All Twelve [story] by Helen Park

When Margot was thirteen, her mom decided to have all her facial moles removed. More than ten moles (she’s never counted them all) of different shades and sizes mapped out a constellation on her face. A string of six of them pebbled a line below her right eye. Two lay like leaves on her lips. She found them neither beautiful nor ugly, but her parents deemed them a genetic misfortune to be resolved. Her city’s K-Town teemed with boilerplate hair salons, so it was easy enough for Margot’s mom to stop by one of them with her in tow. They went to the back and the hairdresser took out a small brown vial from her apron pocket, like a wicked witch scene from a Disney movie. Margot lay down on the large, cushioned sofa the color of old blood. The dropper landed an almost invisible amount of the compound onto each mole, and the orb of melanin simply burned away, eaten into nothingness. One drop of the acid per mole. A total of twelve excruciating daubs of fire. The consumption of her skin sounded like the carbonation of soda. Margot’s mom stroked her hair and whispered to her about how beautifully unblemished her face would be. She had learned long ago not to flinch or question. She had learned back when she first got her eyebrows plucked while a cube of ice played anesthetic, when she cut thin strips of tape mirroring the curve of her eyes and stuck them there to slowly form Westernized folds, when her first period dribbled down her leg in the shower and the cramps ignited her guts, when she pretended to eat but stuffed what she could into napkins she would bunch up and discard. All part and parcel of puberty, of performance. The moles had returned; she took no offense. Her mother didn’t mention them again. And Margot had grown up to be a confident woman, embracing her round face and ruddy cheeks and thick hair. Which makes the recurring nightmare all the more puzzling. Why the terrifying face melting? Why the bone-white sea with her in an oar-less raft? Margot tapped a finger on her lower lip, concentrating on the questions, as she stood there in front of Macy’s, her reflection indistinguishable from the half-naked mannequin inside the store window.

 

 

Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This story put the editors in mind of Anne Kaier’s poem “Bone-house.”]

Image by Ed Uthman

Park’s work appears or is forthcoming in Sleet Magazine, Inertia Magazine, Cleaver Magazine and BlazeVOX. She received a B.A. in English and is currently working on several pieces about family and gender and a novel loosely based upon three generations of women in her family. She has also published a poem in the Asian-American female anthology, Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves (Deep Bowl Press, 2008).