For as long as I can remember I have had dark circles under my eyes. Maybe it is because I have also always had a pale complexion, and have never been able to sleep, and have always been sad, and so on. Hm! I don’t know.
Last year I found a picture of myself when I was 11 or 12 years old. I had greasy black hair and pale skin and dark circles under my eyes. My mother had forced me to be in a play, and so I was playing the part of an old drunk—which is why I’m all dressed up and pouring myself a glass of fake whiskey. Whoa!
Anyway here it is:
And see, I know this is an old photo, and is in fact a photo of an old photo—but I still look kinda unhealthy here!
Many years later my mother and my sister would come visit me in the San Francisco Bay Area, and my mother would say to me: “How did you end up looking so greasy?”
A few years later, while semi-homeless and semi-living on my friend Natalie’s bedroom floor, she would say to me: “You’re kind of a greaseball, man.”
It is not as though my pores produce excess oil. And it is not as though I am especially sweaty or anything like that. In fact it may surprise you to know that I am very clean! Were you to touch my skin it would be soft and dry! But for some reason I still have this greaseball sheen to me, a sort of sad indirect glow. It makes my face and hair shiny and makes my eyes look comparatively murky.
I have said in the past that I was punched in the face in my backyard in Oakland, and that something happened where the capillaries beneath my right eye never healed properly (or something like that anyway). So the black ring beneath my right eye is always there, and especially prominent when I haven’t slept, which is often—and my eyelid has a little sagging Edgar Allan Poe look to it. It’s not bad!
What I’m getting at is that I can tell all of this is getting worse, which doesn’t surprise me. I assumed that as I aged these things would layer on top of each other and become more obvious, and so on, which doesn’t bother me.
Tonight I was washing my face, and I really did see this horrifying, scarred, greasy, gnawed-on gym rope of a face I’ve got, and all the many things that have happened to it were screaming at me just then, and I said to myself—in what my friend Sofia would call a “Ryan pity party” (which it very much was!)—I said: “Oh, buddy. Oh, baby. You little baby boy.”
I said to someone once: “Get it while it’s hot, baby, ‘cuz this flesh ain’t gonna last.” Who had I said that to? God, probably a million people. In the twilight of this shared nightmare, in the final days of Earth, I said it again to the stranger in the mirror!