“Reading Lips” (creative non-fiction piece)
It’s so light. Probably empty. Still, this lipgloss seems like it should be as heavy as a bottle of toothpaste. “Extreme Plump,” it says.
This silver plastic tube, about as long as a finger. Something about it seems so cheap. Maybe it’s the title and words. Or the simplicity of its design. The silver body and pink letters and translucent edges. A hard, reflective cap that looks like steel but is just as plastic and fragile as the rest. Disposable.
Meant to be thrown away. To be done away with, forgotten.
I can’t throw it away. It’s not mine. I’ve been given permission to but it feels like I can’t even touch it. Like I shouldn’t. The only times I do touch it are when I pick it up, examining it. Not believing how light it is. How easy it would be to discard.
How easy it all could be.
It was hidden away, nestled in between my car’s front passenger seat and the center console. Its silver contour blending in with the grey upholstery that gently hugged it through the worst of the winter. It had been there since November. Never seen, never considered. For all its shiny exterior. Just forgotten.
Cheap plastic. It seems so delicate. But tough enough that it won’t decompose so easily. It won’t rip and tear and split. It’s meant to keep things inside. And all I want to do is toss it across the room and stomp on it until it explodes. Until it pops. Until it’s everywhere, a mess you can’t ignore. A mess you can’t avoid.
It’s just lipgloss. You spread it on your lips and it’s supposed to make them look nicer. Having never used it before I always assumed it was for a “glossy” effect, like the name suggests. To make the lips look soft and shiny and not dry and cracked. This one is called “Extreme Plump.” Implying that it makes the lips look fuller, bigger. Deception – like a pushup bra for breasts. Like heels for height.
Except the fine print also reads, “plump, buzz, tingle and zing.” It’s a warning. Prefaced in capital letters, “CAUTION.” The “plump” effect isn’t just deception – the lips will actually swell. “Plump” here is a verb, not an adjective. The other words suggest feeling, physical sensations to go with the chemical reaction of the “plump”. They place the “zing” at the end, a fun word to offput the “buzz” and “tingle” so that you don’t take it the wrong way. This doesn’t sound like a fun bit of makeup – it sounds like torture! Before reading the fine print I’d thought of makeup as purely aesthetic. Aiding in the illusion of ideal appearance. But now it sounds more like the denial of a chemical reaction.
It sounds like torture. From the outside in and back again.
And nobody should know the difference.
I want to squeeze it, to see what comes out. I want to see what it looks like and feels like. I don’t doubt it’s just a very thin liquid, gel-like. As clear as water and fairly safe to consume. As far as licking your lips goes.
But it’s not mine to know. Technically it’s garbage now. But it doesn’t feel right to throw it away.
Still, I want to try it on. To feel its gentle wetness against my dry lips. Or at least I did before I read the fine print. The warning. But maybe I’m curious in spite of it. To gently squeeze the bottle, to touch the applicator to my lips and feel its cool moisture. Even with the warning, I wonder. What would it be like, to feel the “buzz,” the “tingle” and the “zing”? Such an innocent, risky little prospect. The thrill of it all. The danger that tickles my paranoia. The temptation.
It smells nice, too. Spread thin the smell is wispy and tasty. Inviting. But concentrated at the tip of the bottle it is strong, pungent. Almost medicinal. Chemical. Scary again.
And that’s the deception – looking good on the surface. Tasting, smelling good. Feeling good. Utterly appealing.
I like to think I’m not a man of regret. I might dwell in the past and ask endlessly, “What if…?” But I don’t call it regret. It’s more comfortable not to. It’s easier to put on an air of pretense. A layer of puffed up confidence. A deception so thin and clear that anyone could see through.
I pick up the lipgloss one last time; I barely look at it. Flipping and twisting it between fingers, holding it so the text is upside down. As if something new will come of it. Barely looking at it; looking past it. Putting it down.
I’m tired of looking at it. No… I’m tired of what it means. Of what it represents. Of how its smell and its lightness and its tempting appeal could mean something and nothing, all at the same time.
I’ll never know. Soon enough I’ll throw it the bottle out. Soon… I’ll let it go.
– Andrew Hall, Feb. 2016
© 2016 Andrew Hall Writes