By Eric Cocoletzi
Jeremy had no face at all. He was born that way. Consider it having the appearance of having been cleanly shaved off and what was left looked like the bald side of a football, or the backside of a store-bought turkey.
Nobody. Not his mother, not even the doctors had an answer for why he had been born this way. So, in spite of this lucid uncertainty that always clouded over him, Jeremy had to go on living in this world, faceless. He’d heard all the wisecracks his entire life because he still had functioning ears. What he didn’t have was a job.
Jeremy was a sullen 35-year-old that slouched often and had what most would consider a ripening beer belly that instantly uglified. His arms were lean and his legs could still move with the best of them. But they typically went unnoticed on account of his face looking like a big elbow.
Jeremy had just gotten fired from his job at the auto parts store. This was right after getting hired just two days prior by Wesley Patterson, a rambunctious 18-year-old that believed in some sort of bright future with K&G Auto Parts, the oldest auto parts store in town. Patterson was always clean-shaven, always had his frosty red hair combed immaculately to the side, and he always wore his ironed work shirt neatly tucked into his crisp work pants—every day. He was pale, freckled, and bug-eyed, but the other managers sure liked Patterson because he was always on time, and he never created waves of any kind or measure.
Wesley had fired Jeremy for flirting with too many of the female customers. Jeremy didn’t argue. He handed in his vest, his nametag, and shuffled outside.
It was only after Jeremy had entirely left the premises in order to catch the next bus toward his house that Wesley pulled out his pen, clicked it, and wrote in Jeremy’s file: “A pest to all customers and a major liability to this company.”
Patterson signed and dated the report, underlined the word ‘major,’ then closed the manila folder and stuck it underneath his arm. Then he took several sips of his black coffee while thinking of better, more efficient ways of rearranging the brake rotors in aisle 7.
* * *
When Jeremy got home he hopped off the bus and kicked the dirt. He was glum. He didn’t know what to do.
He went inside his apartment, took off his shoes, then his leather belt. He hung his belt over his couch.
The neighbor’s corgi wouldn’t stop barking. Jeremy stripped off his shirt and fell back onto his couch. He began feeling his thin chest with his fingertips while thinking about his next move. He brought his hands down to his belly and gave it a couple playful taps like he was patting an old faithful dog. He’d managed to relax just a bit and he would have done a lot better, except the corgi wouldn’t quit barking. Feeding time was at least another hour away. That was when its owner came home from her job down at the coffee shop. Judy. A pretty blonde in her mid-twenties, of German descent. Aqua blue eyes like pristine emeralds. Soft creamy skin as pale as a ghost orchid.
…The way she would smile.
After about half an hour of lying there and tapping on his gut, Jerry decided to call up Maya.
Maya had been his friend for a couple of years, he had even developed fond feelings for her, which he mostly kept to himself. Hell, the truth was that he had the hots for Maya, and it was obvious too, but he never did anything about it. The possibility of rejection was too frightening for Jeremy.
To hell with it, he thought, he reached over and pulled the telephone onto his lap, picked up the handset, and dialed her number.
The phone rang twice. He rubbed his chest some more. Before the third ring could finish Maya picked up.
Jeremy tapped Hello on the phone’s mouthpiece.
“Hello, Jeremy! How’ve you been?” She sounded like the brightest and most beautiful songbird.
Okay, tapped Jeremy. You sound wonderful, he tapped.
Maya smiled. Her face crimsoned. “Jeremy,” she sighed, “always the Casanova.”
Jeremy tapped. Maya listened, deciphering the taps.
You always bring out, he tapped, the poet in me.
Maya blushed at Jeremy’s compliment and exhaled deeply into the phone.
He stretched on the couch patiently listening for Maya’s reply. She decided to change subjects.
“How was work?” she asked.
Jeremy tapped, Not too good. I got canned.
“What? What for?”
Jeremy tapped, For flirting, I’m guessing.
Maya partitioned a smile.
…but they called it harassment, he tapped.
“Oh Jeremy,” Maya said, still smiling. “Well it doesn’t surprise me, if that makes you feel any better. You always did have a silver tongue, especially around women.”
The taut skin on Jeremy’s head turned entirely beet red. He wanted to see her.
Come over, he tapped. We’ll have coffee and oranges. It’s all I’ve got.
Maya bit her bottom lip. She wasn’t sure if it was such a good idea for her to go over. She knew how Jeremy felt about her. After all, Jeremy couldn’t eat the oranges and he couldn’t drink the coffee. He always just peeled the oranges and felt the segments around between his fingers, and the coffee he always left in the mug until it got cold, then he would pour it down the drain as soon she had finished hers.
His actual nourishment he got from a medicated shot which he administered himself into his left thigh intravenously. Doctors called it U-B12, otherwise known as Uber Cobalamin. Taken twice a day, Uber Cobalamin had enough vitamin power to sustain a healthy brain, nervous system, and an especially robust metabolic system, plus several other beneficial amenities dealing with hunger pains, hydration, oxygen saturation, and nutrient supplementation.
The coffee, the oranges; those were all just things that he kept around the house in case he ever had any company.
But, Maya was a good friend to Jeremy. It was difficult for her to say no to him. She was the only one that ever really made an effort to listen to what he had to say. And he told her this one night after they had come back from the movies. He had tapped it to her gently on her front door before saying goodnight while his cab was parked and waiting on her driveway to take him home.
Maya thought about it and agreed to coffee and oranges. She said she would be there at his place within the hour.
Forty-five minutes later Maya pulled up in her ’95 red Honda Civic. She parked it on the street in front of Jeremy’s. She got out and began walking toward his door. She wore high heels, a stunning blue dress, and a classy wool coat over it the color of bright yellow marigolds. She was a curvaceous brunette with beautiful clear skin. Jeremy sat waiting for her by his living room window, listening for her car alarm.
At the sound of it he got up and walked the habitual path toward his front door and opened it wide for Maya. He could hear Maya’s high heels coming up the gravelly drive, then up the cement walkway that led to his porch, and right as he could hear her feet coming up to the four steps that lead to his door, Jeremy started to tap his welcome for her on the door, Maya, you sound incredible. Please, come in, come in.
Maya gracefully took the first two steps, then the last two, then she was standing right in front of him.
She sighed and smiled at him. “Hello, you. I hope I’m not too late.”
Jeremy politely bowed, stepped aside and motioned with his hands for her to please come inside while he tapped, Not at all. She politely thanked him and walked inside. He closed the door behind her then blindly followed her toward the couch. Jeremy sat down only after he had heard that Maya had sat.
Jeremy leaned forward and coquettishly tapped on his square rustic coffee table, Would you care for an orange? Some coffee? The oranges I have are nice and cold, Maya.
“No,” said Maya, pulling off her coat and folding it on the couch behind her. “Thank you, anyway.”
Jeremy tapped once on the table and held down his knuckle in place. It was meant to suggest resolve, otherwise known as O.K.
Jeremy sat back on his couch and began twiddling his thumbs.
Maya pulled out a vinyl record from inside her coat.
“I brought you something, Jeremy. It’s Music! Rachmaninoff—your favorite! Here.”
Maya picked up Jeremy’s soft hand in hers and wistfully guided it toward one of the corners of the album for him to hold it. Jeremy felt her warmth touching his. His heart floundered and he hoped with all of it that they would never find the record. He eventually clasped the album and she let go. He felt all four corners until he found the slit where the album came out. He tipped the sleeve over and the record rolled out onto his awaiting hand. He held it with both hands as if it were a steering wheel and he examined its weight.
Maya adoringly watched Jeremy. She loved the way that he appreciated all the little things.
“It’s his Piano Concerto No. 2!” she said cheerily.
He leaned forward and tapped Thank you on the coffee table. Should I put it on?
Maya gave a small chuckle. “Well, sure! That’s what it’s for, isn’t it?”
Jeremy instantly put the record on his bald head like it was a hat and tapped, How do I look?
Maya burst out in laughter. Jeremy gave her two pairs of staccato taps with his knuckles that were meant to say Ha-Ha, Ha-Ha.
She snorted in laughter. “Oh, go put the record on, you goofball.”
Jeremy got up and gingerly walked over to his record player while still holding the record on top of his head. He pulled off the Patsy Cline record he’d been listening to and put on Rachmaninoff. He turned the volume knob and the record started to spin, he picked up the needle and set it down on the edge of the record. Jeremy went over to his fridge for two oranges and brought them back wrapped inside a couple of white napkins for Maya. The music had just started to play as he sat back down beside her.
Maya thanked him and kindly began peeling back the skin on her orange while Jeremy held his. Then he set it down and began to tap his love for her.
Maya, he started, I want to tell you, that I’ve been saving these oranges for a few days now, and I aim for you to have them, even though they are literally half of what little remains in my life. The reason why is because I love you, Maya. I’ve BEEN in love with you for quite some time, I’m sure this is no surprise to you. Maya…you bring me lovely music, not only to my home, but also to my heart. Out there in the world, people only seem to know how to say hurtful things to me, they discard me, they do everything they can to avoid having to be next to me. But you—you actually COME to me, and you bring me gifts, and you wear sexy-sounding high heels for me, and you touch my hands with yours…
Maya was paralyzed with fear; she couldn’t think of what to say. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She quietly put her orange down and stared at Jeremy’s fist as his love poured out of it and echoed from his coffee table.
…How could I not love the only person that’s willing to accept me for who I am? As I am. Faceless. As I’m going to be for the rest of my life.
He paused for a brief moment. And if you say you don’t love me, Maya, or that you can’t, I will understand.
Wait, he tapped skittishly, let me finish. Please.
Maya continued to sit in silence and watched the record spin while she listened to Jeremy’s heartfelt tapping. She noticed a tinge of resentment beginning to show in his fist, in each of his taps. She felt like crying.
I want to thank you for the record, Maya, it will always remind me of us, but mostly, it will remind me of you with each time that I play it. Every note will always paint a clear picture of you in my mind. Thank you.
Jeremy was finished. He unclenched his first and sat back as if he was alone on a park bench somewhere.
Maya was speechless. She was touched by Jeremy’s honesty. No man in her life had ever laid it all out on the line for her like he just had. She was aroused, but at the same time, frightened. Scared of what might possibly come next by way of Jeremy’s sudden flare of passion.
Maya gently reached down and picked up her half-peeled orange. She finished peeling it and snapped a segment free. Then, with the utmost care and gentle warmth, she brought it to where Jeremy’s nose would have been and gently placed it up against his skin.
Jeremy quivered at first but he knew he could trust her. He let her glide the segment slowly. She circled it around his cheeks, made two eyes for him with the juice and put the segment where his mouth would have been. Jeremy’s hands trembled with anticipation. He managed to quiet them, and he brought them up to meet Maya’s. And with equal power and equal force, both their hands began to move the orange segment together in one motion, through the air toward Maya’s awaiting lips. When the orange met her moist lips, she opened up and ate the segment, but she also let two of Jeremy’s fingers slip inside the warmth of her mouth. She sucked on them a little, then a little more. She licked their tips. Jeremy pulled them out and brought them to his head and retraced the entire face she had made with the juice.
The record had stopped.
Jeremy leaned toward the coffee table and tapped with trepidation, Should I flip the record over?
Maya took Jeremy’s face in her warm hands and held it, caressed it all over. She smiled at him tenderly, then she reached down over the coffee table, made a fist right beside his, and tapped, Yeah. I think you better had.