The freezing wind whipped around G.C. and me at the 30th Avenue subway stop. We were on our way to Petco in Union Square, and we had dashed out the door. I hadn’t bothered to put on stitch of makeup, and my hair was hastily tucked under my hat.
Suddenly I became aware of G.C. watching me, and I looked up to find him regarding me with the most wonderful gaze. He stared into my eyes with tenderness, love, and awe like he was seeing me — really seeing me — for the first time. Though we’ve been together for almost five years, I lowered my eyelids, suddenly shy.
“What are you looking at?” I asked flirtatiously, curious what his answer would be.
Still staring deeply into my face, he took a moment to respond. Then, with the delicacy one would use to touch, I don’t know, a piece of disintegrating yet historically significant parchment, G.C. dragged his pointer finger down my cheek and said, “I can’t believe it. I can see every line and wrinkle on your face.” He then cupped his hand under my chin, turning my face this way and that to really get a good look in the weak winter sunlight.
Have you ever had a moment while looking at something really awesome, like the first piece of art you ever really under “understood," when you felt something turn on behind your eyes, a light you weren’t aware could even be turned on, and you just felt so smart, so one with the world? And then an indefinite period of time later, it could be a minute, a month, a year — it dawns on you that this thing you thought was so deep actually isn’t? In fact it actually sucks? And the light that was burning so bright in your pupils dulls just a little, and your mouth sets in a slightly firmer line of disappointment?
Well, picture watching that swing of emotion in my eyes and you might be able to visualize the expression that came across my face in the first couple seconds after my boyfriend so delicately made his announcement about my wrinkly, shriveling face.
“Oh my god, no! That’s not what I meant!” G.C. cried, sensing all too late the danger in his words. “I meant you look beautiful! It’s really cool!
However, the damage had been done. Eyes narrowed, my heart contracting, I spoke in a voice louder than I intended, “IT IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT ‘COOL!’” Finger quotes jabbing the air for emphasis. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN? HOW MANY LINES AND WRINKLES ARE WE TALKING HERE?” My fingers flew to my face, probing for fissures and cracks. “NO, DON’T ANSWER THAT! I DIDN’T PUT ON MAKEUP OR MOISTURIZER AND THAT’S PROBABLY WHY YOU'RE SEEING WHAT YOU'RE SEEING! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT TO ME?!” Ending my outburst, I buried my apparently prune-like face in my hands.
Gently removing my fingers from my in-rebellion skin, G.C. guided my arms to my sides. With the most earnest expression the world has ever seen, he looked me square in the face and insisted, “I don’t care! It IS cool. It’s like an amazing glimpse into the future!”
Needless to say, his words were of no comfort. I simply couldn’t muster happiness about giving my boyfriend a look into what my face would look like at 70 years old while only 30. Although a small — a very, very, very, very small — and vain part of me was thankful he liked what he saw. With one more weak cry about moisturizer, I had nothing more to say. Not wanting to send me further over an emotional edge, G.C. wisely remained quiet. We waited like this on the platform for a few more minutes before boarding the train. I stayed silent for five stops wondering why I was so lazy that I couldn’t even slap some Lubriderm on my face before heading out into the world.
Finally, to break the silence — during which I wondered where that Regenerist eye cream I had once bought might be, and G.C. avoided eye contact, confused about the insult I could tell he still didn’t fully understand — I turned to face him with my dry, traitorous skin. I sighed. “I am glad you will be attracted to me when I am old.”
He nodded solemnly, an unspoken affirmation to my statement. “I love your face,” he said simply.
“I love your face,” I replied and put my head on his shoulder. A more comfortable silence settled between us.
When we got out at Union Square, I gave a quick glance to the Sephora on the corner and contemplated an “I’ll be right back” type of trip, one I knew would only last 10 minutes but result in $200 worth of serums and creams I didn’t want, couldn’t afford, but apparently may need? But the moment lasted just a minute and I turned away. We went to Petco, bought our dog what she needed — treats, poop bags, and a nice-smelling shampoo — and then headed back to our apartment.
Lia LoBello works in public relations and marketing by day, but spends her nights crafting, cooking, and watching real-crime television. She blogs about her projects and recipes at www.yaydiy.com. She lives in Astoria, Queens, with her boyfriend G.C. and her dog, Pelusa.