The front door opened as I stepped out of the lift. Plumes of warmth mushroomed out into the icy landing.
Before I set my suitcases down, my wife slipped out, trailing her puffer coat like a comfort blanket. She smelled of coffee and unwashed armpits. The bags under her eyes were big enough to hold the laptop cradled in her arms. I aimed a kiss at her cheek, missed, grazed my lips on an earring.
“Will you be back tonight?” I asked. The lift pinged, swallowing my question.
Somewhere in the dark of the flat, the baby began to cry.
Saturday is February 14th and as usual I am over the moon. No, not because of the queef-fest of hearts and cards and chocolates that marks Valentine’s Day but because it’s my son’s birthday! HUZZAH!
I am full of love for the universe. Seriously, if you ask me for anything today, the probability of you getting it is in the high nineties*. So in the spirit of love, sharing and being more open – especially with those of you who have been reading this blog since it was called that other thing (who can remember?) and was just a twinkle of mischief in my eyes – I have decided to share another of my rare never-before-seen photos. This one is from our wedding preparation.
If you’re an editor, please overlook that long sentence above.
A little back story: After months of just being myself, the wedding week loomed and I started to panic. I bought into the bollocks that somehow, the person I was, the person who had attracted the man that would become my husband was no longer enough so I decided to do more, to try and be more so that when he saw me walking down the altar, clad in virginal white, a great and mighty wonder would seize him and he would be struck dumb for the duration of our marriage.
Off I went to a MAC store during my lunch break.
“Excuse me?” said I.
Nobody moved. All the assistants were busy attending to people. I bumped the bumper of my Converse on the floor for five minutes. I cleared my throat.
“Excuse me,” I tried again. “Wedding.”
A girl instantly appeared, apron tied around her waist. She was blonde and had one of those asymmetric haircuts which mark people out as ‘edgy’. She reminded me of some sort of abstract painting, all angles in a tight, black, t-shirt and jeans, severe slashes of pink and purple on her face, cheekbones you could sharpen knives on. Beside her, I was a sculpture made by a two-year-old from its own excrement.
“Yes?” she said, without appearing to move her mouth.
“Erm…yes, I was wondering…that is…I mean…I’m getting married and I rather hoped…that is to say…” I trailed off, gesturing at my face, apologetically.
The girl seemed fatigued just from listening to me. She blinked half-open eyes slowly, pulled her hands out of the pockets of her apron. “Follow me? Sit down?” As if those were questions. I sat. My thighs spread out beneath me. She elongated the stool so that my legs dangled above the floor. I was her puppet.
“Any idea what you’re looking for?” she asked. She did not wait for my answer, but started arranging the things she would need; brushes, more brushes, brushes that looked like pencils, pencils with brushes attached, sponge applicators shaped to resemble teardrops and triangles.
“I just wanted… you know, photographs…and I have never…well, I mean,” I punctuated my explanation with the giggling of the supremely self-conscious. My university self would have slapped me. To think I used to be trendy! I gave myself a talking to in my head, cleared my throat again.
“I mean, I’d like to look fresh for the day,” I gestured to my face, leaving out the things I really wanted to say. Could you fix this? Make it glossy? Could you make me look as if I have lost 10kg? Can you make me a model? Make meeeeee beautifuuuuuul.
“Mhm,” the girl said, cleaning my face with a wet wipe. She started painting and patting stuff onto my face, narrating her actions and the products she was using. It took a while. About five different colours went on my eyelids alone. I swung my legs happily, dreaming of Style Challenge and what I would look like when I finally looked in the mirror.
“What about eyelashes?” she asked.
“What about them?”
“I think you will need them to bring this whole look together.” She showed me three different types; one long, one drag-queen long and a third that could only have been a joke. I chose the long. She put some white glue on the edges. “Don’t worry, it dries clear,” she said before sticking them on, tapping in place. My eyes began to water. She tsked, collecting the tears in tissues pulled hastily from the box on the counter top. “Could you hold still?” in her weary-annoyed voice. I knew what she truly wanted to ask was ‘Could you get your eyes to stop doing that?’ I was ruining the painting’s painting.
Finally, a few swipes with a mascara wand and she was done. “You can look now.”
I guess she fixed me. She fixed me but good.
I think she might have taken my speechlessness to be one of wonder. “You have a really beautiful glow now. I used the yellow tones; copper, bronze and gold to bring this about. You’re wearing our primer, liquid foundation, mineralize in NW…”
I faded in on a girl with her heart full of pain. I wanted to look my best, but this was a different thing entirely. Was she saying I could only look my best if I had another person’s face? God. I came in for a makeover and now I was leaving with thoughts of cosmetic surgery.
“So which products would you like?” she said, displaying about twenty-odd tubes, pots and brushes. I took all of them, handed over my card in a daze and walked back to work hoping that security would still let me into the building.
And just in case you think I am exaggerating, this is what she made me:
I took photos for posterity – I had worn the look the rest of the day to see how it would hold up after a few hours. (Answer: It didn’t move. I felt as though I wore gauze strapped to my face). Needless to say, I ditched those eyelashes. I did borrow some of her techniques for the big day though. The groom still has not spoken since we’ve been married.