Years later, after she crashed her Corvette into a tree and there was nothing but blood and a pale worm of cartilege where her nose had been, Savannah would think about Mission Viejo, the house on La Paz, her grandpa camped in front of the fan, waiting to pinch her cheek, like the creep he was, grandma’s corned beef casserole, which she had always hated and now missed. She would think about the songs on the radio, “Livin’ on the Edge” and “Runaway Train” and the hours she spent in front of the mirror, trying to be older than thirteen.
It had happened so suddenly, her face, the roundness melting away over the course of a single summer, her cheeks and tender chin emerging. It was what she’d been given, what she would have to use. It was what Greg had noticed, what had convinced him to pluck her from the dull plight of high school. He was an actual rock star, an Allman brother. Her step-dad had like ten of his albums. He was handsome and he had that accent. His tongue was bourbon, cigarettes, the road. He held her face in his hands and whispered angel like a hundred times.
Later, when she began to take her clothes off for money, she wondered what he’d meant. Was he speaking about her soul, something incorruptible? Or was it just her face? She got other things, too—bigger tits, blond bangs—but it was her face that made the difference. Anyone could suck cock on camera. All you had to be was willing. To look beautiful doing it, that was something else. It was what kept her above her own circumstances, what allowed her to behave as if she were a rich girl with nothing to lose.
Her nose! Her small, lovely nose was gone. Her cheeks were bound in ribbons of blood. The papery skin around her eyes would go to wrinkles before long, another reason not to smile. People didn’t understand how much a girl could come to depend on her face. They wanted to look at her. But they didn’t want to feel what she felt. There was nothing she could take from them but her face, which men had stared at and caressed and defiled all her life, and which now, at the point of a gun, she reclaimed.
Steve Almond is the author of ten books of fiction and non-fiction, three of which he published himself. His most recent collection, God Bless America, is now available.[Editor’s Note: It’s really good. Go Buy It.] For more, visit www.stevenalmond.com/