telephone series: “And Of Course You End Up Kissing Yourself”, by Analisa Raya-Flores


How it happened, or how I like to imagine it happens for most of us, was on account of a commercial.  It’s about a group of regular people with giant noses, or rather, regular people with noses for heads.  The former would mean enlarged noses in their usual place, between the eyes (requiring some sort of wheelbarrow apparatus for forward movement); the latter, which is what they are, means giant noses resting atop clavicles, weighing down on their human form.  Despite this physiological oddity, the Nose People aren’t alien in any other way.  They wear business suits, robes, leotards.  They sit at conference tables, they make instant coffee, they plier.  This is only the first ten seconds of the commercial, but already the universe seems plausible.  Whoever wrote it was good at establishing worlds.  But just because the world makes sense doesn’t mean it has to be that way.  You can’t go through life with a nose for a head, not forever; this becomes apparent when the Nose People bump into cabinets, get caught in washing machine doors, wobble off the ballet bar.  The Nose People are making do, but it’s a cumbersome and wearying life.

It’s an allergy commercial, I think.

The first time I saw it, I thought I was dreaming.  Not like I was in a dream where Nose People actually existed, but that I’d conjured a commercial too perfect, too apt a projection of my own facial dysmorphia to be real.  For all my formative years, I’d been convinced that when people looked at me, they saw a giant nose perched on my skeletal little frame.  Or perhaps they thought I was an actor who’d wandered off the set of a movie about the Invasion of the Nose People, and due to the poor visibility of the nose-shaped prosthetic, couldn’t find my way back.

Each time the commercial ran, I bolted from the couch, knelt down, and pressed my face to the screen.  Discernable shapes were lost, and my field of vision consisted entirely of textured lights.  Even the tip of my nose, which was otherwise always visible, was now a blur.  A warm static tickled my skin, conducting what I was sure was some cosmic energy.  It wasn’t a kiss, exactly.  It was the enactment of what I thought a kiss must feel like: the collision of two desperate things, an inexplicable magnetic pull—the pull being the knowledge that somewhere in another realm was someone with a bigger nose.  Somewhere, someone had bigger problems.  And when I found that someone whose nose and problems could not only eclipse my own, but could certify them as vapid and insignificant, then I would be kissed back, or at least known.

But it’s a fictional realm, 30 seconds in duration, and an advertisement for Loratadine.  So it ends.  Around the twenty-five second mark, a jewel-tone pill flashes across the screen, anointing the Nose People with a glittery dust.  Like fairytale protagonists, they’re absolved of their nightmarish fates, the cruel lives they didn’t deserve to live.  The noses deflate, revealing a group of spectacularly ordinary faces.  Before this medicinal gel cap, they didn’t know what they were missing.  They didn’t know it could be like this.

Which is right about the time I used to pull away from the television; when I realized the warmth and the static and my more damaged (but manageably and charmingly so) counterparts, were gone.  In their place was my reflection, and the realization that I’d been kissing myself.  And realizing it was me but hoping it hadn’t been was a much harder come down.

So how it happened was on account of a commercial, and what happened was I understood Romance.



Analisa Raya-Flores holds a B.A. from Emerson College and an M.F.A. from Cal Arts.  Her work has been featured online in Out of Nothing, and in print in Monkeybicycle.  She writes about dying, mostly, but for now she is alive in Los Angeles.

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