I watch as the water pools in my hands. It is a little too cold, but that will help wake me up on this groggy morning. Bringing my head down and my face into the clear water; I never splash water on my face in the mornings, just slowly swirl and bath and rub my face with the water. It is always a slow process, and while probably fairly useless in terms of cleansing the skin - it is absolutely key in making me feel awake. But this morning it feels different.
My cheeks feel like they are sagging down to touch the palms of my hands and I can feel a thick, papery, leather substance, which seems to float. I keep my head down and fill my hands again, this time working to clean the sleep out of my eyes, which is taking more rubbing and hand refilling than usual. I bring water down across my skin again, and I can't feel the pressure of my fingers pressing the skin on my unresponsive chin and forehead. I start to wonder, "Are the muscles in my face numb? How did the skin get so detached from the structure of my face? And why does it feel so disgusting?" It doesn't feel disgusting in a dirty or greasy way, just thick and dead.
I grab the towel from the rack and start patting my face dry as I lift my head to look in the mirror. Slowly I am revealed to myself as I move the towel, systematically drying from top to bottom. I recognize my reflection but the colour is off. My skin has turned the shade of a freshly painted, new construction, suburban home - Builder's Grey, or is it Pale Beige? All of my pores are large to the point that they form dark shadows, pock-marked across my face, especially on my nose and along my cheek bones. There are probably dark circles under my eyes too but right now I am trying to understand, "Can you get bags under your ... pores?"
The two or three martinis consumed leisurely at the bar the night before spring to my mind. Actually, it is slower than a spring, more of a gradual uncurl of thought, "This is what alcohol does to you. This is why so many alcoholics have such terrible skin as they age." There wasn't much time left before I needed to be out the door and on my way to the bus stop. I didn't have a second to consider make-up or moisturizer - or any type of magical tonic or cream. Just time enough to glance quickly back at my reflection and notice that my eyes are terribly blood shot too.
Waiting at the bus stop the chilly wind can be felt on my hands but not my face, "What, has it switched? Is the skin-part of my face numb now?" I bring my cold hands up to my forehead and the sides of my face - they feel cool against my warm skin. I start to press my fingers into different places around my face - temples, hairline, forehead, under the chin, apples of my cheeks - not worrying what this might look like to my fellow transit commuters.
I am slightly relieved to discover that it feels as thought my skin had attached itself more firmly against the fat, bone, and muscles of my face, and I can feel the pressure of my prodding fingers. The relief is short lived since each poke hurts like it is touching a fresh bruise. "How did I bruise my entire face? What is going on here!?!" I think. While boarding the bus, I show my transit pass with one hand and rub my face with the other. I sat down to figure out this strange second stage of my quiet hangover. I slowly evaluate the situation, turning thoughts over in my mind like fat fluffy pancakes, "My skin is again affixed to my face but now it seem as though I have a full-face bruise beneath it?" This might be a slow morning.
--- Christine Sweeton, 2013 (I guess this piece could be illustrated with this photo from a few years ago. The physical reaction was slightly different, though I am 6 years older.)