Memory of a Face

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
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Submitted: July 29, 2017

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Submitted: July 29, 2017



She got the interview. She finally got the interview! Everyone knew that getting the interview was as good as getting the job. The interview was just a formality. Graduating from college didn’t seem as scary as it had one minute ago. She was going to be the first workingwoman in her family. Her father was going to be so proud. He’d never doubted her for a minute. She burst into her parents’ room to give them the good news, only to find both of them still sleeping in bed. She rolled her eyes in fake annoyance before jumping right on top of them both. She giggled as she heard her father groan. “Ayesha, don’t you have college to go to?” he whined. “I GOT THE INTERVIEW,” she screamed in his ear. She had planned on being subtler about it but the excitement was too much. It got her parents attention. Her father bolted straight up almost throwing her off the bed before enveloping her in one of his bear hugs. “ Dad you’re crushing me,” she gasped. He laughed and loosened his grip, allowing her mom to get into the family huddle as well. “ I really do need to get going though. I’m going to be late for college,” she said as she tried to wriggle her way out of the sandwich. “Family dinner today. We’ll go out somewhere fancy, just the three of us, to celebrate. Don’t be late,” he said giving her one last squeeze before finally releasing her. She shouted her confirmation and sprinted out of the house towards the bus stop. Panting, she stopped next to her friend who looked at her with amusement. “I don’t know why you always insist on running to reach here. You know the bus never comes on time,” her friend said. She was too out of breath to come up with a witty comeback and so just settled for shrugging her shoulders instead. The two soon lapsed into a conversation, wasting time till the bus came. Neither of them noticed a man in his mid thirties walking up to them. They were still oblivious to his presence until he tapped Ayesha on her shoulder. She whipped around mid sentence and came face to face with the stranger. “What is your name?” he asked. “Who are you?” she retaliated. She had heard enough about stranger danger to want this conversation over as fast as possible. “I saw you from there and I wanted to know if you would like to go out with me?” he asked. “I’m really flattered but I just don’t have the time right now,” she politely declined. The man opened his mouth to protest but before he had the time, the bus pulled over. She and her friend dived into the bus without a backward glance and burst into laughter the minute the bus left the station.

College had been more boring than usual. Her head was paining by the time the last bell rang. She couldn’t wait to go home and take a nap. She started walking towards the taxi stand but she had barely taken two steps when she was accosted by the same man from earlier in the day. This was getting weird. How had he found her? Was he stalking her? This time she was alone and that made the whole situation scarier. Luckily, from the corner of her eye, she could see two policemen having a conversation. That placated her nerves. “Do you want me to give you a ride home?” he asked. “I’m good, thanks,” she said while forcing a smile. She tried to sidestep him but he blocked her path. “Why you playing so hard to get, baby? I know you want it,” he leered. “All I want right now is for you to get out of my face so that I can go home,” she spat out. “Don’t be like that, I’m just having some fun,” he said while trying to grab her arms. She had had enough. “Listen, asshole, I’m not playing at anything. I want absolutely nothing to do with you. So why don’t you go back to your pathetic life?” she whacked his hands off her and started running towards the cops. She never saw his reaction. She might not have been so relieved at her getaway if she had. His look of pure unadulterated hatred promised revenge. For now though she was just glad to be going home.

They were having dinner at her favorite restaurant in Bombay. She didn’t even have to look at the menu anymore. By the time dessert came along, she was so full that even the idea of ice cream made her want to throw up. So she told her parents she would go and get the car to the gate while they finished their dessert and this way it would also save time since the car had been parked at a bit of a distance from the restaurant. The heat hit her as soon as she stepped through the restaurant’s double doors. Her heels were killing her and she couldn’t wait to sit and remove them in the car. She started walking towards the car when she felt a presence behind her. Her heart started pounding out of her chest and she didn’t know what to do. Should she turn around and confront the person or just run towards the car? The decision was made for her when she heard the person yell out at her. Slowly, she turned around. By the time she recognized the man from earlier in the day, it was too late. He had already released the contents of his container towards her face. Instinctively, she threw her hands up to protect her face. She might have saved her eyesight but the rest of her face was just as vulnerable as before to the acid. She could see the fumes rising from her face as her skin started melting. The pain was like nothing she had ever experienced. It was crucifying. Her hands looked like someone had splashed red paint all over them. The sound of screams and footsteps made its way through her haze of agony. She began to start losing consciousness as the pain became too much to bear. Just before she blacked out, she felt something being poured on her face, which was immediately followed by a cooling sensation.

“We could sell my wedding jewelry. It should cover the cost of the first three surgeries, until we find a more permanent solution,” her mother whispered. She and father were seated around in the living room. They didn’t know that she could hear every word that they were saying. “ And what about the other six? And the plastic surgery after that? Even if we sell the house, we won’t be able to afford it,” her father sighed burying his head in his hands. She couldn’t take it anymore. She quietly walked back to her room. It had been a week since the attack and things had progressively been getting worse. She didn’t recognize herself anymore. The face she had been born with was now history. She was a charred shell of herself. Her face just a convoluted lump of skin. If she closed her eyes, she could almost picture her old face. She fought to look normal but with no hairline or eyebrows, it was a lost battle. She was going to leave her house for the first time in a week for her job interview. It was the only thing keeping her going at this point. She believed that once she got her job, it would bring at least a semblance of normality to her life. As she stepped out her door, she pulled up her hoodie and wrapped her scarf around her neck even though the Bombay weather was suffocating enough on its own. She didn’t want to offend anyone with her appearance.

She got into the metro and hurriedly grabbed a seat. Getting a seat during rush hours was always a challenge and she let out a relieved sigh as she sat down. “Excuse me, I did not mean to be rude but could you please move over to the disabled section down the compartment because I don’t want my son to catch your disease,” she heard a voice whisper from next to her. The speaker turned out to be a young woman with a little boy seated on her lap. She didn’t know how to respond to this request. She was dumbstruck. She tried to find words to explain that it was not a disease but all that came out was a stammering sorry. The woman smiled apologetically as Ayesha got up, still in shock, and moved towards the disabled compartment. She was still in a state of shock when she reached her new seat. Diseased? Is that what she was now? Just another contagious pest that the others needed to be protected from. She stopped the negative thoughts from flooding her brain because she did not want to go down that road just before her interview. It was her last shot at salvation.

She stared at the rope in her hand. The interviewer’s words reverberated loudly in her head. The interviewer had leaned forward and said in that disgustingly patronizing voice that she had come to despise,“ You seem like a great person and well your resume speaks for itself but we’re not sure how our customers might respond well to put it crudely, your face. It’s nothing personal and if it was up to me I would definitely give you the job but I don’t think my employers would be too happy with you scaring the customers away.”  She didn’t understand why those words had broken her so much. It was nothing that she hadn’t heard before. Maybe it was because this was the last strand of hope that she had been banking on. Getting the job had seemed like the solution to all her problems. But her face had ruined that for her as well. She had survived the attack but what was she living for? Acid attacks aren’t intended to kill. They are intended to disfigure and mutilate - to condemn the victim to a lifetime of suffering.

 It's not just a question of the man being unable to handle rejection; it's meant to teach a lesson - to mark someone for life. It is petty revenge. The idea that women could have the audacity to say no, that they could have an independent voice was just too blasphemous to consider. The rope in her hand seemed to be her knight in shining armor, the one that would swoop in and carry her away from all the misery and suffering. She passed her head through the noose and smiled. She would be safe now. She took a confident step off the chair, closed her eyes and let God do the rest.

Her soul almost didn’t make it out of the body this time. She floated weakly in the air unable to stop the flow of tears that melted into the sky. Her future had been robbed from her and that had nearly broken her soul. But she would persevere. She drifted with the wind for a while. She passed by the house where that man slept with his new wife. He would live out the rest of his life oblivious to the pain he had caused. Eventually, the breeze grew stronger and returned her to heaven where the rest of her wronged sisters awaited her. 

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