Faces tell everything; the whys and hows, stories we are eager to tell and those we are tired of telling. Stories about inherited vulnerabilities, subdued passions, or just plain doom. They are our body’s SOS, emitting more than is intended, or what is intended, precisely. It is both a canvas and a mask, something greasily familiar with some parts of you, and same thing you heap colours on.
I am attracted to faces. A facial-sexual something–something in a self-righteous 21st century way. I like faces that are detailed and would not give up everything at first glance. Faces like silk screens that lure you in, and mess you up like a 6am disappointment.
It was formerly an impediment that I couldn’t look girls in the face. My bestie, Mimi, was half amused and horrified the first time he noticed. It was a in banking hall in school, standing close to a group of girls, and he was on one side hoping I would stare plenty, and we would probably talk about the girls. The disinterested face I had on would have worked if one of the girls hadn’t kept staring unabashedly at me, as if she too knew and found it amusing. The effing bastard noticed I kept avoiding her persistent gaze and wouldn’t leave it alone for days.
Mimi had a politics of faces, faces to him were the only thing you needed to see, right before you get to the part where you get rid of clothes and do whatever people do without clothes on. But I wasn’t interested in his ideologies, at least not the way he puts it.
“Your face is unapologetic art” is a line I can confidently use on a girl today, and surprisingly it always works.
I used it first on Osas the first time we met at the school library, when I couldn’t stop staring at her. It was actually the whole image I was staring at, and not just the face. The persistent insistence of her leather pants that they work well in such hot climate, her scattered afro, and over-exposed neck bones. So when she asked why I was staring, I told her the face was worth noticing. And on our second date, further discussing faces, I told her faces came with personality, hers too.
And now, years after, living life in phases, I’m with friends at a party full of grown young people. Young people like me running from shadows of a home we’ve grown tired of, and have come here to pursue our scandalous desires away from intruding eyes. Our table is so crowded with everyone talking at once and listening to the pretty girls singing on stage.
I am talking with Affy about work when I see her. She is with friends at a less crowded table, making those meme faces people with less things to worry about make at public gatherings. She has a hat on and a bottle of Smirnoff Ice in hand. I could not grab the entire face at one glance probably because of the dim lights, but I notice a nose ring, bright red lipsticks on tiny lips, and a nose that calms the chaos.
She catches me staring, which was what I was aiming for. She frowns as if chastising me for staring without remorse. But I wink at her and smile…