She was always my favorite villain, Maleficent. Horns spiraling up and out of her forehead, black cape billowing in permanent, unsettling rage behind her. That face, green as a serpent; not a wrinkle, not a line, not a thought. Bright eyes that said, "Fuck with me, my dear, by all means." And was she purple or black? Or violet or onyx or eggplant or obsidian? Was she blue, maybe? A sapphire or cobalt that just looked darker in the magic of technicolor.
Technicolor, ha! There's an idea I could get behind.
Now featuring: a spectrum of non-white-non-gray-non-black. Now presenting a new hue! Now presenting imagination!
And why didn't we just start with color? What is it about black and white that shows up when other colors can't?
Mom always said, "It's technology, sweetheart. Technology makes all the difference."
Well, fine. Give me a blanket statement. Tell me it's just "because." Tell me it's just that way. It just is.
Maleficent's lips. I like them. They snarl and twist like roots. Like knots in a rope or twine on a fence post or hair on a head. On my head.
A rat's nest, Preston says. A place where all the vermin that live in my house and cover my floors and invade my bed can find rest. He says: they sit and they play Parcheesi. He thinks the play on words with "cheese" is clever because he's talking about rodents.
I promise him it's not.
I say: You are not as smart as you think, Preston.
I say: You are a bully. You are a bully and screw you and your ugly sister and your Levis and your blue eyes. And your girlfriend, and all of her friends, too, and you again, all of you, just fuck you, you fucking oaf.
And I am bleeding.
And my nose is in two different parts, both still on my face.
And Preston is spitting on my face. It feels warm and wet and runs down from my eye. A tributary to the blood running from my nose. (We learned the word "tributary" last year and every part of my loves how it feels from the back of my throat to the tip of my tongue.) But there is this great, flowing stream of blood and spit and snot. There is an ocean of me on the floor. Against the tiled, grainy white it looks like an inkblot, a Roscharch, a test of what can be seen when not a single answer is wrong.
I hear a bell and the shuffling stampede of feet and feel hundreds of eyes on the trellis of locks emerging from my skull, on the swirling curls atop my throbbing heard. The feet moving passed me and through the hallway slow as they near Preston and a chorus of giggles and high fives sing his praises. My face begins to molt. It crusts over in a globby red stain.
Who the hell says "oaf?"
When I open the bathroom door, I look back and see the trail I've left behind me, a trail for no one. I think the tiny drops must be the worst tasting breadcrumbs any Hansel and Gretel have ever tasted. The door shuts slowly, swinging on its hinges like a pendulum. I am reminded of time. Of how late I'm going to be for math. Of how disappointed Mr. Tiger will be that I'm late. One look at my face and he'll know it's not my fault.
He'll say: Christ, kid, what happened?
I'll say: I said "oaf." I said "oaf!" and I'll laugh a little between his bewildered eyes and nervously shifting feet.
In the mirror I see that my nose is gone, that a grotesque and spiraling claw has replaced it. Crooked and reaching, grasping for any shred of decency.
Water from the sink splashes against my face. The pain doubles me over and I lose my lunch. I laugh. It's not like I've lost any nutrition. Did you know that pizza is still a vegetable here?
Tiny barbs have lodged in my cheeks and lips and eyes and begin to scrape away at the surface of my face. When the red is gone, washed into the drain with bits of cafeteria food--crust, cheese, tomato--the mirror glares like I've done something wrong.
My nose is black. Or maybe it's purple? I think, perhaps it is blue or violet and there's something wrong with the light. So I stand as still as I can. I don't move and everything goes quiet until the only noise is the plink, the drip, the splash of blood in the sink. A tear hits a tiny hunk of sausage.
Dark. It is dark.
The only light is the gentle slit slipping beneath the door into the hallway, into the sea. The light is just enough fro me to make out a reflection in the mirror. I see a rat's nest, a claw, and two cobalt eyes. Or are they eggplant? I think, maybe technicolor would be easier to live without. Maybe all these colors would vanish and only shades of black and white would prevail and maybe I wouldn't spend so much time thinking about all the differences between them and why they matter at all.
Are they black?
In the twilight of the mirror, it's not important what color my eyes are.
I imagine horns spiraling from my head and a cape as majestic as sin billowing behind me. In shades of black and white my body beings to glow and reflect the slight slant of light creeping up and away from the floor.
In this moment, there is no technicolor. I raise my arms and in the motion of victory, the world is suddenly light and full of color. The sudden glory of the fluorescent room surges through my skin and a familiar, tingly warning skitters up my spine and into my neck and shoulders. A sneeze. My face rears back. My eyes lock with the lights above, pleading, begging the brightness to subside.
With a fantastic gust of blood and sickness, I collapse onto the floor in a shivering, beaten heap.
And I think: perhaps I am the villain.