As a kid, she would stand in front of the mirror – smearing lipstick on her face, like mum did. It was red. She liked red. And mum always looked so pretty with the lipstick on.
She was a teenager now. She wasn’t allowed to put on lipstick. It was for the people who wanted to hide behind flashy things – to hide themselves and their flaws. Lipstick only meant colored wax to her – a mask. Pretence.
She was in college. She felt like a bird flying for the first time – scared and excited. She was independent. She was alone. The lipstick lying on her roommate’s bed stared back at her. A sweep. Not sure, but confident enough.
It has been her most loyal friend for years now. Office presentations, interviews, brunches, dinners, night- outs. Color on her lips made her feel in control – powerful, fierce. In the centre stage, under the limelight.
The years have hit a mid. The mirror is too honest, revealing things she’d rather not face. Her body is betraying her. That tube of lipstick lays idle now, unused. It’s for the young one, she wisely tells herself, the fun one, the one who can just ride. It shouldn’t belong to her.
Life has passed her. Age stayed. She has finally settled in. Pleasing others doesn’t appeal much to her, when death is a friend about to call. The lipstick tube has been put to use. Not because she needs to exude power, not because she wants the guy next door to notice her, not because she needs to put her best face forward – but because it’s red. She likes red.
Her body lies still. Decked and made. “She doesn’t look like herself,” the daughter says, her voice all tired, the make-up artist waits for her instruction. “It lacks her color. She used to be so bright and so much more beautiful. Could you please use this one instead? This was her favorite lip color. I think she would like that.”
Photograph courtesy : Travis Dewitz