The Man with a Golden Face

 

by Michael Carter

 

Jon is a regular person, just like you and me. He lives in a regular neighborhood. He drives a regular car. He has a regular job, working regular hours. He gets up in the morning, showers, eats breakfast, and prepares for his day, just like the rest of us. He makes his wife coffee, and, if he has time, packs a lunch. The only thing different is he polishes his face with a solution of dish detergent and baking soda, using a soft brush. Then he gives his wife a kiss—made cold by the metal—and heads out the door.

Jon wasn’t born with a golden face. When he entered this world, his skin was nearly albino. The doctors told his mother that he would have to stay inside most of his life, away from the harmful rays of the sun.

It wasn’t until later in life that blotches started to form. At first, they thought it was just a skin disease of some sort. But, when the blotches started to harden and shine, they knew it was something else. His face eventually became encased in gold.

He didn’t have the excuses others had, and that bothered him. He couldn’t say, “I was born this way, so I don’t know the difference.” He couldn’t say, “I look like my parents, and they were able to deal with it.” There weren’t any teachers, or athletes, or heroes, or gas station attendants with golden faces. He had never met, or heard of, anyone else with a golden face.

“But that is what makes you special,” his wife said when they first met. “You have a golden face, and there’s no one like you.” He felt the same—there was no one like her with that sweet disposition. She was the happiest person he had ever met, without worries of any kind.  

But whenever he started to feel good about himself there was always someone to bring him down. “Get out of the way, goldenrod!” he heard one time while riding his bike. On another occasion, someone told him to “take off the mask.” A fellow passenger on the train called him a “freak.” One time, while vacationing in Acapulco, a boy thought Jon was a luchador and asked for his autograph.

Jon wanted his old life back. “I remember what it was like before my face was gold,” he said to his wife. “Isn’t there something they can do about this?”

He found a cosmetic surgeon who specialized in burn victims. The doctor said he could etch the gold off his face with chemicals. But the doctor warned him: “It’s risky and, well, you should just be happy with yourself. I mean, you’re made of gold!”  

Jon talked with his family and friends. They said he shouldn’t do it. “But I don’t want people to stare anymore. I want to have a normal life again,” he explained. “No one has a normal life,” a friend replied.

It didn’t matter what they said. They weren’t him, and they didn’t have to live like him. Jon scheduled surgery. This was what he wanted to do. It was final.

On the day of surgery, his doctor tried to talk him out of it one last time. “It’s risky, as I said before. Although we’re confident it would be a success, there is a small chance the acid could melt through to the underlying skin. This could lead to scarring. Do you keloid?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Jon said, “I want to do it.”

The doctor hesitated, and glanced to his assistant. “Okay, Jon, that’s what we’re here for. But . . . your wife wants you to see something first.”

The doctor’s assistant guided him to another room. There he found his family and friends.

He looked around and saw things he’d never seen before. His wife had a distressed look on her face. His neighbor had a snaggletooth and eyes that were too close together. His cousin’s freckles made it look as if she was coated in cold sores. His co-worker was painfully thin. The doctor was bald and had a beet-red scar on his neck.

“We’re all here to tell you we don’t want you to do it,” Jon’s wife said. “We like you just the way you are.”

“You see, Jon, it’s okay,” the doctor said. “There’s nothing wrong with you just like there’s nothing wrong with us. After all, you shine. Who wouldn’t want to shine like you?”

Jon was silent as tears started to form in his eyes. He felt their stares. They felt his.

“So what’ll it be, Jon?” the doctor asked.

***

The next morning Jon woke up to his new world and went through his routine. Today, finally, things are going to be different, he thought to himself.

He gave his wife two cold kisses, instead of one, and headed out to greet the day in all his shine. At last, the gold from his wife had reached his inside.

 

 

Michael Carter is an attorney who writes short fiction in an attempt to better understand the world. When not writing, he enjoys fishing and spending time with his family. His wife is, of course, made of gold. He can be found at www.michaelcarter.ink.