinne, you’re a beautiful woman.” Of course, Mr. Pecs was probably gay. If not, he holed up in his parents’ basement ─ where he cherished a thousand-dollar action-figure collection.
No man would ever call her beautiful again. And if one did, he wouldn’t mean it. Not with her Georges Braques face. Her broken face.
Two months later
Stacey asked, “Why don’t you place an ad, instead of answering one? You’ll have more control.”
“What do you mean?”
“You say who you are,” Stacey continued, “and what you want. And this time, if you feel ready, you can post a photo of how you look now.”
“I don’t know….”
“The Derma-Cov does a really good job, and the scar has faded somewhat, hasn’t it?”
“I…I…I don’t know.” Corinne looked down at her lap, started twisting the napkin that came with the uneaten Italian rainbow cookies. Hard to believe, but she had no appetite for Rocco’s cookies today.
One month later
Most of the waiters at Rocco’s nodded and knowingly smiled when she walked into the patisserie.
Corinne sat at a table facing the entrance, clutched her cell, and glanced down at her scar date journal while waiting for date number five.
She scrolled down to scar date number one: Nick. He told her she looked like a superhero; the scar was “cool.” What else, Corinne had wondered, did he find cool? A broken leg? Heroin addiction? Acid in the face? She shook her head. Nick was thirty-four going on twelve.
Corinne shut off her cell, looked up. Still no sign of date number five. She dove into her handbag for her mirror compact. The cicatrix taunted her. Of course it was still there. She could see it under Derma-Cov and foundation. Where would it go? Onto the cheek of the flawless blonde cashier?
Corinne pulled at her fingers, then opened the phone. Scar date number two: Sean. Told her he was built like a football player. Sean had a pleasant face, dark blond hair, smattering of freckles. He was, however, built like three football players. Or a stadium. Plus he’d just come from playing the game with his ten-year-old twin sons, so he smelled like a football locker.
Corinne was still focused on her phone when she heard a deep voice. “I believe this chair is for me?”
She looked into the eye of thirty-year-old Rob, who sat down before she could speak. He had not posted a current photo.
Rob explained he’d been in an accident, had lost sight in his left eye ─ which is why it was milk-white. Corinne didn’t know whether to look at one eye or attempt both. She wanted to leave, but Rob was saying that every date who spotted him after his accident walked away.
“Maybe because you lied to them,” Corinne said. She no longer cared what she said. This situation didn’t have legs.
“Post a pic of the post-accident you,” she offered.
Rob waved both hands in the air. “Then no one will show up.”
“You showed up for me.”
“You’re a beautiful woman, with both eyes working.”
Corinne snorted. “What do you want? Why don’t you put a black patch over your left eye, wear a sexy poet shirt, and walk around with a parrot on your shoulder? Women will think you’re hot!”
“I think you have something there.”
Corinne stood up, smiled at the cutest Rocco’s waiter. Then she looked at the melancholy man at her table. “Bye, Rob.”
The scents of pungent espresso, sweet pignoli nuts; the touch of the manager’s hand on her shoulder as he guided her to the door ─ everything palpable was waiting.
* * * * *
"Cicatrix" was originally published in Use Your Words.
Iris N. Schwartz's fiction has been published in many journals and anthologies, including Anti-Heroin Chic, Five-2-One, Litro, Pure Slush, Jellyfish Review, and Spelk. Her short-short story collection My Secret Life with Chris Noth was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. Shame is her latest collection.