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Summer-Fall '23

Travis Flatt

You love your lips.

With age, it’s wormed into your mind that they’re thinning and this diminishes you.

You and Jamie Lee Curtis––the likeness is undeniable, everyone says it. She with her handsome jawline but sensual, full lips. Short hair––you wear your hair short, too. You have her jaw. You have her hair. You have her lips––even if you see them shrinking. In your mind it’s a kind of Greek myth: your lips are cursed to age while the rest of you remains thirty. I’m playing with your words, having fun, teasing, but I’ve seen the way you pop kisses at the mirror.

Down the rabbit hole you go and I catch you looking back on pictures, a flip-show of lips over years, you certain they’re disappearing. 

But you spoke to friends? Social media? Whatever the case, your phone’s leapt into action. Ads appear on Instagram. Ads for lips enhancers. You’ve decided to drive to Nashville and undergo collagen injections to plump them out. 

I humored this without comment––they're your lips––but I was (and still am) concerned that plastic surgery is a slippery slope. You’re a beautiful woman. Because you enjoy the theater, as I understand it, you watch those Real Housewives shows where most of the women look like blow-up dolls because, I suspect, they have plastic surgery addictions. 

Two years later, you've had your lips done three more times. The body ingests or absorbs whatever it is they're injecting into you, you say. 

Generally, I ride up to Nashville with you, wait in the coffee shop below the doctor's office, drink bad coffee, and read for an hour or so. Or, if the appointment is early, I nap in the car. You come back to the car with little blood beads around your lips, and don’t want to kiss for days. 

When I was sixteen, I had surgery on my upper lip. I was born with a cleft lip (not the palette), and the doctors corrected this in my infancy, suggesting that when I reached a certain point in puberty, I could have a second operation if I wasn't happy with the way it healed over time. The scar was never severe, only a puffy place under my nose and a gap in my upper lip when I closed my mouth which exposed my right front tooth. A couple of my friends called me "Camel Boy." When I turned sixteen, I opted to have the second surgery performed by a recommended plastic surgeon (also in Nashville), and it healed nicely. At the time of this writing, my scar is almost imperceptible.

Last month, your son (my stepson) got into a fight at school. He was playing tackle football during recess, and matters escalated when he began showboating after a touchdown. That's the version we dragged out of him. His nose was busted but not broken, and he needed a single stitch in his lower lip. My attitude was "boys will be boys," which infuriated you. You wanted to sue the parents of the boy who punched him, the school, the school board, the mayor, the governor, the president, and so on. 

When I attempted to talk you down, which I thought was the reasonable course of action, things naturally led to my lip surgery, then your lips, and our feelings were both hurt, so I ended up spending the night at my parent's house. 

I read somewhere that Alexander the Great was born without lips. I made that up, but you’d have believed me if I passed it off with a straight face.  

Dolphins don’t have lips. They seem happy. 







Travis Flatt is a teacher and actor living in Cookeville, Tennessee. His stories appear in Heavy Feather Review, HAD, JMWW, and elsewhere. He enjoys theater, dogs, and theatrical dogs. 

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