Found two bobby pins by my sink. They weren’t mine.
My body is confined within itself. I can hear the music, feel the beat, but my hands stay clasped together, my hips only sway in easy, tiny movements. I’m standing on the dance floor but all I can do is tap my foot, and smile when someone moves to grab my hand and spin me around. I can feel it for a moment in that spin, the freedom waiting on just the other side of the mountain that is my newfound reserve. I want to move. But I can’t.
We know better. There will be no black streaks down our cheeks like the scars on our hearts that are sliced and carefully healed, just to be reopened.
And that is why I do not cry today. Because I’ve already put my makeup on. I spread foundation on my skin like armor, a layer of protection that temporarily makes me more than myself. I dab on eyeshadow, a glittery pink beacon announcing that no one, not even you, can dull my radiance. My lips I ring in deep red, drawing attention to my mouth and the words that it emits, words that should be considered, cared about, held in your mind as carefully as your hands hold your Stratocaster, but they never were. You were too focused on my legs to meet my eyes, too enthralled by my waist to learn my story, too stuck on my lips to hear my soul as it reached out to you.
That is why I do not cry today.
Because anyone who makes a woman cry in mascara is not worth the time it takes to reapply it.
Do you have an iPad?” His voice is a ghost of gravel, softly echoing the strength it used to have. Ebony eyes look at me over the golden-wired rim of thick reading glasses.
“I do,” I nod. “But it’s pretty old, so I don’t use it very often.”
His shaky hands, weary after so many decades, set down his pencil and I’m struck by the meaning of my words. I hope he doesn’t catch the parallel and suddenly my chest tightens.
I don’t mean you, my heart whispers, urging the words toward 80 years of love and despair seated on the other side of the table.
But he is already turning the next page, the topic forgotten, the meaning lost in translation and left tumbling in the washing drum of my mind.
“Don’t tell her that she’s smart,” I said. “Tell her that she’s hard-working. Dedicated.”
My mother stared at me, bewildered. “What? Why?”
“Because that’s what you did to me. You told me I was smart and I never tried to be anything else.”