DORIAN WARD Holly Dickson
“What do you mean, he’s fading?” The middle-aged couple gazed at Dr. Harris, eyes narrowing skeptically, mouths slack in confusion. A medical secretary walked past the doorway of the doctor’s office; a fluorescent light in the hall was blinking and humming loudly; a tall, pale, teenage boy slouched in a chair next to the couple, picking at a scab on the back of his hand. The doctor cleared his throat. “Again – if I’m right about this – it’s a very rare condition that we don’t entirely understand . . . ” his voice faded off. “That’s why I wanted to be somewhat sure before I said anything, but-” “You mean he’s losing color – getting paler,” the man interrupted. “Yeah, I mean, we can see that for ourselves. We want to know why. Is it some kind of immune system disease, or does he need more vitamins or something?” The wife spoke up, “Lord knows he eats enough food. And I serve vegetables every meal – he eats them. He eats as much as any boy his age, and we feed him well. I try to make healthy food, and he eats his vegetables every meal or fruit sometimes. One or the other.” She scratched at her neck nervously. “I don’t think you understand quite what I mean. Dorian – he’s a healthy teenage boy: developing at a good rate, has a healthy appetite, seems to be emotionally stable, all things considered. There is so little information on it, but, right now, it seems that he does have a serious medical condition. You’ve noticed the lightening of his hair and eyes, how his skin has become very pale. It’s a type of genetic depigmentation that we think was somehow prompted – triggered – by the natural increase of hormone production during adolescence. Only two other cases have been documented, but, Dorian, if your body continues to change the way the other two did . . . and considering how much it has already changed . . . within a year, your skin, the tissue . . . there’s just no gentle way of putting it. You will become invisible.” His foster parents tried to talk Dorian into composing himself. They told him that Dr. Harris was wrong, insane. He tried to believe them. Even though he had been the only doctor so far who could give them any insight into the problem, they had left his office that day and didn’t go back. He must have been crazy, they told themselves. Still, after that afternoon, they approached the problem with renewed energy that bordered on hysteria; for a couple of weeks, they feverishly made appointments with other doctors. But, with every failed attempt to find a diagnosis and every new doctor who remained perplexed, a strange, uncomfortable feeling grew in them. In the upstairs bathroom of his foster parents’
home, Dorian Ward would sometimes stand in front of the mirror after showering, looking in astonishment at himself. He would stand straight and throw his shoulders back; be the hero; flex his pectorals. He mouthed imaginary conversations to his reflection; flexed his biceps; got the imaginary girl. He admired his own new strength, and then viciously pulled his own paling hair in a desperate confusion of self-admiration and self-loathing. He leaned close to the mirror speckled with dried water droplets, examining the skin on his face and holding strands of his hair up to the light. He couldn’t trust his body anymore. Maybe he couldn’t trust himself at all. What the hell was wrong with him? Not many people at the large school knew him. He had started there in eighth grade when he’d moved to the new home two years ago, and he immediately melded into the landscape of faces. He didn’t shy away from talking to people who approached him, but he never sought out new friends or did anything conspicuous in unfamiliar situations. Some of the kids said he was weird, and most of the teachers thought he was shy, and, to some extent, they both were probably right. Mostly though, he actually enjoyed standing on the edges, watching the action from a distance. There was something about other people that fascinated him and yet made him feel separate from them at the same time. Watching from the outside wasn’t something that the others seemed to understand or relate to, and, for the most part, he remained detached. Since few people noticed him to begin with, even fewer noticed how his hair had changed from black to murky brown during one school year, to an ash blond the next year. No one remembered how chocolaty his once-dark eyes had been, only seeing the watery amber of what they were now. That year, as a sophomore, Dorian discovered first love in the form of Jean Frank. Bright Jean, vivacious Jean, Jean filling a classroom with her dominating temperament – she filled the corners of his mind with her long black hair and milky-coffee skin. Their algebra teacher chalked imaginary numbers onto the blackboard, and Jean whispered loudly behind her hand that Ms. Math obviously had some hangovers from her childhood – what kind of adult keeps numbers as imaginary friends? She was witty yet foolish, and her personality was flat, but Dorian was entranced, in love with the thought of loving someone; obsessed with the idea of having something else to obsess over, something other than his body. On a sunny day before Thanksgiving break, he found the courage to say something to her. “Hi, Jean. Um, you might not know me-” “Oh, I know you! You’re Dorian.” She smiled hugely at him.
Published on Apr 18, 2013
Published on Apr 18, 2013
The University of Central Arkansas'sVortex Magazine of Literature and Fine Art is an undergraduate run publication, publishing students from...