His face was dominated by the nose – it was a nose that Rushdie would have described as the genesis of a patriarchy. Beneath it, enshrouded in thick, close-cropped beard, was an expressive mouth shielding strong teeth. Between the two, here was much for the eyes to feast on. It would be easy to stop there, to spend a goodly amount of time watching the way the mouth formed its words, the cast of the shadow off that patriarchal prow.
Spend more time on it, though, more time gazing at that face, and you would eventually find your way to the eyes. The delay is an honest one, getting there, as the detailed features deserve the attention bestowed. The eyes, though – they redefine the rest of the face. Deep-set, ringed in an already dark face, they express an honesty. If there is pride in that face, the eyes show that it is a pride not over-ambitious, a pride that knows its own limits. It is the eyes that make sense of the halting, stuttered way that the words come from the mouth. It is the eyes that transmute the nose from something comedic to something dignified. The eyes, then, cast the face in a diffident power. A human face.
Like many of his kind, the ones who gibber, a constant stream of half-way enunciated words, resorting to verbal tics one in three, the weight of verbiage stands inverse to the skill in conversation. There is no enjoyment in interlocution there, no savouring of the play of words nor the animated exchange. No – like cannon fire, each utterance stands alone, signifying only by way of its volume and presence. Tangential at best, responses flow of almost their own accord, the pressure of personal silence building until they are peremptorily ejected. Unless the opposite number can dispel the new volley, batting it back faster than any racquet could muster, this is usually followed, once more, by a stream of sound. It gurgles, it hums and haws, and it is continuous.
A heavy-set face – cheeks saggy with weight – weight that didn’t belong: the rest of the body, what little could be seen, thin. Lines in the forehead, pocky and deep – prematurely aged. Face covered in a greasy, several-day beard. Frenetic movements as he rushed about, neglecting his immediate surroundings and focussing on his own tasks. Haughty in his movements, but not purposefully mean-spirited. You hate him immediately. That doughy self-importance, so inappropriate for the station. Lack of humility through idiocy, rather than intent.
Several days later, you see him in public. As anticipated, trackpants, t-shirt. He looks you in the face, unrecognising. Your earlier impression is affirmed, his lack of regard for others extends to five hours’ shared presence. Schmuck.
…the dignity of ugliness in old age. Gum-line grey, teeth directed back and in, too large, too long. Sprightly eyes deep-set in a horsey face. Hair, receding and thin, thatching a flushed head. Voice stentorian, accent received. Near-constant susurrations of ‘mmm, yes, mmm,’ as if his own deepening deafness might be delayed by a steady utterance. Neck a snarl of folds, his chin disappearing into the mess of his throat whenever he draws his head back.