"(...) It turned out three was just a number. It doesn't describe the pain any more than money describes the things it buys. Two thousand dollars for a port-wine stain removed. A kind of birthmark that seems messy and accidental, as if this red area covering one whole cheek were the careless result of too much fun. She spoke to her body like an animal at the vet, Shhh, it's okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry we have to do this to you. This is not unnusual; most people feel that their bodies are innocent of their crimes, like animals or plants. Not that this was a crime. She had waited patiently from the time she was fourteen for aesthetic surgery to get cheap, like computers. Nineteen ninety-eight was the year lasers came to the people as good bread, eat and be full, be finally perfect. Oh yes, perfect. She didn't think she would have bothered if she hadn't been what people call "very beautiful except for". This is a special group of citizens living under special laws. Nobody knows what to do with them. We mostly want to stare at them like the optical illusion of a vase made out of the silhouette of two people kissing. Now it is a vase . . . now it could only be two people kissing . . . oh, but it was so completely a vase. It is both! Can the world sustain such a contradiction? And this was even better, because as the illusion of prettiness and horribleness flipped back and forth, we flipped with it. We were uglier than her, then suddently we were lucky not to be her, but then again, at this angle she was too lovely to bear. She was both, we were both, and the world continued to spin.
Now began the part of her life where she was just very beautiful, except for nothing. Only winners will know what this feels like. Have you ever wanted something very badly and then gotten it? Then you know that winning is many things, but it is never the thing you thought it would be. Poor people who win the lottery do not become rich people. They become poor people who won the lottery. She was a very beautiful person who was missing something very ugly. Her winnings were the absence of something, and this quality hung around her. There was so much potential in the imagined removal of the birthmark; any fool on the bus could play the game of guessing how perfect she would look without it. Now there was not this game to play, there was just a spent feeling. And she was no idiot, she could sense it. In the first few months after the surgery, she received many compliments, but they were always coupled with a kind of disorientation.
Now you can wear your hair up and show off your face more.
Yeah, I'm going to try it that way.
Wait, say that again.
"I'm going to try it that way." What?
Your little accent is gone.
You know, the little Norwegian thing.
Isn't your mom Norwegian?
She's from Denver.
But you have that little bit of an accent, that little . . . way of saying things.
Well, not anymore, it's gone now.
And she felt a real sense of loss. Even though she knew she had never had an accent. It was the birthmark, which in its density had lent color even to her voice. She didn't miss the birthmark, but she missed her Norwegian heritage, like learning of new relatives, only to discover they have just died.
All in all, though, this was minor, less disruptive than insomnia (but more severe than déjà vu). Over time she knew more and more people who had never seen her with the birthmark. These people didn't feel any haunting absence, why should they? Her husband was one of these people. You could tell by looking at him. Not that he wouldn't have married a woman with a port-wine stain. But he probably wouldn't have. Most people don't and are none the worse for it. Of course, sometimes it would happen that she would see a couple and one of them would have a port-wine stain and the other would clearly be in love with this stained person and she would hate her husband a little. And he could feel it.
It was a small thing, but it was a thing, and things have a way of either dying or growing, and it wasn't dying. Years went by. This thing grew, like a child, microscopically, every day. And since they were a team, and all teams want to win, they continuously adjusted their vision to keep its growth invisible. They wordlessly excused each other for not loving each other as much as they had planned to. There were empty rooms in the house where they had meant to put their love, and they worked together to fill these rooms with midcentury modern furniture. Herman Miller, George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames. They were never alone; it became crowded. (...)"
Miranda July, 'Birthmark' in No One Belongs Here More Than You