Swylce

Musings and Writing of GG Alexander

Savage Writing: Faces from Different Places

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Theme for this week was “the indescribable man”. I went more for “indescribable”. It was last minute, and I was embarrassed after I’d read it out. Not proud of this one. But hey, the next chapter of Pinwheel is going up on Sunday…

___

As he walked away to the bar, I turned to her.

‘So, is he Polish?’

‘Polish? No.’

‘Russian?’

‘No.’

‘Nowhere Eastern Europe?’

‘No, he’s from Girvan.’

‘Girvan? Never would’ve guessed. I just thought he’d picked up the accent. He looks really Eastern European.’

‘Eastern European?’

‘Aye, he’s got an Eastern European looking face.’

She gave me that laugh that everyone’s heard, the laugh with the strong tide of annoyance underneath.

‘What the hell does that mean?’

‘Well, y’know, huge blue eyes, like dinner plates, in this soft baby face. Half of all Eastern European men look like that. The other half are all concave-cheeks and heavy brows.’

‘There’s no such thing as an “Eastern European face”.’

‘Aye there is. Most countries have their own kind of face, or couple of faces.’

‘Alright. Name me a couple.’

‘Well, like, American faces – North American USA faces – they are pure jawline. You walk down any street in the UK and you’ll see young people with jowls and a thousand receding double chins. But loads of people in the US, they work hard and exercise and starve all those weak-looking features right out of their faces. They’re golden-skinned and their jaws jut forward and their cheekbones stick out too, so their cheeks are just like a tarp pulled tight over two metal bars.’

She laughed again. The undercurrent had changed to “weirded out”.

‘I’ve no idea what you mean.’

‘Yeah you do. If you saw an American walk in right now, you’d see what I mean. That type of face, anyway. The other is pure blubber. Or Jewish. If ever you see an American who isn’t taut-tight or blubber, they’re generally of Jewish descent, and you can tell.’

‘Cause of the nose?’

‘No, not always,’ I say, deciding to bring up her stereotyping in a separate conversation. ‘It’s more of a…noticeable eyebrows over small eyes. Not thick, not bushy eyebrows, but generally dark and…noticeable.’

‘Oh my God, how much time do you spend thinking about this kind of thing?’ she said.

The criticism was clear. I shut my mouth. Her new man came back from the bar with our drinks.

‘Here, Sadie’s been telling me you look Polish,’ she said.

He looked up at me and I swear I’d seen his face a million times saying “curva.”

‘Aye? How come?’

‘She thinks different countries have different faces. Like, people from European countries and that.’

‘Oh aye,’ he said. ‘So I look Polish?’

‘Definitely Eastern European,’ I said.

‘What about Caroline?’

Caroline had wet blue eyes, a soft chin and jawline, and porcelain skin. She would never be out of place in a period drama.

‘English.’

‘Not Welsh?’ she asked. Her smile was pure cheek.

‘I dunno what a Welsh face looks like. I’ve not met enough Welsh folk.’

‘I’ve totally got no English in me. This is so stupid.’

‘How about you, then?’ he – her new man, Paul – asked.

I stopped for a second.

‘I have a Weegie face.’

The words were sour in my mouth.

‘Oh,’ Paul said. ‘Weegie, not Scottish?’

‘Specifically Weegie.’

‘What’s a Glaswegian face look like, then?’

I hesitated again. It was a realisation I had only come to recently, looking at old photographs of my family. My mother, her Norse fairness and strong warrior features. My brothers and father, their Celtic blue eyes and dark hair, with genial Edinburgh faces. And me.

‘I…dunno. It’s hard to describe.’

‘Come on, you’ve just been describing all these other ones, though I’ve no clue what you actually mean,’ Caroline said.

‘It’s pretty hard to describe faces,’ Paul added.

‘No, I don’t mean…I dunno. It’s like, I can say what some of the features are – like a strong pointed nose, a big forehead, pasty skin…but I guess what makes it Weegie more than anything else is…’

‘…is what?’

Looking out from me at age five, ten, thirteen.

‘Is the stare.’

‘Stare?’

‘Aye,’ I say. ‘Weegie faces are really…starey. Like, even when they’re smiling they look kind of…’

I grunted as I failed to find the words again.

‘I dunno. Unfriendly.’

‘Sounds Weegie alright,’ Caroline said. ‘Like they’re on heroin and about to chib ye?’

‘I know that one,’ Paul said.

I let them talk and move on to others things, because of all things, I could not describe the face I had ascribed as “Glaswegian” – no, not Glaswegian, because there were well-to-do folk with catered faces in Glasgow too. No, it was “Weegie,” because there was one thing you could say about that face that was not pinnable to any feature: it looked poor. A Weegie face was a face of poverty. Fat or thin, they looked like they hadn’t had any nutrition, and their skin never seemed clear even if, like me, they rarely got spots. And yes, their stare was like they might turn and hurt you any second, but more than that was exhaustion, an exhaustion even deeper than bags under the eyes, an exhaustion in the pupils themselves. A Weegie face was like an internal cesspit leaking out through the pores – not describable, but fuck, you knew to stay away from it. A face that, on TV, was only on criminals. Face of my city. Written in my genes.

Look at me and you’ll know what I mean.

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Written by G.J.

20/03/2014 at 10:14 pm

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