Lima Al-Azzeh

The Facial Extremist

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Growing up there are numerous tales told of mythical creatures and abominations. All of them a mystery, equally feared, yet fascinating, and none of which can be proved real by empirical evidence. Hearsay and legend is enough to allow these beings to survive in the minds and hearts of every culture, so there they will stay.

I did happen upon an unusual phenomenon, perhaps not on the same grand scale as the elusive Sasquatch or abominable snowman, but something that mystified me all the same.

I encountered the facial extremist. Those human beings who possess the kind of face that is incapable of expressing any nuances of expression – only one, two, maybe three at the most to denote overall, general expressions like “happy”, “sad”, “angry” and nothing in between.

This case study involved the patient observance of one particular woman who I’ve seen on the seabus day in, day out for over a year now. We happen to run on a similar morning schedule and generally like to sit in the same area on the seabus: close to the front, her sitting with her back to the windows, me sitting with the windows face-forward. We’ve never engaged in any sort of exchange with one another, neither a “good morning” nor a friendly “off to work” nod of the head. I’m entirely certain she has not noticed me at all, ever, and I don’t feel the need to step outside that comfortable boundary.

One thing I have noticed, apart from her knitting obsession, is that this woman doesn’t seem to possess a facial expression other than a standard furrowed-brow and lips turned down look. She knits pleasantly, yet she always looks entirely aggravated and not the least bit amused.

Day in and day out, I have never seen this woman’s facial expression shift even slightly. She doesn’t seem to react to the toddlers wailing, the lady who has tripped over her knitting bag while trying to find a seat, the jovial giggles of the schoolgirls seated directly in front of her. The world turns around her, the melange of people never the same, and yet this woman seems to have absolutely no reaction. All I ever see is furrowed brow, turned down mouth.

At this point, I’ve pretty much studied this woman long enough to realize that either she’s hard of hearing and unable to react to her surroundings simply because she is actually unaware of them, or she happens to be one of those people who has been unfortunate enough to suffer great consequences in life and so her face has been paralyzed to reflect these misgivings forever.

Just the other day, I was again confronted with the furrowed brow and of course was again compelled to stare at nothing but her face for the entire length of the seabus ride. This time, we were seated near a group of work colleagues, all traveling home together exchanging gossip and accounts of the day’s events. I had my headphones on and was unable to hear the conversation, but from their faces I could safely judge that it was particularly funny. One of the girls was gesturing like mad, clearly in imitation of someone, and judging by her friends’ faces, it was a dead-on impression.

In the next moment, I had seen the evidence I needed to confirm that facial extremists actually do exist and mingle amongst us in society. The woman, without so much as looking up from her knitting venture, found a part of the story especially delightful and shifted her lips, baring a string of pearly white attractive teeth, though the rest of her face remained in tact, furrowed brow, angry eyes. I thought I was imagining things entirely, as the next time I looked at her, the corners of her mouth fell back into the usual position, returning her to her surly face.

The story continued, the jokes becoming even more jovial, the impression even more on-point and suddenly I saw it again! The shiny glint of light reflected from the canine tooth.

This momentous occasion happened to be the one and only time I had seen this woman affected by her environment in any manner and actually exhibit acknowledgement to it openly. To this day I see this woman and stare at that face, wondering what might trigger her to react again. My curiosity has been insatiably piqued, I would love nothing more than to dig further and find out why that particular event, of all the events that have ever transpired and surrounded us on the seabus, somehow inspired a reaction. However, I know better than to push my luck.

It was more than clear that this woman was not, in fact, hard of hearing nor was she so sullen by her life’s events that she couldn’t appreciate a simple joke told amongst friends. My earlier theories were completely dispelled and in that instant, I had gained the empirical evidence I needed to confidently assert that facial extremists do indeed exist in our society.



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