To the introvert, the mirror is the window. I stand before it this morning, looking out on my landscape.
Feathery auburn firmament. Two small oceans of pale blue, surrounded by white sand. One gigantic shell on the right side of each ocean. Two tunnels leading into blackness. A canyon of supple crimson, protected by faint yellow boulders. The terrain is inflamed and pockmarked.
Sorry, but I’m the only local, so I do all of the complaining and all of the listening.
Most mornings, I call in the planes, which dust the landscape with a beige powder that forgives most of the topographical flaws. But this morning I am tired. I don’t care what the tourists think anymore. No, that’s not it. I remember who made it.
You always see movies with characters who grab someone’s ringing phone and throw it out the window. I’ve wanted to do it so many times. It starts ringing and he can no longer be expected to listen, no matter how important the subject or person is. He just has to answer for whatever schmuckety Joe Schmo’s fucking calling his phone. And then the sock puppet antics, “Hi buddy! Boy it’s a beautiful day isn’t it?” Blah-bippity-blah-blah. Blah blah.
We were talking of some eternal tripe. I can’t remember; I can’t understand why anybody tries to remember anything anyway. I can remember all of it, actually:
I flipped down the passenger side mirror, took out a brush, and started blending my makeup. He was quiet. Then:
“Do you do that during the day?” He asked.
“No. But I’m sure if I did, someone would be judging me. Whatever I do, there will always be someone judging me.”
“But, you know there are social norms.”
“I think adapting to social norms is detrimental to one’s health.”
“But if you miss out on an opportunity because of this – ”
“What opportunity? I’m not going to join the NRA, or a biker gang, or become a top athlete.”
I don’t expect him to like these potted flowers that line the street of my manhood. But I will not submit to anyone’s standards. I will not stretch and squint and smile and say, “oh yes I see.” No. No. Just as I am, without one plebeian compromise.
I cannot live for both of us, old man. Just myself. I swear to God. Just myself.
I read the lettering on the awning. I read the lettering on the door. I read the lettering on the Preferred Customer Card in my hand.
Then I walked in.
I made certain not to notice everyone noticing me. I scanned the shelves uncertainly, then made a little-lamb-lost-in-the-storm face at the woman behind the counter. “Could you help me?” I asked, at once humble and confident (the signature of charm). She smiled. “Sure. What is it?” I looked at the card, then at her. “My wife wanted me to pick up her – ” I paused, grinned at my ignorance, and made an ambiguous gesture. “Her – foundation?” She guessed, encouraging. “Yeah,” I leaned in and stage whispered the confession, “she asked me this morning if I remembered what kind, and I said ‘of course I do,’ but I don’t. But I don’t want her to know that,” and then I offered the card, “could you look that up?” She smiled again as she took the card, “Of course.” I beamed, a quarterback correctly answering a Trigonometry question.
She started typing just as someone else started tapping their fingernails on the counter – they duelled for a bit, then her voice declared it a draw: “It’s called medium beige. Let me get that for you.” She opened a drawer, took out a container, wrapped it up and handed it to me. “Thank you so much,” I gushed, like I was meeting a celebrity and getting out of a speeding ticket at the same time. “I’m glad I could help,” she said, stamping the card and charging my Visa. I thanked her again and thought,
I could just tell them it’s for me.
But then I couldn’t play this character anymore.