by Joe Kapitan
The extremely lonely man ran a salvage yard and his hands knew nothing but ruin, which is why he mistrusted everything he touched, including her. Beyond that, nothing else made sense. Why did he hit the emergency stop on the crusher at that particular moment? What made him check inside the trunk of that rusted-out Chevy Caprice? And what made him think he could raise that pink buttery girlbaby in that desert of filthy debris?
But it happened. She grew long and lean on a diet of Doritos and Marlboros and peppermint Altoids and Pabst. Her eye sockets shrunk to caves. She learned her signature red-carpet stagger/walk from picking her way through heaps of bald tires and abandoned appliances. Her skin formed a relief map---red mountain ranges of scars left by metal lacerations, glass cuts. When their supply of Altoids ran dry, her hair fell out in clumps, the same day the movie people came.
The movie people were making a young-adult, coming-of-age zombie movie and they came to find apocalyptic set décor and they left with an undead-looking girl that would go on to be the lesbian-curious, wise-cracking minor character who stole the show. Not long after, she traded the extremely lonely man and the salvage yard for a big-money contract and the cover of Elle. What was “Disfigured Chic”, exactly? No one could say. A fad? A meme? No matter. Everyone agreed what it looked like. It looked like her.
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, she would call the extremely lonely man from Milan or Sydney or some Learjet in midflight, complaining about the long hours of shooting, or third-world locales bereft of Doritos and Pabst, or how she missed the smell of leaking diesel on a warm summer night. The extremely lonely man would tell her to come home soon, and to please watch out for the wheels.
Wheels always turn, is what he meant. Every beater that lay rusting in stacks and cubes around his scrap yard was once someone’s shiny new ride. And fashion turned faster than the rest! How long until someone decided Disfigured Chic was the new Ugly, perhaps just the old Ugly? Then she’d be back, her days as a supermodel over and her future torched. She would binge on cigarettes and sit sobbing atop the tire pile and then he’d have to start checking each and every vehicle he fed to the crusher, because her ninety-three pounds could easily crawl into any trunk.
Joe Kapitan dated a model once. The model also did charity work, which makes him wonder. Joe's done some limited modeling himself. Photos of his extremities have been published in advertisements for medical breakthroughs; the industry calls them the "before" shots.