Chapter 1: The Store
Face Me (2020)

prosthetic faceI ducked into the nondescript shop, sensing the clumsy closed circuit TV cameras aimed at the entrance. They sat perched on nearby light poles in front of the weathered brick building like near-sighted gargoyles. I was well aware of their presence along this heavily trafficked sidewalk, as everyone who entered the shop surely was - if anyone actually did pass through this undistinguished doorway. I was finally doing it; I was investigating this curious cubbyhole.

The stated purpose of this establishment, according to the lonely placard in the front window, was to somehow provide people with a measure of relief from the cameras. That was the only lure provided to the pedestrian hordes who passed by each day, oblivious to the mysteries within. I had once stopped to read that promise, and my curiosity had festered ever since. With each passing day it grew, and my pace slowed as I walked past. Finally, today, I mustered the courage to journey inside.

On the left wall were female faces, staring in quiet approval as if they knew a profound secret. They were arranged neatly in rows with one woman per shelf. Four sets were on display, precisely arranged with sufficient space between copies to evenly occupy each row. They all watched the central spot where I stood, under scrutiny, just inside the doorway of the small boutique.

Males were on the right, silently judging me. There might have been a half dozen varieties, yet my attention was drawn to one particular face. It had a confident ruggedness about it. It was everyone's next door neighbor, or the co-worker down the hall. This was the now familiar face that was displayed on the window placard. This was the face that beckoned to me each day as I passed. This was the face of the store with no name, and this was the face I saw as I gazed into the crowd waiting for the morning train.