Colson Whitehead

“Dressed, she’s in front of the mirror. Armed. She puts her face on. In her case, not a matter of cosmetics, but will. How to make such a sad face hard? It took practice. Not in front of a mirror or in front of strangers, gauging her success by their expressions of horror, disgust, etc. She did it by lying in her bed, feeling and testing which muscles in her face pained under application of concerted tension. To choose the most extreme pain would be to make a fright mask. A caricature of strength. She achieved calibration one night while testing a small muscle attached to her upper lip hitting upon a register of pain a few inches below the high-tide mark of real pain. This register of discomfort became the standard for all the muscles in her face, above the eyebrows under the jaw, across the nostrils. She didn’t check with the small mirror in the janitor’s closet, didn’t need to. She knew she’d hit it.”


Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist
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The Intuitionist The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
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