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?”


Pet Names For Humans

“Don’t call me that again.” A sugary sweet smile forces itself across my face. I wave at Boyfriend as a means to excuse him and sent him off to work. The door shuts behind him and I press my spine to the back of it. My head eases backward and clunks against the peephole instead of gently resting against the wood like I was anticipating.

“I’m so happy that I was here to witness that. That’s a much better goodbye than the warm ‘love you’ that most couples half-assedly throw out as they venture off to work. You sure started Boyfriend’s birthday off right.” Fat sits on the green hall table as though it’s a throne. The delight is painted across her face like clown makeup. Bright light from the hallway skews the feline demon’s shadow on the wall. Her tail flicks with evil contentment as she observes my expression. I know my forehead is wrinkled and I am colossally aware that my mouth has formed the classic pursed lips which signal girlfriend discontent.

“Did I say something you didn’t care for,” I know the dramatic pause she takes is just to punctuate the next word, “Honeybear?”

The automatic reaction is for my arms to cross over my chest and deepen my stink face. I look over my shoulder as though the door isn’t there and I’m staring at the foul moment from fifteen seconds previous when Boyfriend called me that wretched name. I don’t, nor have I ever, dabbled in cutesy.

My thumb points in the direction where Boyfriend of fifteen seconds prior almost spoke his last words meant for this earth. “So that actually happened and I didn’t imagine it? Such a shame.” I shake my head. “Pet names? That’s not a prerequisite of a long-term relationship, is it? Because I don’t have enough bile in me to spew all over that situation.”

“I would think that you would be a lot more grateful that somebody out there tolerates you, let alone loves you. I, for one, am tremendously surprised. You were well on your way to becoming a crazy cat lady and he came along and ruined it for me.” She stops, fumbling to rephrase when she realizes she used the wrong word, “ruined it for you.” He grey paw jabs outward to punctuate who she means.

The lock clicks loudly when I turn the bolt in the door. The bad girlfriend ghost can stay in the apartment hallway.

“Why does it bother you so much, anyways?” Fat cocks her head to the side. Were I not accustomed to her, I might have found this cute, however, I’m all too aware that she’s fishing for me to discuss my feelings. That’s generally my no-no zone.

“Clearly, you have never had a pet name you hated.” I scoff as I dig my umbrella out of the closet. It’s typical Vancouver outside, and I’m not willing to forget my bumbershoot two days in a row.

“Really?” Her voice is suddenly sharp and there’s an edge to her voice that’s punctuated by a gentle sarcastic hiss. “You call me Fat and I have no idea what a terrible pet name is like? You’re absolutely right. I don’t understand at all.”

“You’re not my audience. You don’t get it. That’s something else entirely.” Frankly, I forgot that I gave her a real name when I brought her home from the shelter. One botched ovariohysterectomy can change a name in an instant.

“C’mon, boss. You’ve liked pet names in the past, haven’t you?” Fat, displeased with lack of space on her perch, shoves a candle off the side of the table and onto the carpet. Neither of us acknowledge the candle in its new habitat.

I dust off the memory bank and search the archives from a decade prior. I stifle a laugh. I’d long since forgotten one particular pet name I had from a past life. “Hot Pocket. But to my credit, that was an era where I was stoned all the time and hot pockets were the munchie of choice.” Ah, youth. To my cardiovascular system, I do apologize but at I did not and do not regret it.

“Do you think maybe Boyfriend called you Honeybear because you add honey to your tea from that bear-shaped bottle? I noticed something that came up a few times when I was reviewing your case file. I dare suggest, but you might have issues with affection and intimacy, boss.”

My eyes lock in the space directly in front of them. I try to rationalize like Fat tells me. I do like honey in my tea. I’m not a fan of that juvenile bottle though; it’s slightly preposterous. Bears enjoy eating elk too, doesn’t mean there are bottles of elk innards in a bear-shaped bottle out there. At least, God I hope not. I’m getting a little off the tracks, affection issues? Perhaps. I don’t know. I wasn’t aware my dislike of a stupid name could be translated as such. I prop the umbrella against the door as a reminder as I don my thinking face.

I dissect the idea as much as I can on my own, getting frustrated that she made me take a step back and acknowledge my behaviour. Ignorance is my favourite state after California. Was the proper human response to just accept the pet name with reluctant grace and live with it indefinitely? “Nope. Cant’ do it. ‘Honeybear’ lives and dies today, Fat.”

“How nice that you get to veto a pet name. Apparently ‘Fat’ will continue to stick around…”

This is as Tall as I Get, I can’t Grow Up Anymore

“Did I just watch you have a legitimate four-minute conversation wherein you played both the part of yourself as well as that of the comically large mug in your hands?”

I follow the sound of Fat’s voice and see the cat smirking beside the box of cereal on top of the fridge.

My mouth recreates the letter ‘O’ as my body turns to statue. Why do I never think to sweep the area for a mocking cat before I allow the stupid part of my personality to man the helm? This is officially the moment I vow to never again consider it a good idea to put the dishes away; henceforth I shall let them stay in the dish rack for an indefinite number of tomorrows. I grip the handle of the mug tightly. As stupid is already in charge of my actions, stupid continues to make me look like an idiot. Maybe it’s because I saw Tommy Boy a few too many times growing up that acting like a buffoon is ingrained in my head as acceptable and sane behaviour. The mug raises to my mouth and I speak into it as though it’s a megaphone. Just to punctuate the echo, I force my voice into a deeper octave. “You can’t prove anything, unevolved feline.”

“So you are not, in fact, willing to come clean about using the phrase, ‘le hoot. I ‘ave to get zis baret ‘ome to my leetle owling. He love eet.’?” Fat mimics my poor, phony accent rather well. The look she gives me takes the place of two words: Gotcha, Sucka.

Instantly, I lower the giant mug and point at the cartoon birds in a tree. Fat doesn’t seem to get it. “No, see the picture. They’re owls that live in France. Note the Eiffel Tower and cafe in the background. And see this one, he’s looking quite sharp; his neck scarf actually matches his baret–”

“I don’t think you ever left pre-kindergarten. Does the game of pretend ever end with you?” The question isn’t rude – the interruption is – the question, however,  stems from a genuinely curious place.

I return the mug back to the dish rack, needing to adjust it on top of the other dishes so it doesn’t succumb to gravity and kill the French owls. After I’m satisfied the mug will remain in place, I face Fat with my hands on my hips. “Oh please, Fat. You can’t possibly be calling me immature.”

Her head tilts to the side in an I’m-not-sure-you-want-to-play-this-game kind of way.

“Out with it, doc. You seem to have the opinion that I lack the capacity to behave like an adult.”

Fat licks the sides of her mouth as if weighing the merits of saying something or keeping it to herself. “Very well,” she jumps down from the fridge onto the kitchen counter and stares at me with scrutiny. “Are you aware that every morning when you cover up your hideous face with one that looks human, the compact powder brush inevitably ends up becoming a momentary moustache in your hands?” At first I thought it was some kind of freaky below-the-surface Hitler fascination, but the more I observe, it would seem as more of a Charlie Chaplin homage.”

This revelation rings no bells; she’s clearly fucking with me. It seems like it should be a compliment of sorts as Charlie Chaplin was one delicious silent man, but is she accusing me of wanting to be a delicious silent man? I’m rather fond of the fact that my ovaries are on the inside. Crap, I’m letting her get into my head and make me overthink everything. “Fat, I know it’s killing you to have a normal person as your owner, but you need to stop trying to make me think I act like a lunatic just so you can practice your self-appointed shrink business on me. Get a hobby.”

Fat wets a paw with her saliva and rubs it behind one of her ears. “If that is how you choose to see it…” She lets the sentence drift into space.

I lean my back against the counter and the action somehow jostles the mug free of the dish rack and the French owls fly the coop.  The loud sound of the mug hitting the counter makes the small hairs on my arms stand at attention. “God damn birds with your freaky, flappy wings!” I yell as I pick up the now-chipped mug. In spite of this new imperfection, the mug is unharmed and still functional. As I don’t want to take another gamble with gravity and putting the cup in the cupboard is a whole ordeal, I put the mug in the sink.

“Maybe the writer aspiration makes sense after all.” Fat muses as she watches my physical exasperation with the coffee cup. “Fiction, obviously. You, boss, are not meant for the real world – you signed off on practicality long ago.”

As I’m not certain how to take this, I just assume she means it as a compliment.