Two Faces

by Alina Stefanescu

1. Serious Face

He found the letter she’d written to a lover she imagined when she was pregnant and reading Margaret Atwood. There was no limit to the Atwood she read in bed. She said the letter wasn’t written to anyone that existed and if he’d read these books about pregnancy he would know it was common for lovers to appear and disappear during periods of prolonged bedrest. He wanted to know why she was laughing. What was funny? Was this her version of pop culture? And why did the pillowcase she embroidered for him suddenly look like a parody? She said it was normal to doubt your spouse when you found a suspicious letter but only if you were already prone to suspicious mindsets and revisionist thinking. A serious man wouldn’t take this seriously. A serious man would laugh at what wasn’t true. Sure—there was a racy letter which involved black leather halters but she hadn’t expected milk to leak from her breasts at Starbucks either.

2. Funny Face

He was telling a joke about passports which loosely incorporated certain immigrant elements waiting outside Home Depot at 6am. His friend laughed because it was funny but the woman who was supposed to be in the den helping the children did not believe they were really laughing. They were making laughing sounds and wearing funny faces but the noises coincided with a sense of the familiar. You two can laugh and say it’s funny but only because you’ve both seen the man outside Home Depot. She wishes the men were honest enough to admit the familiar touched them in a way they couldn’t describe and so they laughed instead because laughter is by its nature indescribable. The best example she found was pulling down her pants and mooning them. Her husband laughed but his friend blushed because the nakedness startled him. See, she said. One of you laughed because it was familiar and the other just cringed but no one could say this was funny. She made a funny face to be specific.

bio #2, stefanescu

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Two Faces”?

    “Two Faces” was inspired by something I read in Luke Hankins’ The Work of Creation: Collected Prose  (Wipf and Stock, January 2016). A few lines from the poetry of Patrice de la Tour du Pin, as translated by Jennifer Grotz, seared to my gray matter and prompted me to engage them somehow:

         Two of us! the heart and its secret.
         Two of us: the throat and the voice to say so.

    Certainly, the voice and tone of “Two Faces” seems to contradict its origins in this poem– and yet, both convene in love. du Pin’s love is more reverent and obviously theistic, but married love also dances around this formal restriction, namely, given the limitations of the vehicle (i.e. marriage, the human body, etc.), can we say what we feel? And to what extent do we mean what we say? What does it mean to say something which is expected of us? In an intimate relationship, is the “acceptable” an affirmation or a negation of what is valued?

    I also though about Stanley Cavell’s book on Hollywood remarriage comedies, which applies Wittgenstein’s language games to body language in the context of early American cinema. On one level, “Two Faces” explores how lovers play language games with our bodies. On another level, it probes the possibility/impossibility of a sacred voice — “the heart and its secret” — in the context of public social arrangements like marriage.

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