Monday, 3 January 2011


By Simon

Dear Lynn,
Forgive me.  Please forgive me. I love you. I have always loved you, I have loved you since the moment I first laid eyes on you.  I feel like I loved you before that even. I owe you an explanation.
I was a good surgeon.  One of the best.  You definitely came to the right place. You were in safe hands from the start. Over the years I have performed thousands of procedures.  Performed; the phrasing always strikes me as strange.  As though my work is for show, but I suppose in a way it is.
Some of my colleagues naively liked to think of themselves as artists, claiming that they could see the sculpture in the plain marble of a woman’s nose.  I preferred to think of myself as an editor, removing years with a scalpel, searching for a beauty still inherent.  We justify ourselves in such strange ways.
I had not always been in cosmetic surgery.  My children are in part to blame and to thank for that. I have always worked with faces but my background was originally in reconstruction, working in crisis and dealing with damage.  Trying to make people look normal again, not beautiful. Vanity though, has deeper pockets and I would have two children to fund through college. The transfer was easy.
Though they might be too complex to comprehend, there are formulae for everything.  Artists and scientists have long lauded the golden ratio which is as prevalent and intrinsic in the wonders of the natural world as in the masterpieces of classical architecture.  The Greeks knew it, the Babylonians knew it.  It is in the coliseum, it is in the coil of a shell. Built from the numbers of the Fibonacci sequence and tending more toward precision with each decimal place but without ever reaching it.  There is an ideal, a mathematical magnificence which nature aims for and never quite reaches. Perfection is by its very nature unattainable.  And so I thought, as many do, that true beauty lies in the imperfections. The subtle breaks in pattern, the freckles, the wrinkles, the scars and abrasions, the damage which tells of life. Was it the mole on Marilyn Monroe’s face that made it so captivating?  It is the impurities that give rubies, sapphires and emeralds their colour.  Diamond though, the most precious of stones, is faultless.  Cold, hard and flawless, geometrical precision, carbon atoms holding hands in regimented alignment, tetrahedron after tetrahedron after tetrahedron.
Of course, all this was before I met you.
You were like a diamond.
The effect was physical; devastating to be frank. Time stood still. It was as if I forgot to breathe.  And then the routine kicked in, the patter, my famous bedside manner.  We went through the procedures available.  I talked to cover the aching inside, options and stammering sales pitches masking my sudden teenage awkwardness.
You were the ideal.  The model to which all my surgery aspired. 
I know that they say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there is so much more to it than that.  We have evolved to find symmetry alluring. There are functional reasons; it indicates health, fertility, suitability as a mate. It is all aesthetically meaningful.  There is a relative distance, from the nose to mouth and the ears to eyes, the ratio of waist to hips, the length of arms and legs that is innately correct.  Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, standing in his circle within a square, his eight limbs spread to embrace the world, is as much a study in the laws of the universe as of the human form.
The Mona Lisa was nothing on you.  You would have made Da Vinci cry.
You did not look young.  This sounds confusing I am sure, your face is youthful, unblemished, perfect, but it also has something eternal about it.  Looking at you felt like looking at an original, as though all femininity since you were a mere facsimile, a copy of a copy accumulating errors and artefacts, a print while you were the one and only true masterpiece. You looked as I imagine Eve did before the fall.
There was nothing which I could recommend, nothing to fix, nothing that could be improved.  You were a customer though, and you had different ideas.  Your list was extensive.  Fuller lips, a smaller nose, larger breasts, a narrower waist, higher cheekbones. You went on and on, cataloguing what you saw as your inadequacies. Afterwards you stopped and gazed at your feet awkwardly. I think I had been staring.  I couldn’t understand. There was a sacred geometry in your face. How could you be unhappy with it? 
Back to business. We took some photos, I drew with a thick magic marker on your skin.  On touching you that first time, I felt like I had been drinking, like I had had a shot of espresso, like I could not sit still.  I felt desperate for your gaze, a primal thirst to hold your eyes on mine. I felt giddy and childish.  I would have given the world to have you in my arms. I remember how you giggled as the felt tip marker tickled under your nose.  I touched you so cautiously.  There is something about beauty which makes us assume fragility but you were far from frail.  Your flesh was firm, I could feel the muscles under the softness of your skin.  You were strong, tough in a tender way.
When the consultation was over and you left, I turned to examine my own image in the mirror. I might have been handsome once, before the persistent assault of time. I tried to think objectively for a moment and evoked my surgeon self. I scrutinised my reflection assessing each feature.  My nose and ears have grown too big, a common feature with age, they are the only part of the face that doesn’t stop growing through life. My hair is greyed and thinning. Time and worry have ploughed furrows in my brow.  But I felt young then. Looking at you had made me feel young.
We train on heads you know?  Each student is granted their own decapitated head for practice, like the manikins little girls colour in with makeup in a naive race toward the terrors of adolescence.  We make the most of each of them, attempting as many procedures as we can fit into the tight terrain of as single face.  A face lift, a nose job, collagen filler, botox, a chemical peel.  You remain detached of course.  You have to, so much of surgery is butcher’s work. But you do develop a sort of affection toward your training head.  My first had green eyes. I will never forget that.
In the weeks that passed, I carried your photos around with me. All files are confidential and not to be taken home.  For this transgression alone I should have been disciplined. All the same, they brought me comfort somehow.  I once caught myself doodling and found I could draw you from memory.  Every morning I woke up thinking of you. 
When the day of your operation came around I was a maelstrom of emotion.  I was excited because I would see you again, but what would I do? I could never vandalise you.  I scrubbed up in a daze, going through the motions.  The attendants and nurses talked to me but I heard nothing. When I saw you, laid out there on the table, a pale blue shower cap over your head and your eyes closed as though in prayer, you looked as vulnerable as a child.  I could not perform even had I wanted to.  My hands were shaking; I could not hold the scalpel still.
I don’t know why I did it exactly. I only knew I had to stop it.  I would have had to break your nose, break the bone.  I would have had to break you. 
I gripped the scalpel and without hesitation plunged it deep into my left eye. I screamed in torment as my blood gushed everywhere, all over the tools, the blades, the nurses, me and you.  I tainted the sterilised area. I prevented your desecration.
I think I would have done for the other eye as well, if I could have. Dug it out of its shallow, bloody hole. If I could have overcome the pain, I would have done it.  I would have done it for you.
Now the world is two dimensional to me. A facet of my perception has been lost.  I don’t think I wanted to see in a world without your beauty.  Knowing you exist, I cannot go back. I have been granted my wish and splendour has forever been compromised for me.  I had always assumed that true beauty was unobtainable, and it really was, because I could never have you.  But I want nothing else.  The residual agony where my eye used to be pales when compared with the anguish in my heart.
All my love,