Rudolf woke up one morning to discover that he no longer had a face.
Waiting for his train, as he does every morning, the woman in red heels no longer avoided his gaze, but stared back at him, blankly. This would have made Rudolf smile if he could. He tried smiling at her once, on the train, but she then changed seats. She is a musician. Or at least studying to be one. He once heard her talk to someone he hoped wasn't her boyfriend on the telephone. She had forgotten to bring Chopin. Rudolf was sure she was either a cellist or a harpist, because she never carried any instrument with her, and he felt that she very much looked like a cellist. It must have been how she sat. Or perhaps it was her bright red lips. Always uniform in color to her bright red heels.
Getting off at his station he noticed that he was no longer pushed out of the way of people also leaving the train. In fact, he found himself giving a slight nudge to some man who was making a very conscious effort to get off. He was balding and short, and had the demeanor of a beaten dog. Rudolf joined in on the crowd, pushing him out of the way, and not only did he not feel guilty, he felt quite justified. He was, after all, on his way to work. On the escalator he stood perpendicular to the direction of motion, to better see all those going down. He stared at them (in a manner that would have been described as intent if he had eyebrows to show it) and none shied away.
Rudolf walked from the station to his place of employment with his shoulders back and head clearly unbowed. Yesterday, while staring very intently at the tips of his shoes, he had walked into an older lady, who then called him a blind faggot.
"Good morning", is what he would have said if he had a mouth. Taking his place behind the counter of the reception of the dentist where he worked, he glanced at himself in the mirror while taking off his overcoat, as he always does, to make sure his tie is straight, and his hair well kempt.
"Jesus Christ, could you not have picked up the papers on the way in?", Christine said, exasperated, standing up from the chair that they weren't supposed to sit on, coffee cup in hand, and walked outside. Usually Rudolf brings the papers, and Christine reads them as she drinks her morning coffee, but not today.
"Yes, hello. I have an appointment with, uh... Doctor... Venak... Veknatesh?"
"I'll just sit down."
Rudolf received the guests, like he usually did, but today no one complained about having to wait past their agreed appointment.
"When will you lunch?" The chair creaked audibly as Christine stood up again, and brushed her skirt with downward strokes. Rudolf did not turn to face her.
"I'll just go now, and then you can go after." There was doubt in her voice. Rudolf still did not turn to face her.
The Doctor called for the next patient, shook her hand and led her to the chair. He barked at Rudolf without looking up from his files.
"Cancel the 13:30 appointment." Rudolf turned what would have been his face toward the Doctor. Expecting acknowledgement, the Doctor lifted his gaze and looked at Rudolf. Rudolf doesn't remember the last time the Doctor looked him in the eyes. He still didn't, because Rudolf had none.
Rudolf did not lunch, as he had nothing to lunch with. Instead he took the time to wander around the rest of the building. Something that he had never done, in his eight years of working there. He was aware of some sort of agency above the floor of the dentist. Perhaps an ad agency? Or was it recruitment. He walked past the reception. The young girl smiled and nodded. Inside were cubicles, and people talking into headsets. Some were wandering around, clearly observing those that spoke, writing down notes into a clipboard. Their clothes were very formal. Rudolf took out the notebook and fountain pen that he carried in his breast pocket, and started to slowly pace the floor. He stopped at a cubicle that seated a plump young woman. She was unattractive, and her voice was nasal and monotonous. Rudolf stood behind her very deliberately. When she turned to glance at him, he wrote hateful things in his notebook. He was glad at how uncomfortable he was making her, and stood there for his entire lunch.
Descending into the metro tunnel, he noticed the girl in red heels waiting at the platform. She had always boarded at the next station. Perhaps she had some errands here today. Rudolf approached her and stood next to her nonchalantly, with his hands behind his back.
After briefly standing there, she glanced at him, and Rudolf noticed. She was trying to start a conversation. Rudolf turned his head toward her.
"I quite like your shoes." They were very nice shoes. Expensive. Rudolf had bought them for himself.
"I got these in Italy." She waited for Rudolf to react.
"My name is Jacqueline".
Of course it is.
She tried to hide a smile, and stood on her toes briefly.
"I'm a Cellist. I study at the academy."
"I don't usually talk to strange men on the metro" She had to raise her voice because our train arrived, but she was smiling. Rudolf knew where to stand, so the door opened right in front of him. Rudolf sat down at the very back, and Jacqueline sat on the opposite seat. She had left the academy early to see her room mates performance in the center.
"You're very easy to talk to."
I love you.
Jacqueline rummaged in her purse and found an old receipt. She wrote her number on the clear side and handed it to Rudolf. The receipt was for groceries and feminine products.
"You could call me, you know." She tried to look like she wouldn't care if I didn't.
She was very brief in her goodbyes as they approached their station. Rudolf stood behind her on the escalator, but she avoided looking at him because she had already said goodbye.
Rudolf entered his studio apartment and turned his only chair toward the only window. Sunset woke him, still in the chair. He saw his reflection in the window, and cried.