Monday, January 21, 2013

Gold Dust

The alarm rang earlier than she would have liked, shifting her relaxed body towards its screeching and then rolling back into the sunken crevice where her lithe form had spent most of the night. She stretched her sore arms above her head, opening her mouth wide in a yawn, inhaling deeply, hoping the fresh oxygen would clear her foggy mind. Get up. She made it out of her cloud-like bed that she loved to fall into and lose herself in a death-like sleep night after night, an eternity of down. She checked her blinking phone and read the text summoning her to work. She showered then carefully began her regimen, as precise and practiced as a painter. She smoothed on her foundation in small circles, moving upwards from her feline neck towards her strawberry blonde hairline. She stroked on concealers and illuminators like one would stroke on a wisp of a cloud or the cusp of a wave on a ocean’s landscape. She fanned out her tools made of brushes and pencils, sifting various hues of powder, highlighting her cheeks and her forehead in subtle bronze and sun-kissed warmth. The coral lips now softened parted slightly to reveal balanced creamy teeth. The eyes served as the grand crescendo to her masterpiece of wearable art. Smoky and smudged, she pulled the wand from the base to her lash’s tip, extending their nature, widening her doe eyes. More liner. She drew on another line of charcoal and left, already ten minutes late. She pulled around back to enter before the others arrived. The day was warm and the air looked hazy rising from the black pavement of the parking lot. It made the trees and stones look like they were shivering, as if fighting their permanent places lined up in rows and waving like seaweed in the sand. As she opened the back door, her eyes squinted and shifted, adjusting to the dark, trying to seek out whatever light could be found. Good morning, thank you for coming at such short notice. She smiled, her painted lips closed so as to protect a potential smudge on her porcelain teeth. Here, she knows it’s a stretch, but let’s see what you can do. You are the best. She took the offered Polaroid, walking the thick carpet, her high heels hushed in respect and bent down to hold the picture under the light of lamp. Pictures were always better than a description of what her clients wanted. Jennifer Aniston. A short bob with a clean bang. Take away the gray and replace with shimmery blonds and caramels. This picture showed a beautiful young girl, riding a horse, her jet hair black and tossed over her shoulder and reaching towards the seat of the saddle. She was smiling, mischievous and fresh-faced, a peach hue at the apples of her cheeks. Sure thing. The soft cream door was opened before her leading into an entirely metal room. The smell and absence of smell hit her simultaneously. She noted chemicals and cleaners to remove the smell of the chemicals - a great charade. The temperature dropped as she approached her client. It felt good at first, her body still warm from the summer heat, but soon the skin on her arms pimpled like gooseflesh. Her heels clicked and echoed in this room. She balanced on the balls of her feet to avoid the interruption of silence and headed towards the center of the room. The client’s hair was nearly white now, cold, and slipped like Christmas tinsel through her hands as she checked its strength. She never forgot that was the most jarring part of this - the absence of warmth. The head was lifted on a foam block just beneath the base of her skull. The thin, grey lips were already shut, glued together, never to grin mischievously again. The tissue-paper skin fell with gravity towards the beveled table. Her small, gray body was delicately covered with a thin blue paper, crinkly and unprotecting. The process of returning the hair to its raven color first involved turning the once-smiling woman around so her head was at the sink. She called for the director to take the shoulders as she took her feet. On the count of one, two, three, they slowly lifted. Stiff as a feather, light as a board. Her full lips frowned as she remembered silly pajama parties and girlfriends sitting in a circle. Their small warm bodies were nothing like this ebony pillar. It mirrored the table, cold and straight, unmoving and strong enough to support her tiny weight. She watched the inky water swirl down the sink, urging it to warm her hands and the hair, wishing it would remain living long enough to finish. But no, the faux-black silk almost immediately returned to ice as soon as it was dry. She brushed it smooth, straight and thin, falling softly over her shoulders. Who were you smiling at? She painted the small face a delicate ivory, filling in the hollow cheeks with the same warm peach she had seen in the photo. She brushed a small amount of color on the lips, enough pink so as to differentiate them from the skin. The eyes were the only parts left. She stood back for a moment, looked again at the picture and saw their hazel-green depth through heavy black lashes. The sun that day dotted her face through her straw hat, causing her to look as if she was wearing a veil. Now what? She chose to fill in the sparse lashes with black and dust a light gold over the creases. Her deeply lined face crowned with the oil-black hair gave her an Egyptian look, an unwrapped Queen. Only at certain angles, in certain light could the gold be seen; it was a trick and illusion of sunlight. It was an illumination guiding her eyes through the dark. She hoped it would give those in the next room comfort. She hoped this is what the girl on the horse would have wanted. Her job was done. She took her check and returned the photo. She had been there less than twenty five minutes, but the day felt as if it had gotten hotter as she left and walked towards her car. She clutched the wheel and noticed a shimmer of gold on her hand that she had used to test before applying. She stretched it out the window and watched it shimmer in the sun. She felt the air dance and ripple around her hand and looking in the rearview mirror, she smiled.