The Greatest Good

See Beautiful.

Is she still herself? Elisa wonders this, now, in the back seat of her car. After Mr. Myriad’s ministrations, she found herself too exhausted to drive the streets of a city she didn’t know. Her own town is so, so much smaller. The difference between the two is like that between an infant and a full-grown man. This city intimidates her to an almost unbearable extent.

It was day when she fell asleep, but now the sun has set, and no moon has risen in its place. Little of its light would reach her here, anyway, in the center of this parking structure, where the only light is faint and greenish-yellow, emanating from the rectangular lights set into the wall.

She observes her face with her compact mirror. Well, it must be her face: it’s the face from which her eyes look out, after all. It doesn’t feel like her own, especially in these moments of first waking, when the drowsiness of sleep has yet to flee. The afternoon’s experience with Mr. Myriad feels like a dream, even with the results before her in her mirror.

She has made a terrible mistake. It’s what she wanted, and perhaps, even knowing that she would feel as she does now, she would not warn her past self against the decision. She is beautiful, after all, and isn’t that all she has ever remembered wanting? But there has been a cost.

She doesn’t recognize herself. Her skin and hair and eyes are all different. Her face is hardly even her own. If she showed someone the photograph on her license, they would be right to doubt whether it was her that was pictured. She should have asked Mr. Myriad what to do about that, but the thought didn’t occur to her until now. All she had was the drive to be something better. She didn’t think about what would come after.

How can she go home to her mother, looking like another woman’s child? The hair that Elisa loathed and cast aside was her mother’s, and her grandmother’s before that. The eyes that Mr. Myriad erased were her grandfather’s. The skin that covered her body, now smoothed away by the shifter’s caress, had been a perfect blend of that of Elisa’s mother and father.

She doubts her mother would even love her now. Elisa had not loved herself, as she was; and who she had been was a combination of her parents. If Elisa’s mother said she had done this because she hated her, what defense would Elisa have, to try to prove the woman wrong? Carina thought people should love themselves as they were born. Elisa never had. She had failed her mother.

It is hard to see the green eyes crying in that mirror and call them her own. Her friends would not recognize her. If she showed up to work, wouldn’t they turn her away, or silently ridicule her for the change, even though it was unquestionably for the better? She’s heard them talk at work, about others: about Regine, who started wearing weaves to cover up her own hair; about Paul, who died his greying hair black; and about Syna, who had implants done after she’d had one breast removed due to cancer.

The gossips at work didn’t care about the reasons. They only cared about the acts. It was a shallow, disgusting view, but Elisa feels like she can’t fault them. Was her own desperate drive to be beautiful not shallow and disgusting in its own way? It had, she realizes, taken her old life away from her. Even if she wanted to go back, she doesn’t know how.

In two days, Elisa is scheduled to return to work. She knows, now, that she won’t be going. Tomorrow, she will get a refund on her return plane ticket. She will call her landlord, and tell him she is moving out. She has nothing worth pining over in her apartment. She brought everything that mattered with her. All that she left behind were clothes and memories.

She doesn’t know, yet, if she will call her mother. By leaving, she will hurt Carina either way. The woman seems to depend on her to be nearby, though she is financially and physically self-sufficient. It is an emotional need, one that had always weighed unhealthily upon Elisa’s shoulders. If she doesn’t call, Carina will be hurt. If she calls, Carina wwill still be hurt — but Elisa won’t. At least, not as much. Doesn’t that relate to something she learned in school? The morally good action is the one which results in the least amount of pain.

That thought made her feel better, in a way. The next few — what, days? Weeks? Years? The coming time in her life will be painful, but it will be a lesser pain than that which she has felt daily for the whole preceding portion of her life. Every glance in the mirror, and every time she looked down at herself, caused her grief. Now that will be gone. She thinks. Maybe the change was wrong, to some, but for her, it is for the greater good.

She will find a new job. She will find a new home. She will find people who love her, now that she is certain she can love herself. It should be easier now, shouldn’t? Everything is easier for people who are beautiful. That’s what Elisa believes. That’s why she came here. To be beautiful, and to lead the life of a beautiful person. It will be the greatest good she can get.

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