I take stock of his features to check against my well-rehearsed description. The police will need to make a photo-fit if he goes missing. I have photographs of him but it is not the same: if you love someone you should be able to build them in the mind's eye.
Everyday when he leaves for work I think maybe today he won't come back.
If the police know who Christopher Walken is, I will say Ivan looks like a thinner version. If they don't know who the actor is I will say: Ivan blond thick hair, worn longish with a side parting. Sideburns. He has a tendency not to shave and there is ginger in his stubble. His right eye is blue; his left is green. They have the shape of fish; the sort of fish a child would draw. They are set at a distance where another eye could fit between them. I have measured this with my little finger. Where the fin would be are his smile lines; they run the length of his temples. The skin there is sometimes very dry. His forehead is high and etched with three frown lines, the middle one shorter than the outside two, placed centrally on the vertical but higher to the top line than the bottom. There is also a vertical line that runs up from the bridge of his nose to just above his eyebrows. It intersects with the bottom frown line to make a little cross. This line has appeared during the time we have been together. It is growing. One day, I think it will reach his hairline.
He has his mother's eyebrows. I have not met her but I have seen her picture. They are neat enough to seem plucked; the arch is perfectly placed. The test: run a pencil diagonally from the outer edge of the nostril across the centre of the iris of the eye: where the pencil meets the eyebrow is where the arch should be. The curve of his arch is exactly there.
Overall the shape of his face is more a rectangle than a square. My face is heart-shaped. My nose is small. His nose is strong, long, verging on large. There is a bump and a hint of a twist below the bridge. This is not genetic. It didn't reset properly when it was broken (a childhood accident - a book thrown at him in a classroom). The tip is splayed and there is a dent in the middle; it dips neither up nor down. His nostrils are very pronounced, as if someone took a long time with a sculpting tool - poking and lifting and smoothing to give height, pinching to round and tuck and tailor. They are as perfect as little shells. They compliment his high cheekbones. His jaw line is as definite as the sides of a fifty-pence piece. His mouth is wide with full lips. The top lip has a deep valley beneath his nose and the edge of his lips meets his face in a clipped peak; it gives the impression of being drawn around with lip-liner. When we first met I would rub at it to check. His bottom lip is fuller than his top lip. This makes him look vulnerable. This fuller bottom lip, according to my alternative medicine books, shows a propensity to stomach problems, which has proved true. I monitor his diet. I should be more strict: I shouldn't let him eat oranges - too acidic. His stomach problem is why he is so thin. I think of him more as vacuum-moulded; the skin pulled tight to his body. Sinewy not bony. I think of him as strong. His shoulders are broad. When I first saw him I thought:
From Yellow by Janni Visman, pages 3-15. Copyright Janni Visman 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Viking USA.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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