I’m not sure my face does the right thing, when other people are talking to me. Usual, everyday conversations I’m just about OK at – years of practice means I can hold my face into something approximating interest and engagement. But any kind of unexpected news, and it’s all over.
It’s happened recently. I was visiting a friend, and I was late. I had dutifully emailed to explain why I was going to be late, and sent the obligatory ‘Can I bring anything?’ text when I was on my way. (I’m curious about those texts, which seem to be a save-all for the unbelievable impoliteness of turning up to someone else’s house empty-handed. I personally always take people up on their offers, and get them to bring along washing powder, or a particular brand of hand soap I’ve recently run out of. Well, they shouldn’t have been so foolish as to say ‘anything’). My friend opened the door, and I opened my mouth to apologise once again, when she blurted out her own news. ‘I’m pregnant,’ she told me, gesturing to her stomach.
I wondered vaguely why she felt the need to point out where babies are stored, and if I was meant to touch it. I decided not to, for the same reasons that I didn’t touch another friend’s new breast implants – I’m nervous of things hiding inside other things. It’s why I don’t like Swiss rolls.
I felt, when my friend told me the news, great joy and happiness. My face felt that the best way to express this was by blinking rapidly and letting my mouth fall open, in an eerily apt imitation of Jack Nicholson towards the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Luckily, I have long since worked out what to do in these types of situations.
‘Amazing!’ I shouted at my friend. ‘What wonderful news! Congratulations!’ My friend looked at me, startled. ‘I haven’t told everybody yet,’ she murmured. ‘Oh,’ I replied, feeling my eyes extend in alarm. I pulled her forward into a reluctant hug, awkwardly jutting out my bottom half to make sure it didn’t touch her stomach.
Still, at least it meant she couldn’t see my face.