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"Losing Face" & "Papaya Summers" by Amy Marques

Losing Face

  1. Don’t look in the mirror.

  2. Tilt ten degrees down: the phone, not the face.

  3. Tilt face to one side.

  4. Smile. Not a real smile. No teeth.

  5. Click.

  6. Look at the face on the screen.

  7. Edit the jawline and the nose.

  8. Remove awkward freckles.

  9. Add smattering of cute freckles.

  10. Erase fatigue under eyes.

  11. Look at the new face on the screen.

  12. Smile. A real smile.

  13. Post.

  14. Don’t look in the mirror.

  15. Remove eyelashes.

  16. Pull hair back with a scrunchie. Silk. Dry.

  17. Wet cotton pad with cleanser.

  18. One pad at a time, wipe eyelids, forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, neck.

  19. Repeat until last wet cotton pad shows no color.

  20. Wash face with astringent soap and cold water.

  21. Pat skin dry.

  22. Don’t look in the mirror.

  23. Pull on sweats

  24. Braid hair.

  25. Make cup of honey lemon water (without the honey).

  26. Catch an accidental glimpse of reflection in the window.

  27. Wince. Wish you looked like the face in the screen.

Papaya Summers

The night before you ate your first papaya, I cried myself to sleep.

The next day, eyes still swollen, I made you giggle as I danced you into the kitchen, sing-songing a monologue on the delights of tropical fruit. I sliced a papaya open while you supervised from your highchair, your baby forehead barely wrinkling despite your intense concentration. You cooed when I scooped out the gleaming black seeds, then went silent, watchful, as the tender fruit flesh was scraped and piled onto a spoon that airplaned its way into your mouth.

You didn’t know what to do. Not then. Not yet.

You dug little fingers into the mound of papaya and licked your fists, then missed your mouth and spread fruit on your cheeks, your head, your nose. We laughed together as orangish blobs dribbled down your cheek and you looked at me, eyes as shiny and black as papaya seeds, as if to say: Do you see this, Mommy?! Did you know this about this already?

Crying had been ridiculous. I knew that. Of course children grow, and one cannot breastfeed forever.

I was happy for you. It was time. You were ready.

Crying had been essential. In the first months of your life, I had grown accustomed to the heady power of being someone’s everything. When I walked into a room, your face lit up. When I held you, your whole body melted into my arms, legs curled in, fist wrapped around a lock of my hair, face relaxed in contentment. When I nursed you, you were replete. Feeding you anything other than my own milk would be evidence of the obvious: I was not, would not, could not ever be all you needed.

The papaya was glorious. It was time. You were ready.

But the night before you ate your first papaya, I needed to cry myself to sleep.

It was the pause before the step.

In the decade and a half since that first papaya, you were introduced to so many other firsts. You gorged on mangoes and cherry-picked berries. You tried pastries that looked delectable and turned out to be tasteless. Sometimes you hesitated, wary, only to be surprised with bursts of flavor. You tried to eat wooden blocks or plastic Legos. Sometimes you refused to try at all. Eventually you learned that with food, as with life, you can play it safe or you can choose to explore and savor.

I will not cry myself to sleep tonight, the last of your childhood summers. I understand that joy plays tug-of-war with the certainty that nothing will ever be the same again.

Amy Marques grew up between languages and cultures and learned, from an early age, the multiplicity of narratives. She penned three children’s books, barely read medical papers, and numerous letters before turning to short fiction and visual poetry. She is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee and has work published most recently in Streetcake Magazine, MoonPark Review, Jellyfish Review, Gone Lawn, and Parenthesis Journal. You can find more of her work at


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