Monday, March 12, 2007

Mirror, Mirror of Your Eyes

Michele sat in front of the mirror after her shower. Her digital alarm clock glowed 1:00 PM. A wide, stained, cloth headband held the damp hair away from the face. She dotted blemish medicine on pimples using the tip of a pinky. She applied make-up exactly as the saleswoman instructed. She sponged concealer stick, liquid concealer and foundation over the face, eyelids and lips. The eyeliner required a thin, fine, sable brush to achieve the uplifted almond shape of the eyes. She applied each of five earthy colored eye shadows with its own round-ended brush, playing up the brown eyes and enhancing the sleepy bedroom look that she cultivated even in the daytime. Three layers of mascara in black covered the false eyelashes, each layer separated with an eyebrow comb and curled with a heated eye lash curler. She fluffed blush on all of the spots the sun would kiss the face if the sun could get to the skin. She set all of this with fine, pearlescent powder using a Kabuki brush. She pulled off the headband and tossed it on the floor on top of the dirty clothes. She dried the hair in the style suggested by the hairdresser. She sprayed, teased and brushed each highlighted strand into the place it belonged. She tossed the empty hairspray can on top of the pile of clothes on the floor and grabbed another can from the closet, applying an additional layer of lacquer. She took the blouse and designer jeans from the dry cleaner bags. She got into them without breaking off a false fingernail or chipping any of the nail polish. The creases on the jeans dissected the front of the legs right down the middle. She stepped into designer, alligator shoes. She checked the designer label, alligator purse for cigarettes. She lined the lips with red pencil and filled them in with red lipstick. She put the lipstick in the purse. She looked at herself in the mirror.

Michele checked the clock. She had five minutes before she had to meet with her client downstairs at four. She sprayed on the perfume her ex-husband had made her signature scent. It entered a room before she did.

When she got down to the home office she shared with her boyfriend, she found the computer with the state of the art graphic design programs he had bought her already turned on. Her friend, who worked for her boyfriend, had the samples ready.

Michele sat at her desk. She lined up the watermarked, high rag content letterhead, business cards and envelopes evenly on her polished walnut desk. She looked around the office. Her friend had vacuumed, dusted and cleared the clutter, as instructed.

The grandmother clock in the livingroom chimed sixteen times. Someone knocked at the door. Her friend went to answer it. A man the same age, but not as grey as her boyfriend, walked past her friend without a glance. He walked up to her desk.

“Hello,” he said, holding out his hand. He was a longtime business associate of her boyfriend.

She kept her hands folded in her lap and smiled up at him.

“He’s one lucky stiff,” he said. “How did he manage to get himself such a young and attractive girlfriend?” He winked at her.

She smiled. She stood. She sat on the edge of her desk.

“Did you have him as a professor at the community college?” He grinned.

She smiled. She gestured towards the papers, leaving her hand on the desk, palm up.

“You’re nothing like his wife.” He stroked her wrist. “I guess you can’t compare a woman with nine kids to a thirty year old hottie, huh?”

She smiled. She touched the papers with one fingernail.

“Let’s see the stationery I can’t live without.” He picked up the letterhead.

Michele pointed out his personally designed logo, business name and address printed in dark blue and embossed in silver on the pale blue Tairei paper. Silver tissue lined the matching envelopes. His business cards were printed on light blue linen card stock. She saw her friend’s frown from the corner of her eye. She had not mentioned that her friend had designed the logo and chosen the font.

“I have never seen such expensive office supplies.” He rubbed the paper between his thumb and forefinger.

She smiled into his dazed eyes.

“I did say I wanted something elegant.” He took her estimate without flinching. “Thank you for the beautiful designs. I’ll call when I decide on an order quantity.” He left. The clock chimed the quarter after the hour; a fifteen minute meeting.

She sat in her chair. She looked at the newest New York Times best seller she had purchased. She didn’t understand what the author wrote. She never read the books, anyway. Her boyfriend called.

“He loved the stationary. He won’t be able to justify the expense of the special papers for the business, though.” He paused.

Michele took her cigarettes out of her purse.

“I know he said he wanted something special, but $15.00 for 50 sheets of paper was more than he expected.”

She lit a cigarette with the silver lighter on her desk.

“He thinks the logo captures his business concept exactly and the choice of font is a perfect match.”

She stared at the wall.

“Do the order on a more traditional paper and you’ve got your first sale.” His voice rose at the end of the sentence.

She dropped ashes on her blouse, burning a hole in the lapel.

“I know he disappointed your little artistic heart.” He giggled. “He said you looked very sophisticated.”

“He compared me to your wife.” She sucked on her cigarette. “He sounded like he admired her.”

“He admired your designs,” he said. “When I get home from class, we’ll go to that new restaurant you wanted to try.”

“I don’t feel well.” She hung up the phone.

She stubbed out her cigarette in the tin ash tray on her boyfriend’s desk. She toed her shoes off in front of her friend. She tossed her purse on the recliner in the livingroom. It bounced to the floor. She went to the bathroom upstairs, peed and left her jeans and panties on the floor. She threw an empty can of hair spray at the bedroom mirror on her way to the bed. The can landed on her boyfriend’s pillow. She crawled under the crumpled, unwashed sheets and laid her head on the makeup encrusted pillow case. She fell asleep.

The clock downstairs chimed seventeen times.

~ ~ ~

We went to the ocean yesterday.


  1. I'm not at all certain that I've come anywhere near capturing what you've set free here. My reaction to your story is, at least the protagonist got some nice feedback. Imagine if he'd brought his own girlfriend and she started talking smack about the protagonist's efforts and never gave the client a chance to say any nice things...

  2. BB: Thanks. Michele might have felt better about the compliments if she had created anything more than her own image, which I think kind of applies to most people's unhappiness.

  3. I so don't want to spend time with her. You painted a very effective picture, wow.

  4. Logo: Thanks. I don't blame you. Not a whole lot their except an empty selfishness.

    BB: You've been very busy at your place trying to save the world with hugs.

  5. Nessa: Thanks for the visit today. I don't have time to read tonight but just wanted to say hey.
    Dona Nobis Pacem is one of my favorite songs.

  6. Very well written. Why are you posting for us - -the undeserving -- rather then trying to peddle this for pay?

  7. Swampy: Thanks for coming by. Come back when you can.

    Quilly: Thanks so much. That's plan plan, if I can ever get out of my own way; D

  8. You write extremely well Nessa. In fact you're making me jealous. Stop it! :)

    Just teasing. Marvellous piece. Hugs and kisses.

  9. Dan, Dan, The Man: Thanks, I love you, too.

  10. I loved your description of how Michele prepared for her client call. Had always been fascinated with the whole act of putting on make-up and the works - the sadness, the cover-up, the expected results, the morning after, the careful examination of the lines concealed in perfection. I would love to share with you a poem I wrote about a girl I saw in a mall. Here it is:

    An Ode to the Heavily Made Up

    She was wearing
    The heaviest of make up and
    Can feel the burden she has to carry on her cheeks
    Just so she could face this cruel world with dignity

    Red lips
    For the blood she has to shed just so she could earn a living
    A pink face to compensate for the inner death she's experiencing
    And the sad,
    Saddest eyes
    That couldn't fool the discerning

    And So she comes home late at night
    She reached for the oil and some balled cotton
    She aimed for her lips and stopped, thinking to herself

    " I want to have a good night's sleep"

  11. Nessa, you are very talented. In many ways. Great story - I loved reading it. And I saw your ocean visit pictures - that was fun, probably as close to that area as I'll ever get!

  12. Nice work, Nessa. I wonder if anyone has ever actually seen this woman.

  13. Seen her? She's surfaced briefly in my last three relationships. Said she's headed to---what was that place?---Rope On or Ripe In? Can't remember.

    I love being a boy: Up with the alarm on the hour, shave in the shower while the coffee brews; underwear, socks, deoderant, t-shirt, body armor, pants, shirt, shoes, gun belt, out the door at 23 minutes past the hour. No lie. Each and every workday.

  14. John: I loved the poem. For some, make-up is more than a mask, it's a prison wall.

    Jackie: I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I am practicing writing short stories, which I've never done before. It's fun. I like the ocean in winter. There's something calming to me about it.

    Diesel: Thanks. You wouldn't like the person under all of that facade.

    Gawpo: I'm sorry. While she looked pretty, the person underneath was not. You do alot in 23 minutes.

  15. Nessa, this was wonderful.

    But let me be the contrarian here.

    I felt sorry for her. I kinda know how it feels to be this empty.

  16. Hey! Look at you! You wrote the hell out of this!

    Nicely done.

    Glad you sent me the link to this page.


  17. Jenn: This is why I love you. Unfortunately, she is not empty. She is like a black hole of evil matter that sucks you in and smashes you to bits.

    Steve: Thanks. It's better here than at the place where I whine.

  18. Thanks for your post, very well done. Also, I would like to share my recent find - a great video on how to apply false eyelashes. It's indeed quite easy if you follow the video. Stay beautiful, sisters! :)