Vanity of the Bearded Lady

“You’re something of a handsome woman, Boss.”

My eyes drift to see the feline stretched lengthwise in front of the television as if willing the attention of the room to be drawn to her instead of the screen behind. She will not be upstaged.

“Beg pardon?” My thumb tucks between pages of the book I’m reading.

“There’s something distinguished about you. It could be the regal way you hold yourself or it could be that moustache. I’m not sure which. Either way, girl, you workin’ it.”

Insecurity overtakes my free will and I touch the area between my nose and upper lip. It doesn’t feel like there’s a grizzly moustache growing, but you never want to be the bearded lady who is unaware that she is the bearded lady. I toss the book on the table next to my water and grab my iPhone. The camera turns on so I can see myself in the screen. I approach from several angles, holding my face with my free hand so I can’t run away from myself to go cry in a corner.

She strokes her whiskers in a cavalier manner. “It’s mostly sprouting from the sides; with how long it’s getting, you’ve got kind of a fu-woman-chu. It’s pretty neat. And cultural.”

“You, talking with all those  awful words, are not making the situation any better.” The natural light helps illuminate the blonde hairs sprouting atop my lip. Oh god. It’s real. All that father/son time I spent working on cars with my pops and now I’m a man. I’m so sad for myself right now.

“My sincerest of apologies. I thought you knew. You stare at yourself in the mirror often enough.” Fat jumps down and wanders into the kitchen to start rooting through the junk drawer.

“Disaster. Such disaster.” I close the camera on my phone and go into my list of contacts until I find Stripped Wax Bar. It only rings once. I poorly conceal the frenzy in my voice. “Hi. I have a moustache. When is Heather free?”

“I could take care of that for you. We have duct tape, right?” Fat pilfers through the random hodgepodge of spools of thread, empty keychains, matchbooks, and hordes of extra ikea parts. She’s not a quiet rustler so I have to amplify my voice.

“Nothing sooner?”

A triumphant paw lifts high into the air holding a roll of the industrial tape. “Eureka! Boss, we’re in business.”

Oh. My. God. No.

“It’s okay; Thursday is fine.” I watch as Fat starts picking at the end of the roll of tape, “I’ll just hide behind a hand fan like a debutante or geisha until then. Thanks, bye.”

I groan and my head hits the back cushion of the couch. It’s a good forty seconds of silence before Fat leaps up beside me and forces her head under my hand for a pet. I sit up, reach for the glass on the table and sit there sipping while I scratch the feline’s head.

Fat’s eyes close with contentment. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s probably hard enough to deal with being pregnant without me making you feel self-conscious about your hairy face.” In the midst of relaxation, her head lolls to the side.

I choke on my water. “What?”

“Aren’t you…” Her inquisitive green eyes open and travel to my stomach region. “My mistake. Big lunch, right? You’re probably just bloated.”

A Metaphor Instead of Soup Stock

“It worries me that you have in-home carcass storage.” Fat eyes the freezer-burnt contents of the Ziploc bag in my hand.

The freezer door stays open, cooling the cramped kitchen while Fat and I investigate the aged food inside. I grip the mystery animal’s ribs like I’m holding a baby in a sagging diaper. “Me too. I think at one point this was some kind of bird.”

“Can I have it?”

I answer with a look of disgusted judgement. The coldness becomes unbearable to hold onto, I pivot at the waist and release the expired poultry into the already half-full trash bag on the floor. “Not sure why ex-boyfriend kept this.”

“To make his own soup stock, moron.” Fat starts to roll her eyes and happens upon another thought before the eye roll can have the desired effect. “Unless he was planning on using it to put some kind of voodoo whammy on you. I wonder if that works.” Fat’s feet pad silently on the kitchen floor as she goes to examine the bag of frozen meat. She lifts her chin to look up at me. “I’m sorry, I still don’t entirely understand what’s going on here.”

“I’m trying to make rice again.” I point to the pot on the stove; the lid is covered in condensation. “I’ve decided that things go awry in the kitchen because I cook with a crock pot mentality – throw it in a pot and let it take care of itself for six hours. So now,” I reach into the almost-empty freezer, “I’m staying in the kitchen to make sure I don’t fuck it up again. Figured since I was here I’d finally clean out the cupboards and freezer.” I pull out another Ziploc bag, this one with only two frozen hot dogs and toss it instantly into the black plastic bag.

Fat leers at the bag. “What are those Ziploc bags near the bottom? I didn’t see you toss those out.”

I crane my neck to see what she’s referring to. “Ah. The mystery spices. The ex didn’t have an idiot-friendly system. Don’t.” I hold up my index finger to stop her insult before it finds a voice. “They’re all unlabeled in plastic bags. I can’t tell the cinnamon from the paprika. It was either garbage or spice roulette. I don’t gamble on things I know nothing about.”

“Please. You would get the cinnamon confused with dill.”

My eyebrows lower. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

There are two plastic-wrapped mounds labelled “stew beef” that I pull out last. They’re almost black. Two sturdy clunking sounds engulf the kitchen when they join the others in the trash bag.

Fat jumps up on the counter and stares into the freezer. “So you’re left with an empty ice cube tray and some kind of fish. Can I have that?”

I shake my head. “Of course no–”

“–Tell me that smell is your burning loins.” Fat interrupts. Her tiny nose twitches as she traces the scent.

“Shit.” I race to the stove and pull the lid off the pot. The edges of the rice lining the pot are charred and crisp. “How did this happen? I was in the kitchen the whole time.”

“You honestly have no idea how cooking works, do you?” We lock eyes, and I see something on her face that can actually be construed as pity. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll eventually find something you’re good at. With the likely chance you won’t, have you ever considered marrying for money?”