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Chapter Four

In which Esther gets a nose job



Next evening, prim and nervous-thighed in a rear seat of the crosstown bus,  Esther divided her attention between the delinquent wilderness outside and a  paperback copy of The Search for Bridey Murphy. This book had been written  by a Colorado Businessman to tell people there was life after death. In its  course he touched upon metempsychosis, faith healing, extrasensory  perception and the rest of a weird canon of twentieth-century metaphysics  we've come now to associate with the city of Los Angeles and similar  regions.

The bus driver was of the normal or placid crosstown type; having fewer  traffic lights and stops to cope with than the up-and-downtown drivers, he  could afford to be genial. A portable radio hung by his steering wheel,  tuned to WQXR. Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture flowed syrupy around  him and his passengers. As the bus crossed Columbus Avenue, a faceless  delinquent heaved a rock at it. Cries in Spanish ascended to it out of the  darkness. A report which could have been either a backfire or a gunshot  sounded a few blocks downtown. Captured in the score's black symbols, given  life by vibrating air columns and strings, having taken passage through  transducers, coils, capacitors and tubes to a shuddering paper cone, the  eternal drama of love and death continued to unfold entirely disconnected  from this evening and place.

The bus entered the sudden waste country of Central Park. Out there, Esther  knew, up and downtown, they would be going at it under bushes; mugging,  raping, killing. She, her world knew nothing of the square confines of the  Park after sundown. It was reserved as if by covenant for cops, delinquents  and all manner of deviates.

Suppose she were telepathic, and could tune in on what was going on out  there. She preferred not to think about it. There would be power in  telepathy, she thought, but much pain. And someone else might tap your own  mind without your knowing. (Had Rachel been listening on the phone  extension?)

She touched the tip of her new nose delicately, in secret: a mannerism she'd  developed just recently. Not so much to point it out to whoever might be  watching as to make sure it was still there. The bus came out of the park  onto the safe, bright East Side, into the lights of Fifth Avenue. They  reminded her to go shopping tomorrow for a dress she'd seen, $39.95 at Lord  and Taylor, which he would like.

What a brave girl I am, she trilled to herself, coming through so much night  and lawlessness to visit My Lover.

She got off at First Avenue and tap-tapped along the sidewalk, facing uptown  and perhaps some dream. Soon she turned right began to fish in her purse for  a key. Found the door, opened, stepped inside. The front rooms were all  deserted. Beneath the mirror, two golden imps in a clock danced the same  unsyncopated tango they'd always danced. Esther felt Home. Behind the  operating room (a sentimental glance sideways through the open door toward  the table on which her face had been altered) was a small chamber, in it a  bed. He lay, head and shoulders circled by the intense halo of a paraboloid  reading light. His eyes opened to her, her arms to him.

"You are early," he said.

"I am late," she answered. Already stepping out of her skirt.



 Schoenmaker, being conservative, referred to his profession as the art of  Tagliacozzi. His own methods, while not as primitive as those of the  sixteenth-century Italian, were marked by a certain sentimental inertia, so  that Schoenmaker was never quite up to date. He went out of his way to  cultivate the Tagliacozzi look: showing his eyebrows thin and semicircular;  wearing a bushy mustache, pointed beard, sometimes even a skullcap, his old  schoolboy yarmulke.

He'd received his impetus - like the racket itself - from the World War. At  seventeen, coeval with the century, he raised a mustache (which he never  shaved off), falsified his age and name and wallowed off in a fetid  troopship to fly, so he thought, high over the ruined chateaux and scarred  fields of France, got up like an earless raccoon to scrimmage with the Hun;  a brave Icarus.

Well, the kid never did get up in the air, but they made him a greasemonkey  which was more than he'd expected anyway. It was enough. He got to know the  guts not only of Breguets, Bristol Fighters and JN's, but also of the  birdmen who did go up, and whom, of course, he adored. There was always a  certain feudal-homosexual element in this division of labor. Schoenmaker  felt like a page boy. Since those days as we know democracy has made its  inroads and those crude flying-machines have evolved into "weapon systems"  of a then undreamed-of complexity; so that the maintenance man today has to  be as professional-noble as the flight crew he supports.

But then: it was a pure and abstract passion, directed for Schoenmaker, at  least, toward the face. His own mustache may have been partly responsible;  he was often mistaken for a pilot. On off hours, infrequently, he would  sport a silk kerchief (obtained in Paris) at his throat, by way of  imitation.

The war being what it was, certain of the faces - craggy or smooth, with  slicked-down hair or bald - never came back. To this the young Schoenmaker  responded with all adolescent love's flexibility: his free-floating  affection sad and thwarted for a time till it managed to attach itself to a  new face. But in each case, loss was as unspecified as the proposition "love  dies." They flew off and were swallowed in the sky.

Until Evan Godolphin. A liaison officer in his middle thirties, TDY with the  Americans for reconnaissance missions over the Argonne plateau, Godolphin  carried the natural foppishness of the early aviators to extremes which in  the time's hysterical context seemed perfectly normal. Here were no  trenches, after all: the air up there was free of any taint of gas or  comrades' decay. Combatants on both sides could afford to break champagne  glasses in the majestic fireplaces of commandeered country seats; treat  their captives with utmost courtesy, adhere to every point of the duello  when it came to a dogfight; in short, practice with finicking care the  entire rigmarole of nineteenth-century gentlemen of war. Evan Godolphin wore  a Bond Street-tailored flying suit; would often, dashing clumsily across the  scars of their makeshift airfield toward his French Spad, stop to pluck a  lone poppy, survivor of strafing by autumn and the Germans (naturally aware  of the Flanders Fields poem in Punch, three years ago when there'd still  been an idealistic tinge to trench warfare), and insert it into one  faultless lapel.

Godolphin became Schoenmaker's hero. Tokens tossed his way - an occasional  salute, a "well done" for the preflights which came to be the boy-mechanic's  responsibility, a tense smile - were hoarded fervently. Perhaps he saw an  end also to this unrequited love; doesn't a latent sense of death always  heighten the pleasure of such an "involvement"?

The end came soon enough. One rainy afternoon toward to end of the battle of  Meuse-Argonne, Godolphin's crippled plane materialized suddenly out of all  that gray, looped feebly, dipped on a wing toward the ground and slid like a  kite in an air current toward the runway. It missed the runway by a hundred  yards: by the time it impacted corpsmen and stretcher-bearers were already  running out toward :t. Schoenmaker happened to be nearby and tagged along,  having no idea what had happened till he saw the heap of rags and splinters,  already soggy in the rain, and from it, limping toward the medics, the worst  possible travesty of a human face lolling atop an animate corpse. The top of  the nose had been shot away; shrapnel had torn out part of one cheek and  shattered half the chin. The eyes, intact, showed nothing.

Schoenmaker must have lost himself. The next he could remember he was back  at an aid station, trying to convince the doctors there to take his own  cartilage. Godolphin would live, they'd decided. But his face would have to  be rebuilt. life for the young officer would be, otherwise, unthinkable.

Now luckily for some a law of supply and demand had been at work in the  field of plastic surgery. Godolphin's case, in 1918, was hardly unique.  Methods had been in existence since the fifth century B.C. for rebuilding  noses, Thiersch grafts had been around for forty or so years. During the war techniques were developed by necessity and were practiced by GP's,  eye-ear-nose-and-throat men, even a hastily recruited gynecologist or two.  The techniques that worked were adopted and passed on quickly to the younger  medics. Those that failed produced a generation of freaks and pariahs who  along with those who'd received no restorative surgery at all became a  secret and horrible postwar fraternity. No good at all in any of the usual  rungs of society, where did they go?

(Profane would see some of them under the street. Others you could meet at  any rural crossroads in America. As Profane had: come to a new road,  right-angles to his progress, smelled the Diesel exhaust of a truck long  gone-like walking through a ghost - and seen there like a milestone one of  them. Whose limp might mean a brocade or bas-relief of scar tissue down one  leg - how many women had looked and shied?; whose cicatrix on the throat  would be hidden modestly like a gaudy war decoration; whose tongue,  protruding through a hole in the cheek, would never speak secret words with  any extra mouth.)

Evan Godolphin proved to be one of them. The doctor was young, he had ideas  of his own, which the AEF was no place for. His name was Halidom and he  favored allografts: the introduction of inert substances into the living  face. It was suspected at the time that the only safe transplants to use  were cartilage or skin from the patient's own body. Schoenmaker, knowing  nothing about Medicine, offered his cartilage but the gift was rejected;  allografting was plausible and Halidom saw no reason for two men being  hospitalized when only one had to be.

Thus Godolphin received a nose bridge of ivory, a cheekbone of silver and a  paraffin and celluloid chin. A month later Schoenmaker went to visit him in  the hospital - the last time he ever saw Godolphin. The reconstruction had  been perfect. He was being sent back to London, in some obscure staff  position, and spoke with a grim flippancy.

"Take a long look. It won't be good for more than six months." Schoenmaker  stammered: Godolphin continued: "See him, down the way?" Two cots over lay  what would have been a similar casualty except that the skin of the face was  whole, shiny. But the skull beneath was misshapen. "Foreign-body reaction,  they call it. Sometimes infection, inflammation, sometimes only pain. The  paraffin, for instance, doesn't hold shape. Before you know it, you're back  where you started." He talked like a man under death sentence. "Perhaps I  can pawn my cheekbone. It's worth a fortune. Before they melted it down it  was one of a set of pastoral figurines, eighteenth century - nymphs,  shepherdesses - looted from a chateau the Hun was using for a CP; Lord knows  where they're originally from -"

"Couldn't -" Schoenmaker's throat was dry - "couldn't they fix it, somehow:  start over . . ."

"Too rushed. I'm lucky to get what I got. I can't complain. Think of the  devils who haven't even six months to bash around in."

"What will you do when -"

"I'm not thinking of that. But it will be a grand six months."

The young mechanic stayed in a kind of emotional limbo for weeks. He worked  without the usual slacking off, believing himself no more animate than the  spanners and screwdrivers he handled. When there were passes to be had he  gave his to someone else. He slept on an average of four hours a night. This  mineral period ended by an accidental meeting with a medical officer one  evening in the barracks. Schoenmaker put it as primitively as he felt:

"How can I become a doctor."

Of course it was idealistic and uncomplex. He wanted only to do something  for men like Godolphin, to help prevent a takeover of the profession by its  unnatural and traitorous Halidoms. It took ten years of working at his first  specialty - mechanic - as well as navvy in a score of markets and  warehouses, bill-collector, once administrative assistant to a bootlegging  syndicate operating out of Decatur, Illinois. These years of labor were  interlarded with night courses and occasional day enrollments, though none  more than three semesters in a row (after Decatur, when he could afford it);  internship; finally, on the eve of the Great Depression, entrance to the  medical freemasonry.

If alignment with the inanimate is the mark of a Bad Guy, Schoenmaker at  least made a sympathetic beginning. But at some point along his way there  occurred a shift in outlook so subtle that even Profane, who was unusually  sensitive that way, probably couldn't have detected it. He was kept going by  hatred for Halidom and perhaps a fading love for Godolphin. These had given  rise to what is called a "sense of mission" - something so tenuous it has to  be fed more solid fare than either hatred or love. So it came to be  sustained, plausibly enough, by a number of bloodless theories about the  "idea" of the plastic surgeon. Having heard his vocation on the embattled  wind, Schoenmaker's dedication was toward repairing the havoc wrought by  agencies outside his own sphere of responsibility. Others - politicians and  machines - carried on wars; others - perhaps human machines condemned his  patients to the ravages of acquired syphilis others - on the highways, in  the factories - undid the work of nature with automobiles, milling machines,  other instruments of civilian disfigurement. What could he do toward  eliminating the causes? They existed, formed a body of things-as-they-are;  he came to be afflicted with a conservative laziness. It was social  awareness of a sort, but with boundaries and interfaces which made it less  than the catholic rage filling him that night in the barracks with the M.O.  It was in short a deterioration of purpose; a decay.



 Esther met him, oddly enough, through Stencil who at the time was only a  newcomer to the Crew. Stencil, pursuing a different trail, happened for  reasons of his own to be interested in Evan Godolphin's history. He'd  followed it as far as Meuse-Argonne. Having finally got Schoenmaker's alias  from the AEF records, it took Stencil months to trace him to Germantown and  the Muzak-filled face hospital. The good doctor denied everything, after  every variety of cajolement Stencil knew; it was another dead end.

As is usual after certain frustrations, we react with benevolence. Esther  had been languishing ripe and hot-eyed about the Rusty Spoon, hating her  figure-6 nose and proving as well as she could the unhappy undergraduate  adage: "All the ugly ones fuck." The thwarted Stencil, casting about for  somebody to take it all out on, glommed on to her despair hopefully - a  taking which progressed to sad summer afternoons wandering among parched  fountains, sunstruck shop fronts and streets bleeding tar, eventually to a  father-daughter agreement casual enough to be cancelled at any time should  either of them desire, no post-mortems necessary. It struck him with a fine  irony that the nicest sentimental trinket for her would be an introduction  to Schoenmaker; accordingly, in September, the contact was made and Esther  without ado went under his knives and kneading fingers.

Collected for her in the anteroom that day were a rogues' gallery of  malformed. A bald woman without ears contemplated the gold imp-clock, skin  flush and shiny from temples to occiput. Beside her sat a younger girl,  whose skull was fissured such that three separate peaks, paraboloid in  shape, protruded above the hair, which continued down either side of a  densely acned face like a skipper's beard. Across the room, studying a copy  of the Reader's Digest, sat an aged gentleman in a moss-green gabardine  suit, who possessed three nostrils, no upper lip and an assortment of  different-sized teeth which leaned and crowded together like the headstones  of a boneyard in tornado country. And off in a corner, looking at nothing,  was a sexless being with hereditary syphilis, whose bones had acquired  lesions and had partially collapsed so that the gray face's profile was  nearly a straight line, the nose hanging down like a loose flap of skin,  nearly covering the mouth; the chin depressed at the side by a large sunken  crater containing radial skin-wrinkles; the eyes squeezed shut by the same  unnatural gravity that flattened the rest of the profile. Esther, who was  still at an impressionable age, identified with them all. It was  confirmation of this alien feeling which had driven her to bed with so many  of the Whole Sick Crew.

This first day Schoenmaker spent in pre-operative reconnaissance of the  terrain: photographing Esther's face and nose from various angles, checking  for upper respiratory infections, running a Wassermann. Irving and Trench  also assisted him in making two duplicate casts or deathmasks. They gave her  two paper straws to breathe through and in her childish way she thought of  soda shops, cherry Cokes, True Confessions.

Next day she was back at the once. The two casts were thereon his desk, side  by side. "I'm twins," she giggled. Schoenmaker reached out and snapped the  plaster nose from one of the masks.

"Now," he smiled; producing like a magician a lump of modeling clay with  which he replaced the broken-off nose. "What sort of nose did you have in mind?"


What else: Irish, she wanted, turned up. Like they all wanted. To none of  them did it occur that the retrousse nose too is an aesthetic misfit: a Jew  nose in reverse, is all. Few had ever asked for a so-called "perfect" nose,  where the roof is straight, the tip untilted and unhooked, the columella  (separating the nostrils) meeting the upper lip at 90 degrees. All of which  went to support his private thesis that correction - along all dimensions:  social, political, emotional - entails retreat to a diametric opposite  rather than any reasonable search for a golden mean.

A few artistic finger-flourishes and wrist-twistings.

"Would that be it?" Eyes aglow, she nodded. "It has to harmonize with the  rest of your face, you see." It didn't, of course. All that could harmonize  with a face, if you were going to be humanistic about it, was obviously what  the face was born with.

"But," he'd been able to rationalize years before, "there is harmony and  harmony." So, Esther's nose. Identical with an ideal of nasal beauty  established by movies, advertisements, magazine illustrations. Cultural  harmony, Schoenmaker called it.

"Try next week then." He gave her the time. Esther was thrilled. It was like  waiting to be born, and talking over with God, calm and Businesslike,  exactly how you wanted to enter the world.


Next week she arrived, punctual: guts tight, skin sensitive. "Come."  Schoenmaker took her gently by the hand. She felt passive, even (a little?)  sexually aroused. She was seated in a dentist's chair, tilted back and  prepared by Irving, who hovered about her like a handmaiden.

Esther's face was cleaned in the nasal region with green soap, iodine and  alcohol. The hair inside her nostrils was clipped and the vestibules cleaned  gently with antiseptics. She was then given Nembutal.

It was expected this would calm her down, but barbituric acid derivatives  affect individuals differently. Perhaps her initial sexual arousal  contributed; but by the time Esther was taken to the operating room she was  near delirium. "Should have used Hyoscin," Trench said. "It gives them  amnesia, man."

"Quiet, schlep," said the doctor, scrubbing. Irving set about arranging his  armamentarium, while Trench strapped Esther to the operating table. Esther's  eyes were wild; she sobbed quietly, obviously beginning to get second  thoughts. "Too late now," Trench consoled her, grinning. "Lay quiet, hey."

All three wore surgical masks. The eyes looked suddenly malevolent to  Esther. She tossed her head. "Trench, hold her head," came Schoenmaker's  muffled voice, "and Irving can be the anaesthetist. You need practice, babe.  Go get the Novocain bottle."

Sterile towels were placed under Esther's head and a drop of castor oil in  each eye. Her face was again swabbed, this time with Metaphen and alcohol.  Gauze packing was then jammed far up her nostrils to keep antiseptics and  blood from flowing down her pharynx and throat.

Irving returned with the Novocain, a syringe, and a needle. First she put  the anaesthetic into the tip of Esther's nose. one injection on each side.  Next she made a number of injections radially around each nostril, to deaden  the wings, or alae, her thumb going down on the plunger each time as the  needle withdrew. "Switch to the big one," Schoenmaker said quietly. Irving  fished a two-inch needle out of the autoclave. This time the needle was  pushed, just under the skin, all the way up each side of the nose, from the  nostril to where the nose joined forehead.

No one had told Esther that anything about the operation would hurt. But  these injections hurt: nothing before in her experience had ever hurt quite  so much. All she had free to move for the pain were her hips. Trench held  her head and leered appreciatively as she squirmed, constrained, on the  table.

Inside the nose again with another burden of anaesthetic, Irving's  hypodermic was inserted between the upper and lower cartilage and pushed all  the way up to the glabella - the bump between the eyebrows.

A series of internal injections to the septum - the wall of bone and  cartilage which separates the two halves of the nose - and anaesthesia was  complete. The sexual metaphor in all this wasn't lost on Trench, who kept  chanting, "Stick it in . . . pull it out . . . stick it in . . ooh that was  good . . . pull it out . . " and tittering softly above Esther's eyes.  Irving would sigh each time, exasperated. "That boy," you expected her to  say.

After a while Schoenmaker started pinching and twisting Esther's nose. "How  does it feel? Hurt?" A whispered no: Schoenmaker twisted harder: "Hurt?" No.  "Okay. Cover her eyes."

"Maybe she wants to look," Trench said.

"You want to look, Esther? See what we're going to do you?"

"I don't know." Her voice was weak, teetering between here and hysteria.

"Watch, then," said Schoenmaker. "Get an education. First we'll cut out the  hump. Let's see a scalpel."

It was a routine operation; Schoenmaker worked quickly, neither he nor his  nurse wasting any motion. Caressing sponge-strokes made it nearly bloodless.  Occasionally a trickle would elude him and get halfway to the towels before  caught it.

Schoenmaker first made two incisions, one on either side through the  internal lining of the nose, near the septum at the lower border of the side  cartilage. He then pushed a pair of long-handled, curved and pointed  scissors through the nostril, up past the cartilage to the nasal bone. The  scissors had been designed to cut both on opening and closing. Quickly, like  a barber finishing up a high-tipping head, he separated the bone from the  membrane and skin over it. "Undermining, we call this," he explained. He  repeated the scissors work through the other nostril. "You see you have two  nasal bones, they're separated by your septum. At the bottom they're each  attached to a piece of lateral cartilage. I'm undermining you all the way  from this attachment where the nasal bones join the forehead."

Irving passed him a chisel-like instrument. "MacKenty's elevator, this is."  With the elevator he probed around, completing the undermining.

"Now," gently, like a lover, "I'm going to saw off your hump." Esther  watched his eyes as best she could, looking for something human there. Never  had she felt so helpless. Later she would say, "It was almost a mystic  experience. What religion is it - one of the Eastern ones - where the  highest condition we can attain is that of an object - a rock. It was like  that; I felt myself drifting down, this delicious loss of Estherhood,  becoming more and more a blob, with no worries. traumas, nothing: only Being  . . ."

The mask with the clay nose lay on a small table nearby. Referring to it  with quick side-glances, Schoenmaker inserted the saw blade through one of  the incisions he'd made, and pushed it up to the bony part. Then lined it up  with the line of the new nose-roof and carefully began to saw through the  nasal bone on that side. "Bone saws easily," he remarked to Esther. "We're  all really quite frail." The blade reached soft septum; Schoenmaker withdrew  the blade. "Now comes the tricky part. I got to saw off the other side  exactly the same. Otherwise your nose will be lopsided." He inserted the saw  in the same way on the other side, studied the mask for what seemed to  Esther a quarter of an hour; made several minute adjustments. Then finally  sawed off the bone there in a straight line.

"Your hump is now two loose pieces of bone, attached only to the septum. We  have to cut that through, flush with the other two cuts." This he did with  an angle-bladed pull-knife, cutting down swiftly, completing the phase with  some graceful sponge-flourishing.

"And now the hump floats inside the nose." He pulled hack one nostril with a  retractor, inserted a pair of forceps and fished around for the hump. "Take  that back," he smiled. "It doesn't want to come just yet." With scissors he  snipped the hump loose from the lateral cartilage which had been holding it;  then, with the bone-forceps, removed a dark-colored lump of gristle, which  he waved triumphantly before Esther. "Twenty-two years of social  unHappiness, nicht wahr? End of act one. We'll put it in formaldehyde, you  can keep it for a souvenir if you wish." As he talked he smoothed the edges  of the cuts with a small rasp file.

So much for the hump. But where the hump had been was now a flat area. The  bridge of the nose had been too wide to begin with, and now had to be  narrowed.

Again he undermined the nasal bones, this time around to where they met the  cheekbones, and beyond. As he removed the scissors he inserted a  right-angled saw in its place. "Your nasal bones are anchored firmly, you  see; at the side to the cheekbone, at the top to the forehead. We must  fracture them, so we can move your nose around. Just like that lump of  clay."

He sawed through the nasal bones on each side, separating them from the  cheekbones. He then took a chisel and inserted it through one nostril,  pushing it as high as he could, until it touched bone.

"Let me know if you feel anything." He gave the chisel a few light taps with  a mallet; stopped, puzzled, and then began to hammer harder. "It's a rough  mother," he said, dropping his jocular tone. Tap, tap, tap. "Come on, you  bastard." The chisel point edged its way, millimeter by millimeter, between  Esther's eyebrows. "Scheisse!" With a loud snap, her nose was broken free of  the forehead. By pushing in from either side with his thumbs, Schoenmaker  completed the fracture.

"See? It's all wobbly now. That's act two. Now ve shorten das septum, ja."

With a scalpel he made an incision around the septum, between it and its two  adjoining lateral cartilages. He then cut down around the front of the  septum to the "spine," located just inside the nostrils at the back.

"Which should give you a free-floating septum. We use scissors to finish the  job." With dissecting scissors he undermined the septum along its sides and  up over the bones as far as the glabella, at the top of the nose.

He passed a scalpel next into one of the incisions just inside the nostril  and out the other, and worked the cutting edge around until the septum was  separated at the bottom. Then elevated one nostril with a retractor, reached  in with Albs clamps and pulled out part of the loose septum. A quick  transfer of calipers from mask to exposed septum; then with a pair of  straight scissors Schoenmaker snipped off a triangular wedge of septum. "Now  to put everything in place."

Keeping one eye on the mask, he brought together the nasal bones. This  narrowed the bridge and eliminated the flat part where the hump had been cut  off. He took some time making sure the two halves were lined up dead-center.  The bones made a curious crackling sound as he moved them. "For your  turned-up nose, we make two sutures."

The "seam" was between the recently-cut edge of the septum and the  columella. With needle and needle-holder, two silk stitches were taken  obliquely, through the entire widths of columella and septum.

The operation had taken, in all; less than an hour. They cleaned Esther up,  removed the plain gauze packing and replaced it with sulfa ointment and more  gauze. A strip of adhesive tape went on over her nostrils, another over the  bridge of the new nose. On top of this went a Stent mold, a tin guard, and  more adhesive plaster. Rubber tubes were put in each nostril so she could  breathe.

Two days later the packing was removed. The adhesive plaster came off after  five days. The sutures came out after seven. The uptilted end product looked  ridiculous but Schoenmaker assured her it would come down a little after a  few months. It did.



 That would have been all: except for Esther. Possibly her old humpnosed  habits had continued on by virtue of momentum. But never before had she been  so passive with any male. Passivity having only one meaning for her, she  left the hospital Schoenmaker had sent her to after a day and a night, and  roamed the East Side in fugue, scaring people with her white beak and a  certain shock about the eyes. She was sexually turned on, was all: as if  Schoenmaker had located and flipped a secret switch or clitoris somewhere  inside her nasal cavity. A cavity is a cavity, after all: Trench's gift for  metaphor might have been contagious.

Returning the following week to have the stitches removed, she crossed and  uncrossed her legs, batted eyelashes, talked soft: everything crude she  knew. Schoenmaker had spotted her at the outset as an easy make.

"Come back tomorrow," he told her. Irving was off. Esther arrived the next  day garbed underneath as lacily and with as many fetishes as she could  afford. There might even have been a dab of Shalimar on the gauze in the  center of her face.

In the back room: "How do you feel."

She laughed, too loud. "It hurts. But."

"Yes, but. There are ways to forget the pain."

She seemed unable to get rid of a silly, half-apologetic smile. It stretched  her face, adding to the pain in her nose.

"Do you know what we're going to do? No, what I am going to do to you? Of  course."

She let him undress her. He commented only on a black garter belt.

"Oh. Oh God." An attack of conscience: Slab had given it to her. With love,  presumably.

"Stop. Stop the peep-show routine. You're not a virgin."

Another self-deprecating laugh. "That's just it. Another boy. Gave it to me.  Boy that I loved."

She's in shock, he thought, vaguely surprised.

"Come. We'll make believe it's your operation. You enjoyed your operation,  didn't you." 

Through a crack in the curtains opposite Trench looked on. "Lie on the bed.  That will be our operating table. You are to get an intermuscular  injection." 

"No," she cried. 

"You have worked on many ways of saying no. No meaning yes. That no I don't  like. Say it differently." 

"No," with a little moan. 

"Different. Again." 

"No," this time a smile, eyelids at half-mast. 



"You're getting better." Unknotting his tie, trousers in a puddle about his  feet, Schoenmaker serenaded her.

 Have I told you, fella  She's got the sweetest columella  And a septum that's swept 'em all on their ass;  Each casual chondrectomy  Meant only a big fat check to me  Till I sawed this osteoclastible lass:


   Till you've cut into Esther

   You've cut nothing at all;

   She's one of the best, Thir,

   To her nose I'm in thrall.

   She never acts nasty

   But lies still as a rock;

   She loves my rhinoplasty

   But the others are schlock.

   Esther is passive,

   Her aplomb is massive,

   How could any poor ass've

   Ever passed her by?

   And let me to you say

   She puts Ireland to shame;

   For her nose is retrousse

   And Esther's her name . . .


For the last eight bars she chanted "no" on one and three.

Such was the (as it were) Jacobean etiology of Esther's eventual trip to  Cuba; which see.



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