“Losers, all of us”
The sunlight is vivid and warm on my face and hands.
Across from me is a guy, maybe named David,
who looks misshapen under his too-large dark green shirt,
his “strained” cargo shorts, lumpy sneakers.
He pushes tangled hair out of his face to say
—Can I get a hit?
and I pass to him and watch him hold it delicately,
like something rare,
and his eyes screw up
and his mouth puckers,
and he looks so much in pain that I almost pity him
for being probably around thirty and alone
and so much lacking in style and beauty
that of course he is.
Not that I’m much better.
But I’m younger
and maybe just as alone but I still have time,
and maybe so does this guy.
But looking at him with his narrow eyes and chapped smile,
I think, Nah,
David’s done for already.
“Never worry about sweaty pits again!”
The subject approaches the table beneath lights
spilling all over the room’s clinical whiteness.
He lies down.
—I’m gonna needja to remove your clothes, hon,
says the surgical nurse, her mouth spreading
into a reassuring smile.
But the subject only sees her teeth—
little yellow boxy teeth
that seem too far apart and begin to grow
further and further apart, clattering about
between her rubber-band lips as she clucks and shuffles about.
Up then goes the subject and off go his clothes
and back down he goes and—
oh my, that’s cold.
She continues to futz about and prepare the doctor’s tools,
smacking away in her twangy urban mongrel voice,
mouth feeling clumsily around big words that sound
like she’s only just learned their pronunciation.
She seems to get louder and louder with each stumbling word;
they balloon into the room in a hiss of spittle
and glom onto the walls, crawl along the counters,
work their way into and grind against his ears.
As she yammers away, her seemingly soothing words
growing more and more shrill and intrusive,
as he’s about to leap up off the table to shout
shut up! shut up! shut up!
the doctor walks in. He is young but looks old;
his body is long and broad but bends in and droops low;
his face sags as purple rings sweep down and out
over his swollen cheeks and bleed together with
the vulgar redness of his shiny, sleek nose.
He clutches his forehead and drags his fingers along its oily surface,
collecting sweat and grease along his translucent yellow surgical gloves.
—Are you familiar with this procedure? Very well.
I need you to count back from ten.
The mask is secured over the subject’s nose and mouth,
tugged tight and fastened.
He first approaches the apocrine gland just beneath the armpit
and lifts up the subject’s splotchy arm to make a routine incision.
The scalpel shimmers against the lamplight in his shaky hand.
The lights are disorienting; the gleam just too strong for his eyes.
His incision is awkward, forced-professional—
the scalpel is slick and warm.
He blinks rapidly and forcefully and appears frozen.
Blood is now spilling freely across the surgical table.
One swift and artful movement in a moment of lucid professionalism
extracts the tubular, bundled gland,
but it slips out his oily slick hand
and thwops wetly to the ground.
He stoops to the floor, cursing, panting and hazy
in his panic, fumbling for the loose gland,
which flops about and repeatedly falls out of his hands
and mocks him with its thwoppy wetness.
The blood continues to pour, now at an alarming rate and
in streams over the table onto the doctor’s scrubs,
onto his covered head and down his neck.
The doctor, horrified, tries to collect the blood
in his hands and toss it back into the now-gaping cut.
The nurse moves about frantically as the subject’s face whitens.
The doctor shouts at her in a screech worryingly
unlike the voice he remembers as his own
to get extra hands in here to help clean all this up right god damn now.
It’s evident the doctor knows his career is over
as he slumps over the greying body and
trotting figures all in white swarm in around him.
And as blood drips into a pool forming about his shoes,
he regrets only that his new nose had come out so poorly and, in sorrow,
spent the whole previous night drinking.