What’s in a face? “WIPE THAT PUSS OFF YOUR FACE!” When you hear that you know you’re in trouble. “FACE OFF!” More trouble. “SIT ON MY FACE.” Better. But here’s my favorite. When e-mails and phone calls just don’t cut it, it’s time for FACE TIME!
On 9/11 the world watches as the face of history changes. As the day unfolds, I’m on the phone to everyone in New York. Well, not everyone, just the ones I know … or dated. Everyone feels so far away and all of a sudden, simply hopping on a plane and visiting NY is a patriotic act. Raise the flag, Mama’s coming home to face the music!
At the airport, the military personnel have their game faces on … and their canteens. I guess bottled Evian doesn’t have the panache the National Guard is looking for! The x-ray-checkers are more reverent. They aren’t talking about their latest booty call as they question a man extensively about his eyeglasses. He has a brown face. I breeze through the x-ray with a heap of electronics and a colossal video camera in a bag, which no one questions. I have a white face. Wait…didn’t the head of the Northern Alliance get assassinated with an exploding video camera? Hmmm. Getting on a plane nowadays is all about faces. Up and down the aisles, everyone does a quick face inventory. Maybe some people are looking lower but we’ll never know!
In the cab, I chatter with Deshaun the driver, whose face could launch a thousand ships. We see the skyline and discuss the missing World Trade Center. We talk about the buildings like they were old friends. He says he’s lived his whole life with them and I tell him they were built when I was in High School. For the next 10 minutes Deshaun flicks the overhead lights on and off and drives, without looking at the road, as he stares at me in the rear view mirror. “You don’t look a day over thirty! Keep on doin’ what you’re doin’!” he says. All he sees is my face. I briefly fall in love with him.
I get to my hosts house and there’s a face recognition system for security. It has computers that will ‘learn’ my face. Which face, I wonder…my happy face, my stress face, my hello-let-me-in face?
Phew. I’m relieved that no Mission Impossible Bad Guy with a peel-and-stick face will be able to get in the building and slit my throat while I sleep.
I’m exhausted but I’m in New York! I go out and stand on a busy street corner in midtown Manhattan. I have a cigarette while I decide what, if anything, to do. A sea of faces go by. The Selma-Alabama Face, the Heroin-Chic Face, the CEO face, the Cat-Ate-the-Mouse Face. The Sad, Happy, Only-a-Mother-Could-Love Face. Sometimes people tell stories to put a human face on an event. But here, in New York the event IS the human face.
My grandfather used to sit on the edge of his chair in front of the television and watch game shows. Not because he liked Jeopardy but because he liked to judge people. “Simpatico!” he’d shout. “NOT simpatico!” He was fervent about his game and got me involved in sizing up the human face at an early age!
But little did I know that 30 years later on the corner of 57th and 6th avenue, I’d realize that the human face gives me enormous energy. That’s why after the faceless crime of 9/11, New York was calling me into its steady stream of strangers and friends. I see an old college face with a shock of new gray hair surrounding it. I meet the face of her youngest child while it is screwed up in a tantrum. I have lunch with an old boyfriend whose delightful orgasm-face I can still see in the shadow of his smile.
What’s in a face? Everything. If history is the connection of a thousand biographies, then life is the connection of a thousand faces.