Ravi Mangla


Lyle cannot place the face. He's tried, holy shit. Night and day, he thinks of nothing but the face: its narrow nose and deep-set eyes and chinless chin. Where has he seen it? If he can only establish a setting—a country, a state, a city block—the rest will fall into place, of this he is certain. The answer is close, painfully so, but it refuses to make itself known. You can't tell by looking at him, but face placing was at one point a specialty of his. In college he could place a face with the best of them. He could spot a girl at the bar, remember her face from a lecture in the science building, and have his maiden line. Once, during a work-study program in Belém do Pará, Brazil, he placed the face of a local inn caretaker with a mugger he saw mugging a woman behind his favorite tacacá stand in town. Another time he placed the partially blurred face of a felon on a police reality show with the boy who used to taunt him in grade school. Oh, shut up, his ex-girlfriend said. There's no way you could know that. He knew it though. He knew it just as he knew she would doubt the authority of his claim. However, this wasn't a fabrication, just his all-natural, god-given, face placing gift in action. And now, unexpectedly, it has abandoned him. He isn't old. Well, not old enough that his face placing ability should be slipping. It's a stretch, perhaps, but maybe this is a belated blessing. If the gift had abandoned him earlier, would things have been different? Would she have stayed? Would there have been kids, a career? How many times has he wished he was the type of man who lets the past be the past, a face be a face, a stone left sitting, unturned? A curse, he thinks, my curse, and wants to cry out to the gods above, something above, but doesn't. He feels ashamed. There are worse curses, he knows, much worse. He is a child. Always quick to blame forces outside of his control. Always turning a blind eye to the most obvious answer. Face placing counts for nothing, ultimately. Not a thing. Yet he needs it. He needs it to feel like himself. Sooner or later the face will be placed. It is his obligation to put this face in its rightful place. He will place the face. He is determined. What other choice does he have? What else does a man like him have to believe in?


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