|THE MANY FACES
It would be a social experiment. That's all
they told her. They said that for the sake of the
natural reactions that would be crucial to their
analysis she mustn't know any details before going
in. They would only say that it would be good if she
dressed nicely. She was an outgoing and outspoken
girl who didn't embarrass easily or at least knew
how to make it appear as if she didn't embarrass
easily. The lack of information didn't really bother
her. Anything for the sake of sociology, she thought.
She arrived on a Sunday afternoon at a loft
downtown. She wore a khaki skirt with a navy
blouse that was belted in the middle, and brown
espadrille wedges. Her hair and makeup were right
where they needed to be and her nails were nicely
manicured. She felt good going in; just a few small
butterflies flitted around her stomach in anticipation.
One of the professors met her out front, shook her
hand, thanked her for coming, and motioned
towards the lift. The door opened and there they
were in the penthouse. Floor to ceiling windows
looked out over the eastward skyline and there
were little white lights wrapped around the various
potted bushes and palms that were lined up along
the exposed brick walls. There was a white curtain
strung in front of an alcove at one end and at the
other end was a long table covered in a black cloth
with all kinds of fruits and cheeses and crackers
spread out all over it.
There were about twenty-five people standing
around the table sipping cocktails and wine and
chatting. It took her a minute to realize that she
recognized all of them. Her friend from junior high,
her college roommate, a group of her guy friends, a
few co-workers and a smattering of post-college
friends from the city. She didn't know what to think.
She felt suspicious and squinted her eyes at the
To that the professor replied, "Don't worry, nothing
is going to happen here that is outside of the realm
of what you can handle. Your only job here is to be a
human being, specifically yourself. For now, you
should go have yourself a glass of wine and talk with
your friends. We'll be starting the program in about
She accepted this and went forth as commanded.
Sure enough, after an hour, a few professors came
out and one of them rang a small bell and asked
everyone to sit. The professor asked her to take a
seat in a large armchair in the front. They attached
a monitoring device to her forefinger to measure
heart rate and they placed a bottle of Chardonnay
and a large glass on the small table beside her chair.
All the friends were now seated in rows facing her.
The professor who rang the bell came out in front of
the group and said to her, "Tonight we will engage
you with an interactive panel of people, all of whom
you know, and all of whom have one thing in
common in your life. I will say no more at this time
but to introduce the panel."
One by one, from behind the white curtain, came
every boy and man she had ever been involved
with, either physically, emotionally or both. The
professor read their names as they came out with
small stools in their hands which they set up on
either side of her. She didn't know what to think.
She just sat in stunned silence, unsure of how to
react. She watched them file in and sit down and she
looked each one in the eye.
There was the boy from high school with the
Camaro, there was her first love, there were the
three or four whose hearts she broke on purpose,
there were the three or four who broke her heart,
there was the most recent one—that son-of-a-bitch
who couldn't keep it in his pants—there was the one
that got away, there was the one who was the most
perfect for her out of all them, and there was the
one who was the worst. There was the most
beautiful one, there was the rebound, there was the
one she rebounded from, there was the one who
used to sneak her in past his parents at night, there
was the one who came between her and her best
friend, and there was the one with the dimples. Yep,
they were all present.
Then the professor said, "The panelists have
prepared a series of questions or assertions for you
and ask that you respond as honestly as possible. I
will warn you that some of these questions are very
pointed and direct while others are more
lighthearted in nature. Again, please respond as
honestly as possible."
"May I have a moment?" she inquired.
"Certainly," replied the professor.
With that, she leaned over and uncorked the bottle
of Chardonnay. She poured a third of the bottle into
the large wine glass, took two huge swallows, then
refilled the glass. She stood up, straightened her
skirt and her belt and her hair. She sat down and
crossed her legs, then picked up the wine glass,
cupping the round bottom in her palm.
"Ready," she said.
Maxine Flowers holds a BA in Sociology
from UC Santa Cruz and currently works as a
freelance consultant with dual specialties in
grant writing and interior design. She lives in
San Francisco. This is her first published story.