She did not explode, as her parents had expected (or even hoped), but her face did. Even as her weight surged temporarily before beginning its downwards trek towards normality (her body finally started to take the leap of faith necessary for the destruction of fat reserves that Angela no longer needed), her face decided to betray her in a new and different way. She was beset upon by a plague of acne, and thereby shifted all her conscious attention to her face, never even noticing that her weight had slowly started to decline.
It seemed that each day there was a new addition to the growing number of constellations of painful, unpretty pimples on her pouty puss. She tried to pop them all, but it was only a temporary solution at best, and she found the work quite disgusting. In school and other public places she would do her best to casually cover her face with her hands, as if it was normal for a teenage girl to walk around looking through the spaces between her index and forefinger. And each time she put her hand to her face in embarrassment, it seemed as if she could feel the pimples growing, pushing against the skin of her fingers.
Her parents were no help to her in this situation, or any situation whatsoever at this point. They did not care about her new crisis, in fact in their actions it almost seemed like they felt she deserved this affliction because she had, after all, been a "demon child" from the start. Their speech reflected this apparent tone of their actions when they said such things as "You probably deserve this because you are, after all, a demon child."
On her own now in the fight against her face, Angela began trying the various acne remedies available at the local Walgreen's. Nothing seemed to do any good in any long term sense, and just as she felt she was winning the battle, a brand new wave of red dots would appear. Her face began to hurt all the time, even when she wasn't touching it (though she still touched it constantly). People she was forced to talk to weren't able to look her in the eye, what with all the more interesting things going on elsewhere on her face. It was like watching a thousand tiny volcanoes in various stages of eruption all located within the same small patch of flesh. Of course, no one could look at her for any length of time without their eyes giving off a look of horror and fascination at the sight they beheld. She was miserable, to say the least, and she wondered how things could possibly get worse.
After spending the first two years of high school in this state, she was finally able to save up enough money working at the local Taco Bell to be able to afford a dermatologist appointment. She had gotten the job after the manager, who was quite overweight herself, took pity on her and said she could work at the restaurant as long as she stayed in the back and didn't let any of the customers see her. This of course meant that she was relegated to such duties as frying taco shells and stirring large packets of lard into the refried beans on a regular basis, which she was pretty sure wasn't helping her condition any. Each night she came home from work covered with an appreciable layer of grease and smelling like a burrito supreme. The food, however, was wonderful (she got a free meal each time she worked), and she got to drink all the Dr. Pepper she wanted.
She knew it wasn't a good sign when the dermatologist winced as she walked into his office. He quickly recovered his composure, however, and as he examined her she could almost see the dollar signs lighting up in his eyes. "Well yes," he said, "this is a very serious case of Gooeywhiteheadpizzafaceitis" (or something like that) "and it's not something that can be cured overnight, you understand." He went on to prescribe various vitamins to take and creams to apply, and started to send her on her way.
"But doctor, what causes this? Is it something I'm eating? Is there something I can do to stop new pimples from forming?" Angela saw the doctor wince again, as if preventative medicine was not at all his specialty, and was on the contrary something he was quite allergic to.
"Seaweed," was his response.
"Seaweed? What about seaweed?"
"Don't eat any seaweed and you should be fine. Seaweed is the only food that has been conclusively linked to the formation of acne."
Angela racked her brain, trying to think of the last time she had deliberately or accidentally ingested any seaweed. This was the first time she had even considered seaweed a food. Seaweed?
Meanwhile the doctor continued to shoo his new patient out into the reception area. "Come back when you've used your prescription up, and I'll give you a new one. We'll have this thing licked in no time." Apparently his unintentional use of the word "licked" in conjunction with the bubbling, oozing war zone that was her face was enough to make himself violently nauseous, and he ran off down the hall towards the bathroom before he spilled his cookies, so to speak.
It was not until many prescriptions later, when she was about to enter college, that Angela discovered that by washing her face on a regular basis and by not touching her face with unclean hands she was able to prevent new pimples from forming. When she realized this, she threw away her remaining vitamin pills and acne cremes and cancelled her next appointment with the dermatologist. She looked into the mirror and could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It would still take a while to fully get into the habit of keeping her face clean, but now that she knew what she had to do, the future never seemed so bright and unblemished.
Chapter 23 was first written November 26, 2001
It was last edited December 7, 2001