It was the first time she let a man touch her face like that. She wanted a soft warm glow of a room, but instead got clinical. A light bulb shot to her eyeballs. The man’s white fingers were bone delicate. His hands, they swept up the dark strands of her hair, and he looked at her ears. Then he touched them. She could feel herself shiver in far off tiny places.
She never wants to wear her hair up, her mother told him, She’s self conscious about them.
Maggie watched the swirl of photographs on the wall. The office staff had made a collage of their families. Wives and babies and children with smiling faces. The doctor took a fat black crayon and marked on her ear. He said, This is where I would cut.
He explained the procedure. All this could be done during her summer break, if she’d like. She could start junior high new.
Maggie could feel her own self lying on a cold steel table. The knives’ happy blades. Open flap of tangerine skin, and they’d wrap her up. A sterile prison of bleached white gauze.
What about her nose? her mother said.
The doctor held the small of her face, but did not look in her eyes. He marked slowly down the slope of her nose with his black crayon.
This is where I would cut, he said again, and this is where I would cut.
Maggie felt his words like precision. She could feel the blade on her bone. A little saw. He turned her head, so her mother could see. Her profile. He said that it would be lovely. She could have a coin of a face.
Monique Quintana is an MFA in Fiction candidate and president of the Chicano Writers and Artists Association (CWAA) at California State University, Fresno. She is a Squaw Valley Writers Fellow, and the Senior Associate Fiction Editor of The Normal School literary magazine. Just like all her characters, she was born and raised in Fresno.