Meghna made her face when she was sixteen years old. Before that, she used the face her parents her designed for her. It was a pretty face—she’s shown me pictures—but she hated it. It stifled her, made her feel like she was in their control, like they ran every aspect of her life, even the face she would display.
The customiser was not expensive, but Meghna still had to spend months agonising over whether she should do it or not. She weighed, on one hand, that she would finally be free to look how she thought she should look. On the other hand, there were her parents, who were disapproving of people changing their faces.
“What’s wrong with the face we picked for you in the customiser?” her dad asked during a dinner, once. Meghna dug her fork into a cube of meat and didn’t move.
After swallowing whatever mashed-up morsel he had had in his mouth, her dad continued. “If you, god forbid, wanted to choose a different face for yourself, that’s what I’d ask you. I and your mother both. That’s what these people’s parents should be asking their kids.”
He pointed the TV remote at a broadcast of a celebrity getting a face change. The news bite said that she felt freer and more comfortable with this face, that it truly expressed her personality.
“How can you say a face expresses a personality?” Meghna’s dad slapped the table. “No, you tell me. On one hand they’re saying there’s nothing in a face. Then they’re saying faces have personalities. Make up your mind!”
Meghna nodded a little, and kept her attention on the broadcast. The news anchor made light of the new face, especially how its nose contrasted with that of the old face.
What’s really surprising is not Meghna’s father’s reluctance to her face change, but that she lived under the same roof as him for five years more.
For those five years, they did not speak a word to each other. Meghna’s mother was less hardline. In a private talk, she had confessed that shortly before marriage, she wanted to change her face too.
“But it’s not the done thing, you know?” she said.
Seven years after her face change, at the university, Meghna met me. We changed our faces shortly after we met each other. They were kind of complementary, and it took us some trial and error to settle for what face we liked for ourselves and for each other.
And then, my face display broke.
It was the oddest sensation, waking up in an empty bed, dragging my feet to the kitchen, only to see someone make breakfast. Someone whose face I’d never seen before.
She looked back at me.
For a moment, I expected her to recoil in shock. Maybe she wouldn’t recognise me either, she’d think I was a burglar or worse. But of course, she didn’t. Her face display was working just fine, and she could see the face I’d chosen one night four months ago.
“We’re out of eggs,” she said.
I walked up to her and kissed her, and I hugged her, and I burned in my mind the face that she could never change, and that she had never seen.