Changing Faces

She shivered in her duffel coat as the train crawled into the platform, though the temperature for this time of year was nothing short of balmy. A tall boy in a suit (for no designer can disguise a baby face with the cut of a jacket) sidled up to her, too close for comfort, and pulled a newspaper from underneath his arm, in which he feigned interest as he stole furtive glances at her face. He smelt of cheap aftershave and adolescent sweat. She ignored him and waited for the train to come to a halt, for the little orange light to flash its assent that she may board.

The doors opened and in the rush for a seat she noticed the boy had dropped his newspaper on the platform. He looked awkward now, exposed and gawky as he stood in the centre of the carriage, hand stretched up and groping for stability, eyes casting about for some other means of focus than her face. Someone offered her a seat, and as she sat down their eyes met. He smiled a nervous smile and looked away. She looked out of the window at the passing houses, wondering idly whether anyone was still in the comforting arms of their bed instead of battling the throng of commuters like her.

When the train reached her station they both stood up, him first, then her. He stepped back to let her pass with an exaggerated wave of his hand, an act of chivalry not fitting with his age, perhaps not even with the age in which they lived. She felt the muscles in her cheeks tug at the corners of her mouth, but no smile was forthcoming.

Wordlessly, soundlessly, they disembarked the train, and for a short while walked in perfect synchronicity to the escalator. It was there he found his voice.

“Do I know you from somewhere?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“Oh.” His unlined brow strained to form wrinkles of confusion. “I thought that…maybe we’d met before.”

She shook her head again.

He shrugged and set off down the escalator, melting into the crowd below.

She had been pretty once, or at least that’s what they told her. There was a time when boys like this would look at her with lust instead of pity. There was a time when this boy had looked at her like that. But what good would it have done to tell him that yes, he did know her, before the accident that stripped her of her face and left behind the empty shell that had just now stood before him?

She shrugged and set off down the escalator, melting into the crowd below.


To accompany this post I tried to find a picture that encapsulates the idea of things not always being what they seem. This one was taken in the Singapore Museum last year, and I remember being blown away by this walkway surrounded by thousands of television screens, the images of which combined to make bigger images that told a story. Impressive doesn’t quite cover it.

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