Withstanding Torture, One Facial At A Time

I will tell you anything! Just stop extracting blackheads!

I will tell you anything! Just stop extracting blackheads!

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Today’s post No. 46 is titled “Withstanding Torture, One Facial At A Time”.

The needle jabbed points east, west, north, and south on my face like an explorer marking conquered lands on a map with thumbtacks. Each prick created a prolonged stinging sensation. The bridge of my nose served as the intersection of the most jarring pains, and verged on crumbling, or at least I thought.

Surely, the pinkie-sized Chinese woman standing behind me wielding the instrument of my present discomfort didn’t intend on jamming the needle through my skull. And yet, I fought the desire to wave my hands in surrender.

I squirmed and squirmed and squirmed some more, like a worm removed from its precious dirt. Each time I did so my “captor” retained her surgeon’s focus, intent on extracting as much from me as possible.

“Blackheads,” she mumbled.

On that morning two weeks ago in Queens while receiving my first facial I reached a definitive conclusion about my ability to withstand torture. Namely, I possess no ability to withstand torture, and thus must do everything in my power to avoid falling in the enemy’s hands.

Forget the rectal feeding, sleep deprivation, or waterboarding detailed in the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture issued this week. I am talking about a woman with a stainless steel tool about an inch long removing blackheads from my face. These enhanced facial techniques fucked with my head.

As I lay on my back under a white sheet staring craters through the ceiling I pondered three things. First, what led me to this box of a room. Second, the pain, THE PAIN!!! Third, secrets I would relinquish to end my agony.


Let’s start with facts.

My girlfriend, Demetra, suggested I receive a facial in the wake of a cold weather-related eczema flare-up that left my face in flames. She did not mention anything about torture, only relief. I agreed to join her, and so we journeyed to Flushing Chinatown, a mini-Beijing minus the gray ocean of suffocating air pollution.

As I struggle to recall the route Demetra and I took to arrive at the facial funhouse – my term, not its real name – it strikes me that I might have been blindfolded on the way there like a character in a movie thriller set in the Middle East. Or maybe I just have a piss poor memory when it comes to directions.

There was no elaborate storefront visible from the sidewalk, just a door leading to stairs. We arrived on the second floor witnesses to an environment catered to relaxation – candles, soothing music, two cheerful employees – and were soon inside our room preparing for a “rejuvenating” experience.


Here’s a brief list of information I considered sharing while my blackheads went kaput:

Who shot JFK? Check.

The truth behind Area 51? Easy.

Proof 2Pac is alive? In a heartbeat.

Does the Illuminati exist? Hell if I know but I would’ve made the case.

I would have provided this facial svengali everything I knew, plus some choice inventions, just to stop her needle from removing one more blackhead. It didn’t matter she spoke only two words of English – “Relax!” – the entire hour I spent on her table or that she likely didn’t know anything about JFK, Pac, or the United State’s touchy relationship with extraterrestrials.

Thankfully it didn’t come to this.

She put away the needle, satisfied she had gathered all the dirt from me she could, and commenced putting a clay mask on my face.

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One thought on “Withstanding Torture, One Facial At A Time”

  1. Hey Ray, I just caught up on everything that you have written since this funny piece on getting your “blackheads” removed. I could “feel your pain” when I read it, since I went to a dermatologist for many years. I also enjoyed reading your book “review”; sounds like a meaningful read. And, your piece about your love/hate relationship with NYC was well written and descriptive; also funny! Keep up the good work. There should be a way to market your talent. Hopefully, in this new year, you will find new and exciting ways to do that.

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