I look like the famous singer/actress with the big nose and slightly crossed eyes. In high school, my friends teased me about it. On the surface, I took it well. The prettiest girl in the group, Christina, was the worst offender, but crossing swords with her meant expulsion from the group, which would have killed me, or so I thought at the time. I had a body image problem too. My weight was normal, but when I was fifteen I started starving myself, and eventually I was hospitalized for anorexia. My sister saved my life. She died while I was in the hospital. My father’s sobbing shook me out of my dream world.
Christina and I both went to law school and both clerked afterward for judges in one of New Jersey’s largest counties. We were again members of the same group of peers. I thought my self-image issues were over, but when Christina called me Babs, all the old hurt came back. When does life stop being painful? I asked myself.
One night after work we went for drinks to a new place near the courthouse that had just opened. At the bar we ran into four lawyers who had been on trial before Christina’s judge for the past six weeks, three older guys, in their forties, and one younger, in his early thirties. I hadn’t met any of them, but Christina had told me that she had her eye on the younger guy, whose name was Ted. For Edward, she had told me, like Ted Kennedy.
The older guy was interested in Christina, and while they were talking, Ted came over to me and asked me a question that took me completely by surprise.
“Are you Patricia ______’s sister?”
“Yes,” I answered. “She… Do you know..?”
“Yes, I read about it,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“Did you know her?”
“When I was a senior, she was a freshman. We rode the bus together. What…?”
“She had a blood disorder from birth.”
What could Ted say? Nothing, thank God.
“How’s your trial going?” I asked, happy to be changing the subject.
“It’s almost over.”
“It’s an environmental case, Christina said.”
“Tedious as shit.”
“You have a great smile.”
“And you don’t look like Barbra Streisand.”
“Who said I did?”
“Your friend, Christina,” said Ted. “You actually look like Nyx.”
“The Greek goddess of the night, Nyx.”
I smiled again. This was pretty interesting.
“She was so powerful and beautiful that Zeus himself was afraid of her.”
“How do you know about this goddess?”
“I’m an amateur astronomer. They just discovered a new moon circling Pluto. They named it Nyx, after the goddess.”
“Who I look like.”
“Hasn’t anybody ever told you that before?” Ted had a faux look of shock on his face as he said this, which drew another smile from me.
“No,” I said.
“You don’t believe me? Here, I have a picture.”
He showed me a picture, probably printed from the internet, of a Rubenesque naked woman flying across the night sky, her hair leaving a wake of stars in its trail.
I shook my head. My sister had been dying from the day she was born, while my parents watched. And I had been feeling bad about not looking like the prototype American beauty, whatever that is. I couldn’t stop smiling. Who was this guy? To make things even better, Christina was looking at me with daggers in her eyes.
Fuck you, Christina. The wheel turns.