Author: Jacob

The Man Is a Stranger

The Man Is a Stranger

A ‘Period Dignity Officer’ Seemed Like a Good Idea. Until a Man Was Named.

There are a lot of things that make me think of The Man. One of them is my first introduction to one.

He was a man I met in a coffee shop in the Village of Westlake. He was twenty-five years old. He wore thick-lensed glasses that appeared to magnify his eyes, which made us all look like we needed lenses on our own faces. His was the kind of skin that looks, on the surface, as if he had slept under a mosquito net all night and then eaten some bugs. His thinning hair hung down his neck in long, uneven curls, and when he brushed it back, his scalp looked as if you could cut through it with a knife blade. His mouth was too small, and his teeth were too widely spaced. He was not overweight. He had all the bones of anorexic women. His skin was not clear and shiny, but dull with a sort of dull, greenish glow. When I looked at him, I saw him as I imagine people who are not my exact age may be seeing him: as both a man and as a stranger.

“Do you know what you look like?” he asked me as soon as we’d sat down at a table.

“No,” I told him. “I don’t.”

“Look at this face. It’s ruined. It’s grotesque and repulsive.”

“I know.”

He picked up the newspaper, which was folded over and held closed with a rubber band, and opened it to a full page of text about the man convicted of breaking into a New York apartment and ransacking it. I could not remember the name of the man who’d been convicted until I read the newspaper. I could only picture in my mind what

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