Fiction by Dan Moreau
All she could do was stare at the pimple on his forehead. It looked so ripe, so ready to burst, the angry red rim converging onto a pregnant white head, that she wanted to reach across the table and push the folds of his skin together, releasing the malodorous pus. She gritted her teeth and clenched the napkin in her lap. It was all she could to prevent herself from lunging across the table and popping that sucker. It would be such a relief to them both. Just let her do it. It would be so satisfying, better than sex. Did he not know his forehead looked like an asteroid crater? How could he not? How could you not be aware of it every single waking second, how could you know see it in the mirror, feel it when you touched your face? Why would you go on a date with that monster on your forehead? It was driving her crazy. She nodded politely while he jabbered about his job, the somewhat prestigious Midwestern college he’d gone to, his favorite shows (Game of Thrones and Monk) and his love of dogs.
“Not hungry?” he said.
She shook her head.
“No use good food going to waste,” he said and switched plates with her. She wanted to vomit. It was like being on a date with her brother.
She couldn’t take it any longer. Finally she said,
“You know you have something on your forehead.”
He touched his napkin to his forehead.
“It’s still there,” she said. “You have a pimple. A very big pimple. If you want, I could take care of it for you. I don’t mind. As a kid I used to pop my brother’s zits all the time.”
He put down his napkin and waved to the waiter for the check. She sat back, crossed her arms and legs. “I was only trying to help,” she said. “So what? Now you won’t talk to me?”
He paid the bill, pushed back his chair, and said it had been a pleasure meeting her. Alone at her table, she swilled the rest of her wine. “No use good wine going to waste,” she said, and to her neighbors, “Did you see that thing? It had its own zip code. It was bigger than my apartment. I hope he’s wearing a poncho when he pops that thing.”
Home, he took a good look at his forehead in the bathroom mirror. He was about to pop it before he pulled away his hand. “Don’t do it, Dennis,” he said to himself. It’ll get better on its own. “She was a bitch. I mean, how superficial can one be? People get pimples. It’s not the end of the world.” He had the power to end it right then and there. Goodbye, pimple. Break the skin, watch the white pus ooze out and dab it with a corner of toilet paper and maybe apply some Neosporin before going to bed. But he didn’t. He admired the pimple’s persistence and longevity. Some pimples would’ve thrown in the towel by now, but not this guy. He was hanging on for dear life. This was the Michael Jordan of pimples. Fourth quarter, down by one, he shoots! He scores! Bulls win!
The next morning, he looked in the mirror. It was still there, angrier, redder, puffier than ever. Had it gotten bigger? Was that possible?
At work, he slid Annie’s mail on her desk. Normally she barely looked up, mumbled thanks while working on a spreadsheet. This morning her eyes brightened. “Hey, Dennis. You look different today.”
“I do?” He smoothed the front of his tie.
“Yeah, there’s something different about you.” She was staring lasciviously at his forehead.
“I’ll see you later,” he said and touched his forehead.
Lunchtime, Annie’s face, like a brilliant sun, rose over his cubicle wall. Her bangs framed her face in a perfect square. “Wanna grab lunch? My treat,” she said.
Ever since he first started working there he’d wanted to sleep with Annie, wanted to feel her meaty thighs around his waist. But she was married to a hot shot Democratic strategist who appeared regularly on MSNBC, the kind of power couple whose wedding announcement appeared in the New York Times. It seemed as if their entire life they had been collecting accolades and degrees precisely for that announcement. People like him and her got married. It’s what people like them did. It was the logical next step in their resume, because everyone knows unmarried people are weird and suspicious. It didn’t matter that as soon as they got married they stopped sleeping together and because of his frequent television appearances and campaign stops he was constantly on the road. She didn’t mind it. She thought of it less as a marriage than a business partnership. They complemented each other nicely and looked good together at social events, important enough to command both their attendance as a proper married couple.
After lunch, they checked into a hotel. Lying naked in the four-hundred-count thread Egyptian cotton sheets, she dragged her hand along his chest.
“That was amazing,” he said.
“I know,” she said.
She added, “Why don’t you let me squeeze that nasty zit on your forehead?”
Abruptly he sat up. “Is that why you slept with me?”
“No, silly. Now let me pop that big daddy.” She started to climb on top of him.
“No!” he said, pushing her off him. He started getting dressed.
She crossed her arms over her breasts and sighed. “You can’t deny me the satisfaction of popping that zit. It’s the biggest, most beautiful pimple I’ve ever seen. Come on, let me do it.”
“Thanks for lunch,” he said.
If anyone was going to pop it, it was going to him. Not some Democratic Bryn Mawr educated floozy who rode crew all four years and did a Fulbright in South Africa. Riding the train home, he felt the eyes of everyone in the compartment on his forehead. Slumped down in his seat he hid his face in a magazine. When he got home, he heated the tip of a needle over a lighter. Holding the needle poised over the throbbing white head, he could feel the heat of the tip. He couldn’t do it. He was afraid not only of the possibility of infection but also of scarring his forehead. Maybe it wasn’t a zit. Maybe it was something more serious, like a boil or something whose name and definition he wasn’t even aware of.
Examining his forehead under a lens, the dermatologist let out a wolf whistle. “Yup, looks like a regular ol’ pimple to me. What a marvelous specimen. They showed us pimples like this in med school, but I’ve never actually seen one this beautiful and this big in person. I guess you could say it’s the Moby Dick of pimples. Just let me put my gloves on and pop that guy once and for all.”
“I’d rather not,” he said.
“It doesn’t feel right.”
“Let me do it. It’ll only take a second. You won’t feel a thing. I promise.” While the doctor tried to hold his forehead, he jerked away. “Just hold still for me.”
He ducked out from under the doctor’s grasp and stood by the door. “Come back here,” the doctor said. “That pimple’s mine.”
He grasped the doorknob and rushed out. “Nurse, stop that man,” the doctor yelled after him, but he was already in the elevator. When he got home, he smeared a layer of grease over the pimple just to be safe. “Don’t worry, little buddy,” he said in the mirror. “You’re safe with me. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“Thank you,” he thought he heard the pimple say in reply.
The next day he reapplied some grease to the pimple. It looked glorious. It was so red and swollen and huge. He felt something akin to pride as he examined it from every angle in the mirror. As a teenager he had been ashamed of his pimples, popped them as soon they formed a head, even used makeup to conceal them, but now he realized how wrong he had been. Pimples were an expression of life, of beauty. They shouldn’t be hidden, popped, zapped. They belonged out in the open. They needed to breathe. Everyone should gaze upon their beauty. A pimple wasn’t a blemish. It was a crown.
There was a new voice message on his phone. “Hi, it’s Karen. Sorry about dinner. I wasn’t feeling like myself. If you’re not busy, I’d love to give it another try.”
When she sat down to dinner the next day he barely recognized her. “You’re, you’re beautiful,” he said.
“Why thank you,” she said.
In the middle of her forehead was a pimple as big as his. She had done something with her makeup so as not to conceal but rather highlight the pimple, draw attention to it. It glistened under the restaurant’s runny lights. He couldn’t stop staring at it.
“I understand now,” she said, “why you wouldn’t let me pop it. I even named her. I feel like a different person. I feel complete.”
“I know exactly what you’re saying.”
After dinner they went back to his place. He asked her if he could kiss it. She nodded, closed her eyes. Gently he pressed his lips against her forehead and touched it with the tip of his tongue. Then she kissed his. They both feel asleep without washing the film of sweat and grease that covered their faces and protected their respective pimples. The next morning he was woken by a scream in the bathroom. He hurried to the bathroom and stood behind her as she stared into the mirror.
“Look!” she said.
And there beside her bigger pimple was a smaller one beginning to take shape, no bigger than mosquito bite. He looped his arms around her waist and kissed her with fatherly pride.
Dan Moreau lives in Northern California.
Featured Image photograph by E.B. Bartels, www.ebbartels.com.