The Woman With the Bruised Face

There was a time when her face was taut and tan. In the era of her youth from sixteen to twenty-six. Then, something strange and inexplicable occurred. More strange and inexplicable than the garden variety events of life, like signing your adulthood away to marriage and kids or giving up on a dream because the circumstances of “civilized” existence force you to realize there’s no place for it in the “practical” functions of the everyday. The quotidian prison required of one in order to have the simultaneous presence and non-presence of mind to make money. Raquelle, who had taken to going by Rae around the time she set all of her Barbies on fire by tying their hair together to create a base for the funeral pyre, was definitely somewhere in between those states of awareness and deliberate ignoring of the facts. So yes, if waterboarded, she might admit to knowing what happened to make her face perpetually bruised. The color of those bruises made more pronounced by her incongruous paleness in a milieu like Malibu. 

The only good thing about having grown old was that she had the excuse of the inherently papery thin skin of the elderly to fall back on. That just touching her face gently could cause a bruise at her age. Of course, she had the knowledge of what was really going on. She was still up to the same old tricks she was at twenty-seven, when she first took to the underground world of women’s boxing. She was a legend in that underworld, and that was part of the reason no one in it ever told her to stop, that she was too old to keep going on. Yet like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, letting herself occasionally get smacked around before kicking another person’s ass was the only time she ever truly felt alive. It obliterated her senses in that way Isabelle Huppert called “pure being” in I Heart Huckabees. And for one or two split seconds, she was able to totally forget who she was, and anyone she had ever known, or anything they had ever done to her. For that’s what it comes down to in opting to engage in human relationships: you have to surrender to something ultimately being done to you. Usually not favorable. Why would it be? It can’t be helped that the only joy most humans derive is in harming others by getting close to them and then betraying them. Maybe it has something to do with a collective self-hate wherein we can only punish ourselves by punishing those like us–that is to say, those that are the same species (which would explain why dogs and cats, in contrast, are treated with so much more respect by humans–like goddamn royalty). 

Rae had done the expected thing and had children. A boy and a girl. Both had been trying to conspire to put her in a rest home for the past couple years now. She had practically spat in their faces every time they brought it up. And, actually, anytime they showed themselves in front of her at all. For she hated both of them. They were nothing but a reminder of the life she gave up in order to surrender to convention and societal expectation. All they really wanted was to take over her house. A prime property their father had purchased right near Zuma Beach before all the fires had made this part of Malibu slightly less valuable, slightly less paradisiacal. But Rae knew heaven and hell was divided by a thin line anyway. That’s why she toed it in the ring, experiencing agony and ecstasy at the same pace as a wavering stock market chart in the late 1920s. She couldn’t get enough of the sharp and stark contrast that summed up what all of existence was. A motherfucking punch in the face after an all too short-lived reprieve in recovering from the previous one. 

The customers at one of the few Vons in L.A. that could outshine a Ralph’s or a Safeway assumed she was a charity case. A battered woman that needed a job after being supported by her husband or no good boyfriend. She worked at the one on Sunset in Pacific Palisades for most of her thirties, becoming a strange attraction to the more niche lore-loving tourists who wanted to see the fabled woman with the bruised face. Some speculated that she once wanted to be an actress (or shit, even a director!) and when she had gotten too old to make it, she simply started banging her head against the wall every evening to mangle her visage so that no one could ever really tell she had aged. Of course, now, with all her wrinkles and sagginess, no bruise was going to mitigate the visible truth: she was a geriatric.

Vons sometimes still called her in to sit behind the counter and placate the tourists asking about her. L.A. was a fucked up place to stoke the fucked up and macabre interests of those who flocked to it even though it told them all over and over again that it was literally the gate to hell. Yet the town could burn for a thousand years and people would still move there hoping to hit the big time. Meanwhile, Rae just wanted to get hit. But it was getting more impossible to convince her boxing opponents to do it. They were all terrified of literally breaking her. She could have killed them all for being so faux concerned about the elderly. Where was this concern when she was drinking herself into a stupor until 4 a.m.? Posted up in her easy chair with a bottle of whiskey as she read from passages of the Decameron to soothe her aching soul. Yes, she still had one. That was why everything also still hurt so goddamn much. The bruises on her face were the only way she could help mitigate the emotional pain. She found the physical variety to be much more bearable. And she would find a way to keep the pummeling going at any age, until her dying breath, as it were. One that came quickly when a wave from the Pacific choked her after she had knocked herself out deliberately on the surface of a more rough-hewn rock. Although she was now rendered permanently unconscious, her lingering spiritual remains would’ve liked to believe that as the sea dragged her away, it was to the tune of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.” It would’ve been the only moment of her life she might have enjoyed. In a prime example of the sadistic sense of humor possessed by the gods, she would naturally have to be dead to experience it.

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