Danielle dabbed her nose with the powder puff one last time and then stared at herself in the mirror. Every stroke of cosmetic and wisp of hair was expertly applied or fixed, thanks to many hours of practice and guidance from the pleasant accent of Laurraine, the former French model turned YouTube guru. A dark brown mascara lengthened her lashes, clump free. A light pink blush gave her whole face a healthy glow. A modest shade of lipstick made her thin lips stand out just the appropriate amount for an office environment, although if she wanted them to stay that way she would have to be more attentive to her habit of licking them. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, as it always was, except today it was higher up, on the crown of her head, and a small section was wrapped around the elastic to hide it and give the look a professional polish. She wore a sweater dress with a turtle neck, a fashion choice with a practical purpose.
That was it. She glanced at the clock. Right on time for the final preparation. She spun to the side and leaned down to take the suede heels out from beneath her vanity. They weren’t new – they were hand-me-downs from another internet mentor, Erica, who Danielle had met in a chat room and connected with immediately. Danielle had been practicing for the last few months with a pair of pumps she had bought from a thrift store, the only place she felt comfortable making such a purchase, but when the timeless soft, camel-brown heels arrived unexpectedly in the mail last week, she knew she couldn’t wear anything else for her first day. Those shoes were experienced at guiding women through this major life change. They had been a gift to Erica from her mentor, and now Erica was passing them on to her. Danielle believed that Erica had her new life all figured out. She had gone through the same fears and derision, both from those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand and from self-inflicted means. She had come out on top, happy, as Danielle believed she would be from this day forward. Continue reading →
Danielle dabbed her nose with the powder puff one last time and then stared at herself in the mirror. Everything was just as she had practiced one hundred times in the safety of her own bathroom, with extensive guidance from Miss Julie Rocket on YouTube. Her mascara doubled her lashes, without clumps. Her blush and highlighter made the apples of her cheeks shiny and bright and bubbly, even when her perfectly lined and glossed lips were not stretched into a full and genuine smile, though she expected they would be this whole night, despite her nerves. Her hair rose almost a foot off the crown of her head in a beehive any 1950s housewife would be envious of, and was anchored by an entire packet’s worth of bobby pins. A scarf printed with little anchors was prettily tied around her neck, a display of false modesty with a more practical purpose.
That was it. She was ready for her moment, except for one last thing. She swiveled her knees to the side of her chair and leaned down to take the clear lucite platform heels out from beneath the vanity. They weren’t new; they were hand-me-downs from Susabelle, who had been a mentor to Danielle during these last few months. Danielle had practiced at home with a different pair, but for her debut, she needed to wear these. These heels were experienced, not only on the stage but also in guiding the wearer through such an important transformation. Susabelle was such a professional that it was impossible to believe she had ever been anyone else, but she had, just like Danielle. She had gone through the same fears and the same derision, both self-inflicted and from those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand. But she had emerged from those initial dark months beautiful, successful, and happy, as Danielle believed she would be from this night forward. Continue reading →
Sun on a dirt path, rutted by large tractor wheels, bronzes our bare arms. We are the only tourists in the jitney to the waterfall at this early hour. When we arrive, our guide, Clive, greets us and we ascend to the first cascade. Under Clive’s direction, we pose beneath the plummeting water, on the slippery rocks, in the churning whirlpools, further apart, closer together, until, shivering, I hoist myself out of the cold and stand alongside him on the wooden deck in a patch of sun.
My longtime, long-distance friend is turning 40 this year and I watch her float to the far side of the pool. Away from the falls, beneath the rock overhang, white water turns clear. Through the surface, I can see the telltale signs of the age she is approaching. Her torso is rounder than when we met last, her thighs dimpled, the backs of her arms adding new heft to her upper body. Continue reading →
We are lying on the sofa in the den watching a movie. I selected the movie; he always wants me to. I sent him the trailer; he never watches it. This always works out fine because he never really watches the movie either.
He is on his phone texting Eric, browsing Facebook, texting Joel, browsing reddit, texting Johnny, browsing imgur, making memes to send to Cameron, Scottie, and Chris. The incessant clicking and the blue glow aren’t what bother me. What bothers me is that he just missed a portentous western sky, a meaningful glance between the protagonist and her sister, a book placed in a particular spot on a shelf, a close up of a dog as seen through a window. How will he understand why so-and-so does such-and-such if he didn’t see those clues? He’s mired in an artificial world constructed through images curated to reflect an ideal vision of the participants’ lives, enhanced by unnaturally witty dialogue that only be accomplished with the help of an edit button and he’s missing…
He’s missing… Continue reading →
It’s 7:40. Turn left onto the dead end street and rumble over the pitted lot, stopping the car more or less between two faded lines.
Open the advertisement-plastered doors and enter the arcade from the north. Walk to the south end. Seven people already wait, but not in a line, except for the father and son in their camp chairs to the immediate right of the entrance. 7:43.
Sit on a bench between two of the earlier arrivals. Take out your phone and pretend to have important emails from people who wouldn’t actually be at the office yet.
Put your phone away and take out a book. Don’t actually read it. Watch the others out of the corner of your eye. Why aren’t they in a line? 7:48. Two young women in bright outfits stroll down the arcade and settle in behind you, closer to the entrance where you can’t see them. Listen to their chatter as your heart starts to beat a little faster. Continue reading →