The Ringing in Her Ears
BLYTHE AWOKE ONE MORNING WITH A RINGING in her left ear—faint and faraway, almost unnoticeable the first day. She even went in and did some modeling, and told anyone who asked her what was wrong that she had a headache. But the next day, the ringing was worse, making it hard to even think, so she called in sick.
On the third day, Blythe went to see her doctor. The doctor looked at her ear and started asking her questions:
Had she been swimming in any lakes or streams?
Had she accidentally put anything in her ears lately?
Did she listen to music at excessive volumes?
But Blythe had done none of these things. The doctor wrote her a prescription for pills and a fluid to pour in her ear.
“What’s wrong?” Blythe asked, taking the prescription.
“I have no idea.”
When the medicine had done nothing after five days, she called her doctor.
“The ringing is louder than ever and the stuff you gave me isn’t working.”
“I can schedule you an appointment with a specialist, but it will take at least a month to see him, so you should keep taking your meds until then.”
“Thanks, doc. You’ve been so helpful.”
She found that she still couldn’t do anything without the ringing in her ears breaking her concentration. She was too distracted to work, and couldn’t watch tv or read anything for more than two minutes at a time. She tried to sleep, hoping she’d heal herself if she rested, but all she could hear was the increasingly louder ringing.
When she could stand it no longer, Blythe decided to remove her ear. The idea seemed extreme at first, but after three days of thinking about it, she marched into her kitchen, took out her sharpest knife, and cut off her ear. The ringing stopped as soon as the blade sliced through the skin. She bandaged it as well as she could, took three of the pills her doctor had prescribed, and slept peacefully for the first time in over a week.
When she awoke the next morning, she ran to the mirror and removed the bloody bandage, expecting the cut to be infected, or worse, hideous. Instead, she found that it had healed over completely.
Blythe rubbed her hands
all around the area, but it was as smooth as her cheek, not even a bump. She turned on her
radio and found she could hear fine, so she spent the day listening to
loud music, watching tv again, and calling up friends she hadn’t seen or
talked to in a week. She decided to go in to work the next morning and
went to bed early.
The shoot was in Stephán’s studio, or as his neighbors called it, “the garage.” Stephán was his nom-de-plume; when he’d gone to high school with Blythe, everyone called him “Steve.” He moved to New York after graduation and ran around with avant-garde photographers, then when he couldn’t make the rent, he moved back to his aunt’s garage apartment in Fayetteville. In the meantime he’d changed his name, insisting that everyone call him “Stephán.” Blythe thought the whole thing was stupid, but since she also went by an alias, she didn’t think he’d listen to her on the subject. Besides, he was a talented photographer.
Stephán had no chance at making a living working only as an artistic photographer in Arkansas, and refused to get a day job, so he started his own internet site and asked her to model. He still considered his photography artistic, and refused to shoot straight nudity, always insisting she have an artistic element to her modeling. He told her to cover herself in paint or pose as a statue that comes to life via a striptease. The website didn’t make enough money for either of them to live comfortably, but it paid the bills and Blythe found the work to be empowering. Men all over the world gave up their credit card numbers and waited for her to post new pictures—or rather, for “Lanie Carlyle” to post new pictures.
“Well, look who’s finally on the set again,” Stephán said. “Lanie Carlyle, back in the flesh—no pun intended of course.”
“So what do you want to shoot today, Stephán? Are we doing Helen of Troy again?”
“No, not today. I was thinking something more along the lines of—what the fuck happened to your ear?”
“I removed it.”
“Bullshit. Is this some kind of Van Gogh joke?”
“No, it was bothering me and the doctor wasn’t helping, so I just got rid of it.”
“Are you out of your fucking mind? You can’t be in porn missing an ear. That’s weird.”
“What do you mean, weird? I would think that weirdness would make porn more appealing.”
“Sure, you could go for that amputee fetish market,” Stephán said, chopping the air with his hand. “But you’d need to be missing an arm or a leg or something normal like that. The only way you could have done worse was cutting off a tit.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Let me tell you something Blythe—no guy wants to jack off to a girl missing an ear.”
“Let me tell you something, Steve—I fucking quit. If you’re going to be a jackass about this, then you can go find a normal girl to pose for you.”
He was still stammering when she slammed the door of his studio.
Getting a new website started was not a problem—Lanie Carlyle had developed an online following who, despite Stephán’s suggestion, didn’t seem to mind her removal all that much. Her website has stolen most of his subscribers.
Before long, word had spread and Lanie’s site was becoming one of the most popular adult sites on the web. Her email account was soon flooded with offers. One afternoon as she was reading some of those emails, she noticed something dripping from her nose. She swiped a hand over her upper lip and looked down at her fingers. They were covered in blood.
Rather than calling her doctor again, Blythe went to SelfMD.com. She typed in her symptoms and sent them through the database. The results were inconclusive.
Blythe searched the web again and tried every home remedy she could find to keep her nose from bleeding. She tried twisting the ends of tissues and keeping them up her nostrils, but the tissues soaked through. She tried keeping her head elevated, but the blood streamed down her cheeks. She tried blowing her nose to see if she could somehow exorcise the cause of the bleeding, but it kept coming, as if she had found a fountain of red wine between her sinuses. When she ran out of ideas, she got her bandages and knife. Five minutes later, she was wearing bloody gauze across her face.
The next morning when she went to change the gauze, she expected to see a gaping hole in the middle of her face. She’d lain awake for hours, wondering if she’d ended her modeling career. But when she took the bandage off, she found that it had healed completely, except for two small holes just above her upper lip. She could breathe fine, and her face simply went flat.
Two days later, she was posing again. Within a week, she had almost doubled the number of her subscribers. By the end of the month, she was getting emails from girls wanting to be a part of her site. Imitators began springing up all over the web, but none had the aesthetic of Lanie’s site—their amputations were often ghastly; Lanie’s removals looked as if someone had simply erased parts of her body.
After a month of getting used to life with her new removal, Blythe began to notice a pain in her left shoulder, probably from playing tennis at the athletic club.
She typed up a poll and added it to the daily blog she’d started to get more subscribers: Would you like to see Lanie Carlyle subtract even more of herself? When she checked the poll results a few days later, she found that the majority of her subscribers supported her cutting off something else. There were even emails with suggestions—one guy emailed her four times about poking out an eye.
The checkout clerk at Home Depot was staring at her as she set the hacksaw on the counter. “Doing some home repairs, miss?”
“Something like that.” She tossed her credit card down and wished he’d stop staring at her. She was fine with millions of men staring at her boobs for hours a day, but couldn’t this guy take his eyes off her face for fifteen seconds?
By the time the clerk ran her credit card, almost all of the clerks in the store were leering at her. When the customers started turning and staring as well, Blythe felt like picking up the hacksaw and running for the door, leaving her credit card with the clerk. But she resisted, and walked out of the store with her head held high. Fuck em, she thought. They probably hate their jobs.
She was back at her job the next afternoon, announcing to all of her subscribers that Lanie Carlyle had removed another body part.
Her ear was ragged, scabby. Her leg looked like someone had twisted it off above the knee. She removed her prosthetic nose, leaned down to the compact, and snorted a line of coke.
Blythe shook her head. “I’ve got no nose for the stuff.”
The girl laughed. “I get it. You know, I really admire the way you do your thing.”
Blythe smiled at the girl, another one of the hopeful contestants for the reality tv show she’d agreed to do. She was surprised to find so many women willing to compete for a free body part removal and a modeling contract with her site.
“It’s amazing how many of my problems went away when I started using a knife,” the girl said, replacing her nose as she stuffed her coke in her prosthetic leg and started hobbling for the door. “Thanks for showing me the way, Ms. Carlyle. See you on the set.”
Blythe said nothing and only adjusted her own recently acquired prosthetic leg, thinking about how many of her own problems she’d removed with a knife—first the ringing, then the bleeding, then the pains in her extremities. A knife had taken care of everything so far, except for the migraines that had started plaguing her.
Her Last Night As a Virgin