Ras Mashramani

The Ugliest Man

The ugliest man in the world shops at Basically a Buck while my friend and I stuff Baby Ruths and Crazy Dips into the front pockets of our hoodies. I am required to steal more, because I brought my older brother's Johnny Blaze sweatshirt, and therefore have the most capacity.

We stop and watch him live his life for a moment, smelling bottles of off-brand baby lotion. Staring for a long time at the powder.

He is huge, wearing a wifebeater stained with maybe Kool-Aid and swollen with stomach. His head is like a puzzle piece, with knots and dents jutting in and out of his bald head. Someone tattooed a tear drop under one of his eyes. Latrece says, "Hi!" because he lives in her apartment building. When he looks up, I see that his left eye profoundly favors the right. You can barely see the iris, hiding in the corner of his eye socket like that. The two of us make a low, pitying sound and try smile through it.

"Hi," he says, except he says it like a fat black kid, the fat kids in the store trying to get their fat moms to buy them more Hot Cheetos. Every word is squished by stickiness and a larynx pressed with weight, and there's a subtle and entitled whine, held open at the end with the need to breathe. "Haaaauughh." Like a big ass ogre. There are dents in his head like someone took a melon baller to it. His good eye is a large and soft one. A little blank, sure, but like a loyal dog maybe. Like a kicked dog. Who is he looking at? Where is he looking?

He moves on, leaving us buried in candy, awestruck. "Yo, that eye," says Latrece. "He is really the ugliest man in the world."

The back of his neck sits in rolls red and bumpy from a razor. The ugliest man in the word is shopping at the dollar store for baby powder and I begin to cry because he must know.

He must wake up alone and say, "Damn." He must be a romantic, watching movies like The Best Man wishing he could find a nice girl like Nia Long or Sanaa Lathan. That eye must plague him. No one wants to touch him. He might have to pay ladies with STDs to sleep with him. Permanent, involuntary thug bachelor. Permanent, cock-eyed lonely heart. In Basically a Buck shopping for baby powder. Ogre, razor bumps, baby powder, dollar store, that eye, everywhere he goes, people pity his dented head. Someone knocked his skull around. Maybe he just got out of jail. Maybe he was lonely on that little bed and maybe his nickname was Eyeball. Maybe him and his mother sit in front of the TV and don't speak. Maybe she just rubs the back of his head, letting her fingers play over the scars and the pits. Maybe some nights when she gets a little Maneschevitz in her frail body she sits on the edge of his bed and slurs, “I shoulda did right by you.”

I am crying and fizzy candy falls from my pockets. "He will never be in love," I say. But Latrece is in line. She always changes her mind in the end and I always look like a fat thief waddling over to check out with merchandise in my pockets. It's because that kid Raul is working and he gives us shit for free. "He's never gonna be in love," I say.

Latrece studies my face. "Are you crying?"

"Yeah, because he's always gonna be alone."

Latrece rolls her eyes. "He'll find somebody cock-eyed to love. Just like I'll find someone super tall."

"He won't, he won't. He's too ugly."

Latrece is flirting with Raul, asking him how to say bad words in Spanish.

I am plagued with sadness. The realization that sometimes you grow up and you're stll alone, just because you let someone tattoo a tear drop on your face. Just because you might have killed someone.

Back home, I tell this to Latasha, who is 17 and very wise. "Just because he's ugly, Tasha. Alone for life."

She shakes her head and tells me that he's dating the mother of that dirty little girl Jeanna--the one who keeps showing her vagina to the boys and calling it her "poo-nanny." Her mother was once described as having a junky booty and stays fitted with platinum blonde weaves. She also may or may not have a slight beard.

"So he's not alone," she says, "Something for everyone."


And I don't feel comforted at all.


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