The cold December wind sent a shiver through Lily Devon who tightened the grip on her jacket, pulling the hood farther over her face. Lily walked hurriedly to her small New York City apartment, determined to escape the freezing weather whipping through her bones. Finally, she rounded the last street corner, entered the old pre-war building, and took the elevator up to her studio on the seventh floor.
Lily Devon was once a local beauty. Constantly being chased around by casting directors, modeling agencies and photographers; she grew accustomed to the attention and flattery that she had received as a young woman. Lily had moved to New York some thirty-five years ago to pursue a modeling career in a decade when big hair and shoulder pads were “in”. She was recruited almost immediately for her unique blend of Nordic and Eastern European features. Each of her days was filled with endless shoots, driving around the city with famous photographers, and modeling new clothing lines from the most prestigious names in the fashion industry.
Lily, known to the younger models as Ms. Devon, briefly fumbled around her pockets for her keys and unlocked her door. Lily’s apartment was both inviting yet cluttered – there seemed to be some sort of method to her madness. The walls were a pale lavender, every inch crammed with old movie posters, photographs from past shoots, and advertisements from almost every magazine claiming to recapture one’s youth through its essential beauty products. There was a little kitchen that led into the dining room. From there a hallway broke off into two rooms- a living room and a bedroom. The living room consisted of a dark purple couch covered in papers, a lopsided wooden coffee table and an outdated television set. The bedroom had Lily’s unmade bed, which had at one time been a sparkling white linen, but now looked worn and faded, a large closet stuffed with clothes from the last three decades, and a tall chest of drawers laden with containers, tubes, and bottles, filled with the “promise of youth”. Through the bedroom was a tiny bathroom, complete with a toilet, shower, sink and mirror. The mirror was a large rectangular shape with round lights bordering the rim, as if it had been stolen straight from a Broadway show’s dressing room. Lily walked to the bathroom to take a scalding hot shower, so she could shake the cold that enveloped her fifty-eight year old bones. She glanced in the mirror and shivered catching sight of herself, despite the long jagged crack running down the length of the glass, centered perfectly to distort the features of anyone who stood in front of it.
Sitting down on her bed after warming up, Lily began to recount “the good ole days” when she was beautiful. She gazed around her room, staring at the various photographs of herself, daydreaming of the attention she once had based simply on how she looked. She missed the stares and the fighting by agents and photographers over who got to take her picture next. She stood up and went to her dresser and frantically began applying several anti-aging creams and gels in generous amounts on her cheekbones, forehead, and neck. I need to get rid of the lines, she repeated over and over to herself, beginning to get annoyed. She took another cream that was intended to harden into a mask, over to the mirror and impatiently smeared it over her wrinkled and already wet skin.
The mirror, with its fissure down the middle, distorted her view. Lily, once again saw two images of herself, deformed and irregular, and her anger erupted. She threw the mask tube on the tiled floor, and sank down against the toilet, sobbing.
“Lily…Lily…you need to get more moisturizer and you’ll be just as a beautiful again,” said a voice from the mirror.
“Stop it!! You’re teasing me! You know it’s not true. I’m old. I’m a has-been”, she replied. She stood up and looked at the voice in the mirror.
“Just look around your room and you too can recapture your beauty, just like they keep telling you in the magazines and on television…you just need to get the right one.”
“But I’ve looked and looked. I’ve bought everything out there. I did everything they told me to do and I still look old.”
“That’s not true Lily…get some beauty rest and we’ll try at the stores again tomorrow.”
“But I’ve gone every day with you and we still haven’t found the ONE. How much longer do I need to do this? I’m tired…I just want to sleep”.
“It won’t be long Lily…go to sleep and we’ll try again tomorrow”. Lily looked around, blinking and confused at seeing only herself in the bathroom. She was sure someone else had been there with her, but she just couldn’t remember now. She slowly crept into her disheveled bed, closed her eyes, getting the beauty sleep the voice suggested.
When she woke, Lily sat up and looked at the young women that surrounded her on all four sides. Suddenly, it occurred to her that she had not yet considered one possibility. She had not yet considered the idea of plastic surgery!! Genius, she thought. Why didn’t I think about that before? She ran to the bathroom to tell the mirror her idea!
“What do you think? I’m surprised you didn’t suggest it earlier to me.”
“I wasn’t sure you wanted to go there, but if you’re willing, then I’m game. Book the appointment.”
“No, no. I’m going to go to their office this morning and see if they can meet me right away…after all, I am Lily Devon and everyone remembers who I am!”
Minutes later, Lily left her apartment, dressed in her dark wash jeans, shocking pink blouse, and pink stiletto heels. She had bright pink lipstick on, and her platinum blond hair was perfectly curled and held back with her sunglasses. Lastly, since it was December, Lily decided that her long mink fur coat would be the most ideal and most glamorous way to top off her look.
Lily swung open the back door of a somewhat dilapidated building off Canal Street in Chinatown. She had heard rumors of a plastic surgeon named Dr. Philip N. Wong, whose license had been temporarily suspended, but who was still seeing patients in the interim. Lily was excited because Dr. Wong’s price had been cheaper and he promised to do her surgery that day – just hours after she called the cell phone number she found on a crumpled receipt in her knock off Prada handbag. She walked through a dark hall using the flashlight on her cell phone to see her way through cobwebs and low-lit ceilings. Finally, she came to a sign that read “Dr. Wong – Welcome”. She entered to find it empty except for the two plastic gray chairs leaned against the wall opposite what used to be a reception desk. There was a single bell and a sign in sheet on the counter. She wrote her name excitedly and then rang the bell twice. Within a minute, a tall, skinny Chinese man with a mask covering his mouth came out of an office in the back, holding a cell phone to his ear, listening to some woman yelling on the other end. Lily put on her best smile and stood up with her hand outreached.
“Hello, I’m Lily and you must be Dr. Wong. I’m so thrilled you could take me on such short notice”. Dr. Wong took the mask off and spoke briskly with an accent.
“Lily Devon…fine, good..yes…I remember. This is for your face? Lines, wrinkles? Face lift? This is cash only please. Which one do you want?”
“I would like the face lift please…and you quoted me $1,000 so that’s what I brought.”
She handed Dr. Wong a yellow envelope bulging with different denominations of cash equaling one thousand dollars. He took the envelope and counted the money quickly and then told her to follow him to the operating room. Lily walked behind Dr. Wong, hearing “This is it, this is it – it’s finally going to happen for us Lily. I told you didn’t I? Why would you ever question me – I’m your best friend and I would never steer you wrong”. “I know… I don’t know why I ever doubted you,” she said aloud then giggled with excitement.
Dr. Wong led her into a small room that was dingy and smelled of fish and rotting meat. He then put on a lab coat that was stained with blood and latex gloves that had been sitting on a table in the room, and looked to have already been used. He told her to take off her coat and lay down on the stretcher. Lily began to wonder if Dr. Wong had any nurses to help him, but it didn’t appear that that was the case. She guessed he had been doing this so long that he probably didn’t need assistance anymore. She lay down and suddenly a bright light was shone, blinding her for a second. When she blinked and opened her eyes, she was staring at Dr. Wong’s face through a magnifying glass.
“I’m going to put you under now so be still. This will hurt for a moment”. She felt the pinch of a needle in both cheeks, chin, neck and several on her forehead along the hairline. Then everything was black and Lily fell unconscious.
When Lily awoke, there was no sign of Dr. Wong. She sat up and blinked again to take the grogginess out of her eyes. She was still a little woozy due to the anesthesia and suddenly the pain in her face shot through every muscle in her body. She reached up to her face and realized there were surgical bandages wrapping her face and head. Since there were no mirrors in the room, Lily was not sure about how she looked. I don’t think I can take the train with this wrapped on my head, she thought. She fumbled around some more to sit completely upright, but the pain was horrific! She would need to call a taxi in order to get home.
As the pain continued, Lily managed to get her coat on and find her handbag. She could not see well through the gauze and it took her a few minutes to locate her phone and dial her usual car service. She arranged for the pick up and climbed down off the stretcher. She managed to find her way back through the building and waited outside, where the cold air gave relief to the throbbing pain in her face.
Lily finally stumbled into her apartment, and headed to the only mirror she owned. She stood in front of the cracked mirror for several minutes contemplating her reaction.
“Okay, let’s have a look”, she said to herself. In the mirror appeared the distorted view of Lily, the “second Lily”, which began to speak back to her.
“I can’t wait to see you Lily…I’m waiting!” Lily began to slowly unwrap the gauze, revealing her new face inch by inch. Her chin now looked dimpled…her cheeks were bruised, but she could see the skin had been pulled tight over her cheekbones giving her face an upward tilt. The tip of her nose had been sliced off and she had no eyelids…they had receded into her forehead. All Lily could see were staples holding the edge of her skin to her hairline, which was ready to peel away at a moment’s notice. What had she done? What had that man done to her? She didn’t look younger or more beautiful! She looked like a monster who had been piecemealed together from scraps of a dead person’s body. Lily was horrified!
“You look beautiful, Lily…just like I said you would”, said the voice in the mirror. When Lily looked at the top half of the cracked mirror, she gasped… but the perfect face that stared back at her simply smiled.