Yoharie: Love Back (part one)
Val, if he had a choice of superpower, would be chameleonic, shimmer away, undifferentiated from the background. Not invisible, there, happy to chat, if asked, but unlabelable. Bearing any of potential characteristics, or all of them.
He hated needing to be political.
Or more, he hated the being something at all, that people cared so much having a category for you. When they could just speak to you.
At ten, he had stolen his mother’s stuff, or better to say, rehomed the gift ordered one Christmas from an infomercial (using Mom’s card, admittedly)…
Cissie was a friendly lady. Kind, he could believe it.
Kind, warm, hands-on-shoulders, cheek-pressing-cheeks, sing-speaking to Amella, to Tammy, Jacqee, Linda, swirling air circles with her brushes. The ad ran between 5:30 and 6:00, before local news. Val had seen it every day, for an outsized period of time, as memory informed…maybe for only a week or two…
Cissie an actress he had never heard of, while the host said, “We’ve seen Cissie in so many things!” The host talked over footage of Cissie, in fur, leaving a limo. Cissie accepting an award, a chunk of plexi with gold-foil lettering. Cissie’s own voice next, a tad munchkin in tenor, but intimate, purring: I’m so proud of all my ladies! I’ve designed my special Holiday Delicious Kit just for you!
Footage of Cissie in the lab, glam in coat and goggles. Footage of Cissie leaning to a round mirror, puckering lips, testing her own blush.
Music for an entrance, and the host: “Come on, girl!”
He flung his arms. Three spotlights swirled, searching for Cissie, then beamed on her, running down an aisle between rows of seats, full audience. Ready to hug, tossing hair and smiles…touching hands, whooping.
(Not running, really, stump-prancing on tiptoes, feet in stiletto platforms, leopard…)
“What is that?” his mother had asked, getting in their apartment under cover of the high volume he played Cissie at.
“Just something they show.”
“Well, shut it off!”
He had shut away the impulse to ask for shoes like Cissie’s. But some wish to feel he was under her wing convinced him the kit could be Mom’s, that year.
The adult view, twelve on…
His Mom was an ordinary person, seeing things she couldn’t handle. She had hated the makeup, not to crush his feelings, but…guessing, sensing, somehow, that her son wanted it for himself.
“I actually…” He told Giarma this. “Shoplifted a pair of shoes. A little like hers. Leopard, most important. Stack heel, no platform.”
“Did you keep them?”
“I never get rid of a pair of shoes.” Some boast in this. “Except broken ones.”
“Yeah, I know. Your closet’s a ten on the Imelda scale. Are we ready?”
They were in her bathroom, side by side on a foot-of-the-bed ottoman. Val’s heart was changed, an epiphany—one of Cissie’s words. He had been sure for a while he might die, that feeling this bad about life you could chuck it, fly yourself into the purple cloud, drop in front of a bus. He could picture Sasha seeing the news…scratching his head. Is that really Val? What was his problem?
The question begged answering. I ought to stalk him a little, after all, if that’s the way it is. I can’t lose. Do you love me? Well, no. But do you…Sasha, do you think…if someone was like you, he could love…? Then, can you tell me why?
So I’d know what my problem is.
He had woken, starting a pimple, and told himself, you need to exfoliate. He had looked in the mirror at black-rimmed, smeary eyes, and told himself, you clown. But then the epiph. I make my face up like an act of defiance. Like I still see it as a girl thing and not a human thing. Like I have to show the world I don’t care…
What they think? No. I do care, and I want them all sorry.
And have they been sorry?
That day, he’d walked down to Trevor’s, to read Totem and study his sister.
“No…you know? Maybe we’re onto something here.”
He hung on her words. The talk was brows. Val had tinted his hair for a long time, unhappy cursed with dishwater blond. He had roots and didn’t hate them, was two-minded about cutting off all the black, or leaving a ragged fringe of it…
Three-minded. Or shaving his head…didn’t people do that for penance?
Giarma, chestnut-haired, lucky, had born definition.
“I always left mine completely alone. They’re a little shaggy, but that’s the thing…it occurs to me there’s a correlation between bitchiness and fussing with eyebrows. The worst women I’ve known were hyperpluckers and drawers-on… I think I just subconsciously wanted to keep it real. You know?” she said again. “Not be like that.”
“But…” He played a brush near his own, seeable, but not…masterful. “Are pencils, kind of, goopy?”
“Waxy. I’m pretty sure it would not be the look you want. But you could try a little powder. Powder,” she told him, “is all I use. Loose for the face, really sheer…not even color. You get translucent. And then no lids, just liner, but shadow, no pencils. So, yes, we always apply with a brush. You and I need to shop. Do you want to now?”
Those, Val thought, were possibly the nicest words you could hear from another person. “No. Let’s hit a store.”
(2020, Stephanie Foster)