She put her makeup on slowly. She wanted it to be correct. Never quite flawless, she was more adept at wearing graceful missteps to humanize herself in public. Tonight, she moved slowly. She paid attention to the brow bone, the jaw line, her full lips, all of her best features.  She stopped applying the powder to stare. The blush she chose was dark; a shimmering burgundy that ran across her face and cheekbones in the shape of a bruise– untidy but organic. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear examining the soft, honey waves falling over her shoulders first as they moved with her fingers, with the light twist of her neck, and then again as they settled over her clavicle. She wanted to see what she looked like as she approached in stillness and in motion.

“That took too much time,” she said out loud.

Moving her head back and forth in a slow no gesture to see what she looked like disagreeing, she could feel and see the skin of her lips cracking. She eyed the chapstick on the shelf but wet her lips with her tongue instead. We must move on. There was nothing she did for anyone without motive and no one was around to touch them yet. Setting the bamboo brush on the sink, she ignored her dry mouth and unyielding thirst to pick up the mascara. Carefully, she applied the wand to the eyelashes of her left lid and then immediately stopped to examine herself again. Unbundled and free, her thoughts had been leaping ahead of her. They were constant, persistent  and biting. Sometimes they were mean. You will never make it. It was distracting. They were being seized by something else (you will never make it); something distant, either imaginary or future she could never tell, but something tugging at her sleeve. Look behind you. She stopped applying the mascara to reach for the twisted, plastic straw from the sink’s ledge and began twirling it in her fingers on instinct.  Letting herself be overtaken by the fake memory; the fake way he held her, the fake way he smiled, the fake way it felt, she felt the rush in her chest.

“Stop it,” she barked at herself.

Staring at the mirror once more, she held her own gaze in trance.

“My name is Catarina Kacurek,” she practiced again.

She said it a couple more times out loud until she was satisfied with the way it felt rolling off her tongue. Naturally. Nodding, she put the straw back on the ledge and began to apply the mascara to the right lid’s eyelashes. It’s always like this. She couldn’t see the clock in the bedroom and was thankful. I’m late, she knew. Taking her time anyway, she could still feel the electric bubble running up her spine underneath to announce its arrival, announce its bones were growing over her bones into a grove of wands. I have things to do. She set the mascara neatly back in her makeup bag and pulled out the eyeliner. Dragging the skinny black pencil across the top of her left lid first, she felt a breeze, a draft from a hidden place to the left of her. As she fawned over herself inside, pretending he was next to her complimenting her as she coyly licked the cherry gloss from her lips, she let him praise the way her eyes grew from small and doting to big and black and full of infirmity. She let him kiss her cheek and she closed her eyes to feel it, his light kiss that held no real urgency. She felt his lips part near the corner of her mouth. She could feel his tongue poke out a little as she turned to meet him before she heard a car backfire a few blocks over. Goosebumps trickled up both arms. He was gone and she was gone too.  She opened her eyes to see the pencil was now in the drain in a pool of tiny drops of water. In her spine, her bone grove of smoke and scream and sudden life, she felt it. She stared at the pencil, now damp, not ruined but damaged like everything she owned. He was not with her in the bathroom. He was not with her. To clear her throat, her desert dry throat that desperately needed attention, she let out a tiny cough. She came back to life.

“My name is Catarina Kacurek,” she began, facing the mirror.”May I come in?”

She held it there, in her reflection, her dirty blonde and olive complexion not unlike her original self but twisted, distorted slightly like the way it feels when you finally see yourself without a mirror. You’ve been looking at yourself backwards. She was looking at herself angled her whole life; angled smirk, angled eyebrow lift, angled posture. Manicured and yearning and looking more nubile lately, she began wetting her lips again with her tongue. Her lips tasted like plastic fruit and she laughed aloud to see her smile lines so she could once again hide them when the time was right. She laughed aloud and the car backfired again but she expected it now.  Her spine grew. She let herself feel the backfire of every other thing in the distance.

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