The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Julie Marie Wade

Now, fi­nally, some­one is speak­ing my lan­guage, putting th­ese things in terms that make sense to me. “I’m think­ing a nice matte fin­ish,” Becky says. “No glit­ter, no blindthem-with-the-light pink. How do you feel about this?” The style is called Lip Creme, the color Soft Sell. If I had to de­scribe it, I’d say it was plum—a sub­tle pur­plish-brown. “But it’s four­teen dol­lars!” I stage-whis­per, just the way my mother would. “But it’s qual­ity,” Kara replies, “so it will last. The fact is, you won’t need to use so much of it be­cause it won’t come off on ev­ery­thing all the time.” “Did you find ev­ery­thing you were look­ing for to­day?” the woman be­hind the counter asks, her bracelets jan­gling against the glass. My friends turn to look at me in uni­son. Well, have you? they query with their eyes. Now, I sum­mon all my breath. My di­aphragm has never been so full. A new world is crack­ing open around me, ele­gant as a Fabergé egg. I don’t feel wor­thy of it, and yet, I want to em­brace it all—the un­der­state­ment, the sub­tlety, the power of po­etic com­pres­sion con­tained in this min­i­mal­ist tube. “Yes,” I say. “I’d like to buy this lip­stick, please.”

All this time, I have been ap­ply­ing to grad­u­ate schools. I have been wait­ing for the what-comes-next. An ac­cep­tance let­ter to a pro­gram is an in­vi­ta­tion to meet my fu­ture, a glass-slip­pered fit after the ball. Si­lence means I move home with my par­ents post-com­mence­ment, live in their base­ment, never get laid again. I have a new boyfriend and a job at a shoe store. I don’t love ei­ther one, not re­ally, not yet, maybe never, but they are good op­por­tu­ni­ties— a chance to prac­tice be­ing nor­mal and self-suf­fi­cient. I ride the bus to class. I live with house­mates I adore. On Thurs­day nights, we go danc­ing for a one-dol­lar cover at a lo­cal gay club. Soon, I be­gin to wear MAC lip­stick with a sub­tle, matte-fin­ished pride. One morn­ing, a pack­age lands on the stoop of the house I share with my friends. I hear the thump and watch the mail truck tod­dle away. It’s a padded en­ve­lope bear­ing my name, and though she has printed in block let­ters with a Sharpie, I rec­og­nize my mother’s hand. Through the bub­bled lin­ing I can feel them—the many stubby fin­gers of 503A, my mother’s un­so­licited re­plen­ish­ment. At the din­ing ta­ble, I pour them out, the blue tubes tum­bling and skit­ter­ing, some land­ing on the floor. Still, they are in­de­struc­tible. Not a sin­gle seal breaks.

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