writings!: maybelline

steam rises like smog in the darkness. i do not know where it is going. my hair is wet at the ends, but my crown is still dry because the water is too hot to dunk my whole head into.

one of the four other girls in the hot tub kicks me underwater. edie. she’s so small her leg feels like a pool noodle, but it is colder than styrofoam. she kicks her way into the middle of the hot tub, where marion sits. marion is thirteen and angry. edie kicks marion. the underwater lights turn her body into a shadow, illuminates her baby teeth as she screams: “move, marion!”– with a lisp.

marion shoves her. edie grunts. camille laughs. camille is lying on the side of the hot tub, above the water. she is almost falling. but not quite. steady for now. the light does not reach her. her hair is stringy from the water. that is a guess. i cannot see her hair, but i know camille.

my sister is sitting quietly next to me. I cannot read her expression; her profile is a silhouette, but her infinitely long eyelashes stick out, flitting up and down once and awhile. she was born with them. or maybe it’s maybelline.

i sense she is vaguely annoyed. she does not like our cousins. they are too loud and mean and hurting.

marion stretches out her legs. she is tall and strong, with a face like her mother’s. dark eyelashes and light eyes. her feet almost reach the edges of the hot tub. they glow. “i’m fat,” she announces, chin pressed into the water.

the hot tub boils over with words. “no, you’re not,” I say the exact same time as my sister. “i’m fat!” edie parrots, jumping out of the water, and pinches her tadpole belly. camille laughs again. “you’re beautiful,” i say to edie and marion.

marion groans. “i’m not. i don’t even have a boyfriend.”

“i have a boyfriend!” edie yells. camille smacks her. “no, you don’t,” she says. edie frowns. “i do!”

marion looks at me. “she’s lying,” she says, loudly matter-of-fact. her chin sinks further into the water. “marion.” i say. “marion. you’re thirteen. it’s normal to not have a boyfriend.”

she doesn’t respond, instead slips underwater completely. “no,” says camille. “there’s girls at our school who have boyfriends. so many. and they wear shirts that are like, up to here.” she touches her ribs. “and tiny tiny shorts. and they do it on purpose. for boys.”

“boyfriends,” edie corrects from the darkness.

marion bursts out from under water, water streaming from her nose and lips and hair all at once. her eyes pop open. they are glassy. maybe it’s the light. maybe she was born with it. maybe it’s maybelline.

edie cannonballs into the middle of the hot tub. marion yelps, eyes closing fast. camille screams. my cousins are loud. they speak like balloons. bright and bloated and empty.  

“don’t slut shame,” i say, a little late.

“we’re not,” says marion. “it’s just the truth.” she takes another breath and collapses underwater.

this morning i put on mascara. i don’t know why. i did it in the bathroom, in the big mirror above the porcelain sink, cleaner than anything. i knew i wasn’t going to see anyone i cared about. but i did it anyway. habits are hard to break.

but i can feel it running off my face now. the water gives me racoon tears. i rub my smallest finger along my left eyelid, feel makeup come off. my eye stings from the chlorine. it stings from girlhood and hormones that we ooze. it stings from voices cracks. it stings from boys and my sister’s strawberry shampoo. it stings from jealousy, it stings from everything that seeps out of my cousin’s pores and swirls into the hot tub all at once.

it stings from my mascara.

fire using water like gasoline. we are all stabbing blindly with eyeliner at our faces in darkness.

i am tired.

we are so, so, tired.

maybe we were born that way. maybe it’s maybelline.

when women become insects

“we didn’t used to be this way”

i look up a history of beauty. a history of cocoons. black and white photo of a 1920’s actress,

stripped down

hip bones jutting like ivory plates,

empty plates,

i live off honey. girls cluster. compliments fall off tongues and roll into a corner. nectar. give and you shall receive.

my mother has a fixation with flowers. it was always the monsters on them that grabbed me. i took blurry photos of spiders when my sister ran

and people used to poke my shoulder blades. they stuck out enough to be wings. it is hard for me to distinguish between feather and bone. angels vs. anorexics, what’s the difference?

when the women in my family cry, our bodies shake so hard they vibrate

we are wasp-waisted bumblebees trapped behind a screen door.

(an excerpt of a book i’ll never write): the mermaid

 

 

She washed up on our beach just like any other dead thing or piece of flotsam. She was  small and gray and cold, and looked like she might crumble like a sandcastle if you touched her. Her black hair was sort of matted, smashed under her head, and patches of it were missing. Her throat was slit with something jagged, but the wound was faded, a gash washed out by the saltwater. From a first glance, she looked like she’d been dead a week, but you could never tell with the sea. Sometimes the death it spat out was bloated like gray balloons, and sometimes it was perfectly preserved, beasts sleeping on sand with bruised eyes and a tendency of silence.

“I’ll be damned,” Martha mutters from next to me. She drops her cigarette and grinds it into the sand. The embers die instantly.

She’s not wearing a shirt. Not Martha, I mean, the thing at our feet. She’s not wearing anything, actually, but she’s covered waist down by faded gray scales. They reflect the clouds, shining dully, and some are missing or half torn off by God knows what. Pale burn marks slice across her bare stomach. They are the same color as the slash on her neck.

I shiver.

“I should…call someone,” Martha says from beside me. Who? I want to ask, but don’t, because I don’t like acknowledging the fact that we have nobody to call.

I cross my arms. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” I say instead, softly.

She turns her leathery head and stares at me. “Iris, are you seeing what I am?”

“Yes.” For some reason it’s not scaring me, though.

“Then I don’t understand why I shouldn’t–this thing–it’s– a–a–” Her voice is breaking. She doesn’t want to say the word.

“She’s dead, is what she is,” I say quietly. I uncross my arms and pick up a pretty piece of driftwood by my foot. “See?” I poke her in the shoulder with it.

Martha and I are used to dead things. Seals. Fish. People. The occasional body part, wrapped up tight in a black trash bag. We give the body parts and people a burial. No use in calling the police. Around here, secrets are buried instead of gossipped about. Might not make sense, but that’s the way it’s always been for us, for the other islanders.

But this, this is something else. Martha obviously knows it, too.

Martha grabs the driftwood out of my hands, dropping her remaining pack of cigarettes and her bucket of jetsam. She prods at the creature’s waist, tracing the line between dead person and dead fish.

“I don’t understand…” she says to me, dropping the driftwood. I don’t pick it up. It feels contaminated.

“Mermaid,” I say for her.

“Mermaid,” she parrots back.

Mermaid, mermaid, mermaid. A carved mermaid sits on my windowsill back at the house, faced towards the ocean. She’s made of driftwood and has a blue tail. She’s wrapped in a tiny blanket I made as a child, when I thought warmth was essential for survival. (It’s not). She’s the oldest thing I remember, other than Martha.

“What do we do with…it, then, if we aren’t going to get help?” Martha asks me. She seems to have regained her voice.

I brush some hair out of my eyes. The wind has picked up. We don’t need help. We never have.

“Bury her,” I say, or something like that, I can’t tell over the sound of the suddenly wild air and sea.

🙂 thanks for reading…feedback is appreciated

writing by ~me~ : sisters

sister sister

shimmering shining in the lip gloss

you stole from my dresser.

sister sister

bitten nails, spinning mirrors

insomnia plagues us. moonlight sits on my skin like your freckles, rots in my pores

open sores.

sister sister

wants to kiss wants to tell wants boys and blunts but you’re not there yet

sister sister. face lights up

phone like the sun.

sister sister.

heart beats in time with mine and

we’re gonna fly away someday, to the beat of a crappy taylor swift song

sister sister

fly fly away.