And, trust me, “blemish” is the kindest, most gentle euphemism I can muster. Because in reality, the thing is throbbing. My eye squints in reflex to the imposition. My face hurts on that side. The cats, who love me (and my endless supply of crunchy treats), stare in aloof amazement.
More than a blemish or an imperfection, greater than a flaw or a blotch, this fleck began like that thread of smoke on the map in the opening credits of “Bonanza.” At first you think, what is causing that, that little dark spot?
But then the heated discoloration spreads and suddenly a flame bursts through expanding wildly. Oh my God! It’s the pimple that ate the Ponderosa! All that’s missing is the theme song.
It arose in the night, just at the lower edge of my nose and now its mounded redness extends almost to my lip on that side, giving me a sort of half-mustachioed look. And it is not a good look.
Normally, this would not be a topic of conversation or column writing, but I’m saying this pimple is of the large variety. It is so large that one cannot ignore it, no matter the quality of one’s breeding. One cannot look away. It is a train wreck on my face.
That’s right. This thing is of sufficient size to draw the eye of even the most circumspect of acquaintances and coincidental encounters. Once glimpsed, one cannot resist its hypnotic pull. It’s mesmerizing.
In fact, a friend of mine, upon her inability to look anywhere else in this zip code, told me I might as well put some eye blue shadow and false lashes on it and call it Mildred.
So Mildred it is. I only wish I had studied ventriloquism so that I could answer the unspoken comments I read on the faces of those manning cash registers around town. Yes! We had to leave the house, Mildred and I. The cats were out of treats for God’s sake.
That poor young girl in the red vest at Target – she did her best to be polite. But Mildred would not be denied a place in her consciousness. She demanded a second glance.
Then the girl forced her eyes upward to mine, desperate, searching for some kind of relief. “Did you find everything you need?” she pleads, her own eyes watering from the strain of her effort to avoid Mildred’s siren song.
She followed protocol, but I know what that girl wanted to say: Clearasil is in the Health and Beauty section. You can find Band-Aids near the peroxide. Air filter masks in the paint department. Veils on Aisle 9!
We pressed on to the post office, then Safeway. If we could, Mildred and I would shout, “What’re YOU looking at?” knowing full well exactly what that guy at Ace Hardware was drawn to: My Mildred has the gravitational pull of a black hole.
He really couldn’t help himself.
We are now five days in and Mildred shows no signs of retreat. She has grown comfortable in her new nasal digs. She thrives on the attention.
I have resisted the adolescent urge to poke and shove, my mother’s admonitions echoing in my ears, “Don’t pick at it! You’ll only make it worse!”
I am not sure how Mildred could get any worse than the swollen abomination she is, but I am unwilling to tempt fate. No witch hazel, no Campho-Phenique, no lemon, no ice, no tea tree oil will dissuade her from her full life expectancy. I’m sure of it: They would only enrage her and cause her to linger out of spite.
So we have settled into an uneasy truce, which actually means I have surrendered. My confidence drained. My spirit wan. Expectations reduced.
I am back to age thirteen, furtive and self-conscious, certain that everyone is focused on my flaw BECAUSE THEY ARE!
Mildred prevails. She has taught me her object lesson in humility. I have taped a printed sheet over the place where my face would be in the mirror. It says, “You look fine.”
Thank you Mildred. Thank you so very much.