A Nose to Found a Dynasty On

30 Jul

I have something to confess: I have an impertinent nose.

The rest of my face is what some might call winsome. I have large green eyes, high cheekbones, and a mass of wavy blonde hair. But my nose dominates my features. It’s not terrible, by any means. Though it’s too long to be a fashionable button nose and too wide to be queenly, it gives my profile a kind of charm. In fact, it sometimes reminds me of Saleem Sinai, a character from the superb book Midnight’s Children.  Saleem has a wondrous and massive nose, and it is the source of his magical talents. As one character tells his grandfather, who possesses the same nose, “Mughal Emperors would have given their right hands for noses like that one. There are dynasties waiting inside it.” Mine is not nearly as large or extraordinary as Saleem’s.  But I wonder if perhaps one morning I will wake up able to sniff out that old iPod I lost two years ago, or the library card that must be under my bed somewhere. In fact, I endowed one of my own characters with such an ability – the pensive Letty of Letty Greene, Queen of Hearts can catch a whiff of anything, from gardenia and patchouli to melancholia and joy.

The nose in question. © John Herzog Photography.

But I don’t always believe that my prodigious proboscis is a blessing. Multiple people have called it a ‘Jew schnoz’ (…yeah, I know). On days when my forehead is breaking out and I feel like my thighs are more deserving of the title ‘Great White Whale’ than Moby Dick, my nose seems like an intruder. I could be truly beautiful, I’ll think to myself, if I could just straighten out that damn nose.

Sometimes I even think that one day, when I’m rolling in piles of money, I’ll alter it. I’ll look just like Emma Stone in all her peaches-and-cream, snub-nosed glory.

I can’t let myself do that, though. Because I made a promise.

When I was in eighth grade, my mother, sister, and I visited New York City for the first time. Like proverbial country mice, we scuttled through the streets with our heads down, terrified that we would be mugged or shot. Our rolling suitcases thumping behind us, we navigated the city as quickly as first-time tourists can.

And then we were stopped. A man loomed out of the shadows of a parking garage. He was missing several teeth and wore a dirty skullcap. “You all from Virginia?” he asked.

Inexplicably, my mother stopped. “Y-yes. How did you know?”

He nodded at our suitcases. “Says on your flight tags.” The man ambled closer. I tensed, preparing to drop my bag and flee. “You wanna know something? That’s where my hero’s from.”

“Your hero?” said my mother.

“Yes ma’am. Robert E. Lee.” He smashed the words together, making them sound like ‘Roberty Lee.’ “What a man. What a man. Tell you what. When you go back to Virginia for me, I want you to put a red rose on his esophagus.”

“Do you mean sarcophagus?” I asked.

He rounded on me. “I most certainly do not! I want you to put a red rose on his eeeeee-sophagus, you hear me?”

I nodded, eyes wide.

The man fell silent, scrutinizing me. Then he jabbed his finger at me. “Young lady, I wanna tell you something. Your nose makes you damn special. Like Roberty Lee. Never change it, you hear?”

“I won’t,” I muttered, and fled.

I think we can all agree that Roberty, as I have come to call him, was a tad strange. (I never did put that rose on Lee’s sarcophagus. Or esophagus.) But you know something? He was also right. My nose is what makes me different than any other cookie-cutter blonde. So on the kinds of days I was talking about before, I remember Roberty’s words. Your nose makes you damn special.

It does.

And you know what Pascal said about Cleopatra’s nose, anyhow:

Marmorbüste Kleopatra VII. von Ägypten, entsta...

“Had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.”

Edit: I just found my library card.  Under my bed, as I suspected.  Clearly, it’s a sign from beyond.  My nose is magical after all.

Is there an aspect of your appearance that makes you unique?  Enormous eyes?  Thick brows?  Magnificent ears?  Tell me about it in the comments section!


2 Responses to “A Nose to Found a Dynasty On”

  1. briandrush July 30, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    There is nothing whatever wrong with your nose. But you knew that. 😉

    • elizabethballou July 30, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      I did…for the most part 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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