A Woman Needs Girlfriends

“For a stick and bones frame, you sure jiggle a lot, Boss. Hold still. Stop fidgeting.”

I feel a brush sweep gently across my eyelid. If I was better at being girly I wouldn’t need to enlist the help of the hefty feline. Speaking of whom, my legs are going numb from her weight. Our tiny apartment doesn’t have room for a vanity, so I’m perched on the ledge of the bathtub with Fat balancing precariously on my lap so she can apply layers of makeup to my face. Unfortunately for me, I’m nervous about tonight and that feeling made me jump at the chance for any help. Fat, of course, came to the rescue.

The bathroom is ridiculously bright today. I’m pretty certain she switched out the regular lightbulbs for ones with greater watts. God forbid the feline misses a chance to check out my wrinkles under harsh lighting. Beside the tub, a multitude of products is displayed on the closed toilet lid; I have no idea what most of it is. Where is a good drag queen tutorial when you need one?

“Are you going to miss the spinster life? You were just starting to get good at it. That Chinese restaurant will miss delivering food to this particular shut-in. Their business is going to suffer, you know that right?” She leans over to her make-shift counter to get some more colour on the end of the brush. “Boss, close your eyes. I’m working here.”

The brush goes over the crease of my eyelid. Seems unnecessary; I was more or less hoping for some help with making my skin look better. The situation snowballed pretty fast – Fat’s even wearing one of those makeup tool belts to hold her brushes like the gorgeous people who work at MAC. “What kind of eyeshadow is this? It smells terrible.”

“It’s cigarette ash. I was going for that smoky eye look all the harlots are after. Do I have to tell you to close your eyes again? Honestly, I swear you like being difficult.” Fat cups my face in both paws to assess her work. In the moment I’m entirely dumbfounded, Fat licks the pad of her paw and wipes something away from the corner of my eye with her saliva.

“Could you please stop doing disgusting things to my face?”

Fat doesn’t respond to my, what I consider entirely reasonable, plea. “So tell me about the guy. Where did you meet him?” She grabs one of the bigger brushes out of her waist belt and grabs a small container of blush. God I hope it’s blush. She applies whatever it is to my cheeks.

“He’s a friend of a friend. Funny. Tall.” Remember, self, minimal details are your friend here. You don’t want the cat to get the idea you want to talk. Before you know it you’ll be hugging a pillow while lying on the couch and discussing your mommy issues.

“Gangly doofus. Sounds like a winner.” She goes for my face with something that looks like a hot pink Sharpie.

“Whoa, whoa. What the hell is that?” In an effort to dodge out of her way, I come dangerously close to falling ass backward into the bathtub. I regain balance and hold tight to the off-white edge of the tub.

Her green eyes travel to regard the pen then back to meet my gaze, “Lip liner.”

“Nope. No lip liner. My people don’t do most of this stuff that you’ve attacked me with. I’m taking a stand. This much makeup is unnecessary; I’m neither a pageant queen nor auditioning for a circus. I’m going to dinner and a show tonight. We’re done here.”  I pick her up and drop her on the floor and get on my feet before she can jump back up.

“If you just give me three more minutes…”

When I look in the mirror, I’m entirely horrified. “Fat, I look like the asylum gave me a day pass.”

Only panda bears and Avril Lavigne should have eyes that look like this. The blush is so orange against my pale skin it makes me feel like my face is attempting to outdo a sunset. No is the only word that comes to mind. No. No. No. No. No. No.

“I was trying to give you a look that says, ‘No need to buy the cow’. You don’t think it’s a success?”

I grab the makeup remover wipes. Multiple wipes. A handful. Less than three will not erase the catastrophe that used to be my money maker. I bury my face in the damp cloths and rub vigorously. Paint remover may be necessary. Oh Christ, the audacity.

“Who says concubines get to have all the fun? Excuse me for giving you the Pretty Woman treatment so you can go out and bag us a rich guy.”

When my face emerges from the collection of towelettes, the formerly white cloth is now an absurd rainbow. “I’d rather have a nice guy.”

“Money talks, Boss, and it says, ‘Buy your cat some decent food so she can stop eating the drivel you consider quality.’” Fat grabs a tube of mascara and jumps beside the bathroom sink so she can see herself in the mirror. Her mouth forms an ‘O’ shape as she applies the makeup to her whiskers to make them longer and more voluminous.

I reach for my phone when it beeps. “My cat deserves to starve for what she did to my face.” I read the text, “We can continue this later. He’s parked out front, I’ve got to go.”

“You’re going out like that?” The feline meets my eye in the mirror’s reflection. “No makeup?”

“Au natural.” I nod. “At least I feel like myself.”

“I’m sure it’ll go great and he’ll want to spend all the time in the world with a looker like you. So…see you in about ten minutes?”

 

Mornings in the Buff

“I’m not sure what makes you think this is acceptable behaviour. Mutt and I took a vote and we’re both offended.”

Fat hisses from the top of the bookshelf as I saunter into the living room.

My skin is still red and blotchy from the shower. I brush my wet hair with my fingers, pulling several strands out with the attempt; it’s a wonder I haven’t gone bald.

“Mutt isn’t here, Fat.”

“I have implied consent from him that I can speak on his behalf. Put some clothes on. You’ve got nothing to show off, Boss.”

Excess water from my hair collects on my shoulder and the beads run down my ribcage. My still-pruned fingers brush them away when the water reaches my hip.

“I’m air-drying, obviously. It’s a thing.”

The feline leans back as though trying to put more distance between us. “I don’t want to attack your fragile ego here, but your naked human form is all kinds of disgusting. By the way, that mole looks cancerous; you should probably get that checked out.”

I feel my nose wrinkle as I follow her probing stare to my lower stomach. I point at the dark mark and look at the feline, who nods her affirmation.

“That’s a tattoo, you knob.”

She squints, “Are you sure?”

“Entirely.” I pick up a lighter and candle from the coffee table.

As my thumb flicks to ignite the lighter, there’s the distinct sound of jingling keys. I think nothing of it; Crazy Dog Lady across the hall has been coming and going all day as she relocates to the first floor. Then I actually hear it; the sound comes from my lock. Before I can think to smash through the glass door and jump off the balcony, the apartment entrance bursts open and Mutt runs. The Chef follows, oblivious to the unintentional skin show as he turns to shut the door behind him. There are too few seconds before he will turn around and see me in my full glory.

“Cover your shame!” Fat shouts over the din of Mutt’s excitement.

The dog jumps gleefully at my feet as I do my best to cover my member’s only areas while screaming the word “Naked!” repeatedly at a high-pitched frequency. I realize I’m still holding tight to the lighter and candle; they immediately kiss the floor with twin thuds.

“When I said, ‘cover your shame,’ I meant your face. Sick burn!” Fat’s paw lifts into the air like she expects a high five. “Anyone? Chef?” She eventually lowers her paw when she concludes nobody’s going to meet her extended five.

At this time, the Chef has faced the living room and gotten quite an eyeful. He pauses, suddenly struck by the awkward realization that I’m home – in the buff – and he quickly turns to face the door and shield his eyes as though both are necessary. This is a very flattering moment for me.

“Shouldn’t you be at work?” His weight shifts with unease from side to side, illustrating that his discomfort matches my own. He hangs the small bag containing Mutt’s drugs on the handle of the hall closet.

“I took a personal day!” I’m still screaming because I’m trapped in this mortifying position. I grab one of the couch cushions and press it against my front. I feel like my crazy uncle just saw me naked. How do I normalize this situation? “My friend’s boyfriend has a guy crush on Derek Jeter.”

Fat, repulsed and taken aback, does that slow twist of the neck as her eyes bulge, giving me plenty of time to realize I picked the strangest thing to say.

“What?” The chef turns around, momentarily forgetting my lack of shame in the living room to acknowledge my stupidity and sees me hiding behind the tan cushion. “Whoa. That’s gross. I gotta go.” He blushes and races out of the apartment.

That’s gross? I frown, slightly offended.

Fat chuckles, settling herself into a napping position on her throne on top of the bookcase. “So what did we learn today?”

Seeking the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

“Awfully quiet around here.”

I don’t see Fat until the light from the fridge casts its light across the kitchen floor; she sits right in the middle of the laminate. Like a startled old lady, I clutch my chest with fright. Perhaps not so much fright as an attempt to uphold decency, my lilac robe isn’t exactly tied tightly and my birthday suit needs to be ironed. I’d rather be confronted by the four horsemen of the apocalypse than this feline with self-appointed shrink cred. I grab what I need, and Fat vanishes from sight when the fridge door closes. God bless darkness.

I unscrew the cap of the bottle of orange juice. “Boyfriend’s gone for the weekend. Off on a quick road trip to see some of his boyfriends.” With more momentum than I expect from myself, I tip the bottle backward down my throat. Twin rivers of OJ pour out the corners of my mouth, dribble down my chin, neck and non-cleavage and get absorbed by my house coat. Shit, that’s cold. Once it dries it’ll be sticky too. I need to switch to water when I wake up thirsty at two a.m. “I’m surprised you weren’t aware of his departure. You’re always eavesdropping and scrutinizing everything. Feels like this whole apartment is under surveillance.” As a classy dame would, I gently dab my face on the sleeve of my oversize house coat.

“It’s behavioural observation.”  There’s a break in her speech where I hear what sounds like a yawn. “Speaking of, I can’t help but wonder why you shuffle around stubbing your toes in the dark when there’s nobody here to disturb.”

The sound of a small click causes the entire kitchen to light up. My fingers pull away from the switch. “Habit, I suppose.” The throb in two of my left toes is well-founded; they’re on the verge of being classified as maroon. I’m the proud owner of one normal-looking foot and one damn ballerina’s foot. Gross.

“Any plans while he’s away?” Fat hopefully goes and sits next to her food dish. She looks at her skewed reflection in the bottom of the metal bowl and up at me. Your subtle persuasion won’t work on me this time, Fat.

Making sure the lid is secure on the juice, I put it away. “Estrogen-fuelled weekend.”

“Lesbian time. Got it.” One of Fat’s eyes shoots me a quick wink. She’s still under the strong impression that in the past I’ve been sweet on the ladies as well as the fellas. This wonderful miscommunication is due to an unfortunate story I once shared with her about a time I took a pie to the face. Fat is under the strong impression that this is a euphemism. I’ve given up trying to correct her; it would make her theory all the more concrete to find out it was a cream pie I took to the kisser. Coconut cream if I recall correctly, I was too busy trying to salvage my makeup to press the detail of flavour into the pages of my memory.

“I’m just hanging out with my best gals, we’re in need of a good pow-wow. Nice to see them in person as opposed to texting or Facebook.”

“Call it what you will.”

I sigh, and try to get the conversation away from sexuality. “The only fellow I’ll be spending any time with this weekend is Mutt.”

“Yeah. Where is he?” She doesn’t even whip her head around to pretend to care.

“I don’t know. Sleeping. Lazy bastard, that one.” I tighten the tie on my house coat.

Fat doesn’t respond. Instead she looks helplessly at her still-empty bowl. She’s almost instantly struck with another idea to get what she wants. Playing nice is difficult for Fat.

She scuttles over and weaves in a figure eight around my ankles. “Boss, you deserve a weekend to yourself. You should make yourself a massage appointment or a pedicure or–” She stops abruptly and starts screaming, “MY EYES, MY EYES!”

Full of concern, I kneel beside Fat.

“Are you okay? What’s wrong with your eyes?” I look up at the kitchen light; the bulbs were just changed. Those energy-saving bulbs are fucking bright. How many watts are those?

Her voice sounds weak, like she’s on her deathbed muttering her last words, “I… I shouldn’t have looked up. I’ve never been fond of pie.”

Office Hours: Inappropriate Show and Tell

“Are those your sodomy pants?” Fat’s smile widens as my attention suffers a minor breakup from the full-length hall mirror in order to throw a disgusted look at her over my shoulder.

“I really don’t understand your sense of humour, Fat.” I turn back to my mirror twin. She’s looking decent for a change; her hair is down and out of the frizzy I-don’t-give-a-fuck bun, makeup is given a little effort today — not just a hit of mascara and some concealer to disguise the war zone breaking out on the forehead, and the icing on the cake is that my mirror twin is wearing a cute outfit. I give the mirror-twin an overenthusiastic up-and-down, the knit scarf with the cardigan, antique necklace and the jeans. This chick has my approval. I spin slowly, like a vertical rotisserie, to check out the backside in the mirror. In the background, Fat muffles a laugh that is truly difficult to ignore. My mirror twin looks shocked and appalled; it appears I’m a lot more classy coming than going. Right in the seam of my beloved jeans is a hole, and not just a little hole; it’s big enough to serve as invitational porn-star pants.

Fuming, I look over to the couch, where the hearty chuckle of a certain feline booms from watching me discover the wardrobe malfunction. “How long were you going to wait before you told me?” I unzip my fly and wrestle the jeans off my thighs. Hunched with my pants around my knees, I look up again, “You were going to tell me, right?”

“Hey, I called them sodomy pants. What more could I have done? Boss, with the movies you’ve watched lately, I wasn’t about to judge.” Her tail curls around her body when the laughter finally subsides.

“Not sure what that has to do with anything,” I mutter and kick the deceased boot cuts into the middle of the living room.

Her voice follows me to the bedroom closet where I flip through hanger after hanger until I come across another pair of dark wash jeans. “The Hangover II? This is the end? Tell me what else those two movies have in common other than backyard playmates.”

Once again in pants, I re-enter the living room. “Backyard playmates? That’s the euphemism you go with?”

She smiles, “I was going to get into a metaphor about swing sets, but thought backyard playmates was strong enough to stand on its own. If you want I can keep going.”

“We’re good. I’m picking up what you’re throwing down.”

Fat taps the couch cushion with her paw. “Come, sit. Let’s have a chat.”

I can spare a couple minutes. I acquiesce and flop onto the couch beside her.

“Why are you being a nude prude?”

I cross my legs, “Fat, I’m not being a…” In the moment I fail to come up with a better way to phrase it, so I parrot her vernacular with an alarming amount of self-hatred, “nude prude. Pardon me for lacking the desire to share my ass with the world.”

“What ass?” She catches my stare, “Don’t give me that look, I’m kidding. Sort of.” Fat shakes her head in a taunting way, “You’ve changed; a couple years ago you would have laughed about showing off your brown eye by accident. Now, look at you. Running to the bedroom to cover up in something appropriate.”

“Please. I’m still inappropriate. In a classy kind of way.”

Fat rolls onto her side, hinting that she wants her belly rubbed. “How’s that, now?”

“I don’t do nudity. Not unless I’m accidentally showing off to the neighbours when I’m wandering around naked after a shower when the curtains are open.”

“Ah yes, Taco Tuesday. Always hilarious, never a crowd pleaser, but hilarious.”

I can’t help myself, I smile at the embarrassing memory. “We almost moved when that happened. If it wasn’t summertime I doubt there would have been such an audience on that balcony.”

“Cue breakthrough.” Fat moves to sit on my lap.

“Huh?”

Fat looks at me, slightly annoyed that she needs to explain. “You need to spend more time naked.”

“Not with you on my lap, I don’t. There are few things more unsettling than a cat lady that pets her feline whilst donning her birthday suit. It’s weird.”

“I meant metaphorically, ass face. I’m trying to inspire some growth from you.”

The conversation replays in my head. Fat watches as I play back the tapes, think on it, and consult the memory bank again.

After a couple minutes of waiting on a reply, Fat jumps down and wanders over to her cat bed. “It’s not really the think piece you’re making it out to be. Just let the message sink in and you’ll be fine.”

Porn Star Lines and Naked Truth

“It’s way too hard.” The couch catches me when I fall back, exasperated and exhausted. Fat is at the end of the sectional, staring intently out the window. I nudge her with my foot, trying to get her to pay attention to me.

Her eyes stay alert and focused at something across the street, but her head tilts when she talks to me. “Things a porn star would say.”

“I’m not playing this game, Fat.” I cross my legs at the ankles and lean back comfortably with my hands behind my head. “You don’t even try to be clever anymore, do you?”

“Just trying to stay at the intellectual level of my audience.” She clears her throat, “Take two: Things you say when trying to figure out how to use a can opener.”

I offer a slight shrug of indifference. “That’s better? Besides, I figured it out eventually.” I hate that she always catches me during those moments when my brain functions with the capacity of a cave woman. “I was really rather hoping you’d ask what is so difficult – perhaps offer a little of that shrink cred you keep boasting about.”

“Very well.” Fat’s focus stays glued to the view outside. “How was your day, dear?”

I wait a couple of seconds for her to offer me some look of recognition, even repulsion. Nothing. “Thanks for phoning it in, Doc.” I sigh. “It’s this whole house hunting fiasco. We’ve seen so many places and not finding the right one. It’s frustrating.” I grab one of the turquoise couch pillows and hug it to my chest. “I’m ready for change.”

“So change.” She says it like it’s obviously apparent. The words reverberate through my brain enough times that I’m brought to the brink of an epiphany. “Get off your ass and force something to happen, fool.”

“You’re probably the most helpful when you’re not giving me your full attention, you know that?”

“Dude. You’ve got to check this out.” Fat’s eyes grow wide and she leans back as if to put more distance between herself and whatever she’s been staring at outside. “Somebody’s returning your favour from the other day.”

“My favour from the other…?” I push myself to my knees and my stomach presses against the back cushions of the couch. The unattractive neighbour waves, naked, from the balcony window of his living room. It’s the dude that saw me in my nothingness on Wednesday morning when I ran from the shower to answer the phone I left on the desk. I fight the polite Canadian part of me that has a compulsion to wave back. Instead I just wilt to the floor and hide behind the couch with my head in my hands. I really hope I never run into that man on the street.

“We have to fucking move. ASAP.”