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.”

Bestie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

“Do you look sad because it’s raining? On tv, people are always sad when it’s raining.”

I stop staring at the summer thunderstorm and look at Fat. She’s chewing on the ear of a toy mouse with frenzy but she still manages to read my face. The bell inside the stuffed rodent jingles as she thrashes around with it.

“No, Fat. If rain made people sad, Vancouverites would be the most miserable people in the world.” I stare back at the mesmerizing litres of water falling from the sky. Maybe it will turn everything green again. “Not to say that some of them aren’t.”

Fat rolls backward almost losing grip of her mouse, but manages to snag it by the tail with her claws. “Maybe all those miserable people are just on their periods all the time – both women and men. You know, I bet it’s a side effect of the red tide.” Fat freezes dramatically as if struck by an epiphany. “Is that where the phrase ‘surfing the crimson wave’ comes from?”

I almost smile. “That’s from Clueless, Fat.” I watch the puddles forming on the balcony. “And I’m not sad, I was just reminiscing.”

“Oh yeah? About what?” Fat abandons her toy to jump up beside me on the couch. When she purrs, I’m inclined to pet her.

The rain sounds like the rat-a-tat sound of children pretending to shoot guns. “Bestie used to live a five minute walk away. I’m still getting used to her not being right there.”

“I thought you said she moved to East Van.” Fat’s head tilts with misplaced comprehension.

I nod. “Yeah. She did.”

“So she’s like a fifteen minute drive away. Not something to be mopey about.”

“That’s dependent on traffic,” I announce with the dramatic flair usually reserved for teenage angst. “Fifteen minutes when there are no other cars on the road maybe.”

The feline’s jaw falls open and just hangs there for a moment as she assesses my sincerity. “This is a problem for you?” Her eyes light up, “oh my God. You care.” Fat bursts out laughing.

I turn away from her and stare out the window again, “Shut up, Fat.” It’s hard to hide emotion for something so close to my heart.

The good doctor laughs so hard the sound disappears and all I can see are the shudders of her shoulders as she shakes with giddiness.

My phone beeps and I check it as Fat heaves with a massive case of the giggles.

“I completely forgot it was gym day today.” I groan and reply to the message that I can be ready in five minutes.

“Who are you going to the gym with?”

“Bestie.” I almost add ‘duh’ after the mention of her name. I don’t go to the gym with anybody else; you only let true friends see your disgusting, sweaty gym self.

“Problem solved I guess.”

“What problem?” I frown when I realize that I still haven’t washed my gym clothes from last week.

“You said you missed Bestie.”

My nose wrinkles when Fat misunderstands my wistfulness. “I didn’t say that. Don’t misquote me. I miss living near her. It’s raining and I want homemade mac and cheese. That woman makes the best comfort food ever.”

Missing the Huntress

“Late one today, boss. Were you soliciting at the high school for underage boys?”

I toss my ID badge at Fat; it grazes her fur before skidding across the green hall table. She jumps in fear of other flying objects and scampers several feet down the hall to establish a buffer zone between us. My shoulder bag drops to the floor and I kick off my shoes with the finesse of a karate master.

“That’s a bitchy way to greet me after a long day.” If she were any other house cat she would be purring and slutting herself out for attention right about now. “And FYI, I didn’t even chase after high school boys when I was in high school.” She doesn’t need to know that fact is mostly true. There are exceptions to everything.

Fat shrugs, as though her question of seducing young men was the most obvious one in the world. “I was listening to what your shirt was saying, Mrs. Robinson.”

I look in the hall mirror at my mirror twin’s blouse. Leopard print. Of course. The telltale sign of the cougar. I pull the shirt off over my head and hang it on one of the empty key hooks on the wall; it will find its way to the laundry hamper eventually.

“Young ones really aren’t my thing, Fat.” The look on her face calls me a liar. “Anymore. And just to clarify, that particular fellow you’re thinking about was in his early twenties for Christ’s sake.”

I trudge into the bathroom to grab a hair tie to restrain my frizzy locks. Fat follows, jumping up on the counter to watch me wrestle my hair into submission.

“Besides, I told you I’d be late.” I mumble and run my tongue over my polished teeth. The feeling is always so foreign without the grit. However, that new dental assistant reefed on my gums when she flossed – they’re still bleeding. I frown when I think of her brute strength and her clumsiness with the water pick. I definitely did not care for her.

Leaning forward, I spit into the sink and Fat watches the blood-infused saliva wash down the drain when I turn the tap on.

Curious green eyes lift upward to my face.

“Are you menstruating out of your mouth? Hopefully you’re not out of tampons.” She brightens, “The good news is whatever cork you need to put in that hole will muffle the nonsense that’s always flooding out.”

“Shut up, Fat.”

Silence soaks up the conversation like a sponge. We both take a moment to compose ourselves. I suppose both of us get a little heated from nothingness sometimes.

The good doctor finally supersedes the silence, speaking in a cavalier tone, “So, we good?”

I nod, and punctuate the confirmation with, “Yup. Perfectly fine.” She follows me to the living room and watches me open the patio door to let the slight breeze join us. “You weren’t serious about thinking I’d be after teenagers, right?”

Fat steps out on the balcony and lies down in the shade. “You know me, I don’t judge…”

Without conscious thought, my left eyebrow shoots upward. I cross my arms and stare at her.

“Anymore.” She smirks and shoos the statement away with a brush of her paw. “If I’m being honest, I don’t judge currently. You’ve got a free pass until you’ve gotten back out there.”

I must look confused, because Fat rolls her eyes when she has to explain.

“Dating, doofus. I’m serious, it’s time and you need to. I miss the retellings of your bad decisions.”

Office Hours: Permission to Act Like a Jerk

“Before you sit down, I’m going to need you to grab an alcoholic beverage.”

Knees bent and ass hovering mere inches above the sofa, I freeze.

“Why?”

Fake glasses are slightly askew across Fat’s tiny, wet nose. Her face has a subtle glow from the iPad positioned in front of her on the couch. It illuminates her whiskers.

“The reviews are in.” Her tone carries a serious edge and she nods in the direction of the liquor cabinet.

“You’re going to need a cushion.”

Though I’m not sure what’s going on, I’m not going to dismiss Fat’s insistence that I need to consume alcohol. If she’s blessed my union with booze, I’m sure as hell going to have a loved one at my side when she breaks whatever bad news she’s holding on to. My legs, burning from the squat, sigh with relief when I stand up. I grab a liquor bottle at random and plunk it on the coffee table. I sit down in my nook where the sectional intersects.

Repulsion crosses Fat’s face. “No mix with that vodka?”

I fight the urge to groan as I lean forward and spin the bottle so the label points in Fat’s direction. “Raspberry vodka. It’s practically juice. Whatcha got going on my iPad?”

Her mouth draws into a straight line. “Have you been on Facebook lately?”

My back is still arches over to the coffee table where my hand still hasn’t released its grip on the bottom of the vodka bottle. My visceral gut tells me to pick up the vodka and keep it close.

“No, why?” The lid of the bottle becomes unscrewed as I turn it to the left, then I turn it back to the right. Then again to the left and back and forth a few more times as a means to deal with the silence that Fat has let settle into the living room.

“A certain ex-boyfriend has taken to social media to garner some sympathy and make himself look like a victim of your cold-hearted ways.”

The lid turns to the left and I remove it from the bottle; I hold it between my fingertips.

“Uh huh.”

Her paw sweeps across the iPad going over comments of people who have no idea how the relationship actually ended.

“There’s a fun little bit where he refers to being here a waste of time. My favourite has to be a thread that starts with a post that says, ‘They say time heals all wounds why am I angrier.’ Punctuation issues aside, that’s some refreshing prose he’s got going on there, don’t you think? Quite the poet, that one. Quite the poet indeed.” The feline does her best to hide her sarcastic smile. “Hang on,” Fat presses the comment section where several people have weighed in with opinions that are fed by his pity-me pretense, “I want to read you some things that are here.”

I take a tiny nip from the bottle, getting lost in thought as Fat searches the page.

He went out the door still professing love for me. Saying that we failed because I didn’t try. The reality is, we are on two different life trajectories and I don’t know if mine involves being Mrs. So-and-so and birthing babies. I like my alone time. I need it. He is the opposite of me, and from his watchtower, I’m perceived as a bad person because I don’t want the same life he does. I can live with that. I’m not a cheater. I didn’t treat him badly. I just didn’t love him.

I revisit the long fights and challenging debates of this suffocating relationship that’s currently on exhibition in my memory bank. A hearty gulp of vodka warms the inside of my chest and brings me back to present.

Fat squints at the tablet screen and starts reading off random comments.

“I moved 4000 klm away, and was given up on”

I suppose that means I don’t get to play the part of the protagonist in this story. Damn.

“Feels like I wasn’t worth the effort”

This is a clever trick I learned at PMS camp; feelings can’t be wrong. Boys shouldn’t be privy to how we manipulate language.

“Some people just really are ass holes”

I suppose that would be me. I’m not exactly Joseph Stalin, but with enough practice…

“The people that made you feel like that are the one that aren’t worth the effort”

Not worth the effort and a waste of time. This is a terrible day for my ego.

“I want to annihilate him.” I toss the bottle cap on the table and take another swig from the bottle.

“That’s interesting. I’ve always thought you were heartless, but it seems like you got a transplant from a super villain at some point.”

I shoot Fat an angry look.

“Boss, I’m kidding.”

“He’s making me look like an asshole.”

“You are an asshole.” She raises a paw when she sees me reach for a pillow to throw at her. “Not in the way you’re being depicted here, but you are an asshole. Everybody knows the internet is full of lies. Calm down.”

I take another sip of vodka. My anger tries to compose itself as Fat continues.

“He’s just fishing for somebody out there to show that they care about him. He’s mad because you didn’t love him forever like he hoped you would.”

“Dating isn’t a promise of forever. Marriage is a fucking promise of forever.” I yell and squeeze a fist around the glass neck of the bottle.

“You’re just going to let this charade play out, boss. He’ll come around and realize that you’re not the girl for him, and when that happens this will all go away.” As if to illustrate that fact, Fat shuts off the iPad and the lit screen goes black.

“And in the meantime.”

Fat ponders potential outcomes before she shrugs and gives me the answer I want to hear.

“Give him a reason to think you’re an asshole.”

Office Hours: I am the Black Knight

“You realize that you spend about one-third of your life acting like a two-year-old.” Fat cozies up beside me on the couch as I fume in front of my laptop.

The computer sits open on the coffee table while I stare over the screen of the teal PC at Boyfriend – who currently occupies my beautiful writing desk playing a game of fictional adventure. Noise cancelling headphones cover his ears and keep Boyfriend safe within his questing bubble. My stiff fingers hover over the keyboard, as they have been doing for the last several minutes as I stare over at Boyfriend who is understandably oblivious to my discontent.

“Am not.”

“You know,” Fat yawns, “he’s a very accommodating guy. If you told him you wanted to work at the desk, he’d be happy to oblige.” Fat tucks her paws under the folds of her fur, staring over at Boyfriend with admiration. “This isn’t a white knight/black knight situation; you’re fighting for a cause that’s not worth it. Back the pony up, put the lance away, and call it a shift.”

Finally, I tap out a quick sentence. “I’m all too well aware of his good nature.” I read the words that result from my lackluster concentration. Utter crap. I backspace until all stupidity is dissolved by the cursor. “I just want him to know what I want without having to tell him what I want, okay?”

Fat throws me a sideways stop-making-yourself-sound-like-a-dumb-ass stare. “Based on that last admission, I’m going to throw a guess out there and suppose you’re surfing the crimson wave.”

That’s a familiar turn of phrase. “Have you been watching Clueless?”

“It’s on Netflix.” Fat smiles sheepishly.

An automatic reflex to being caught lightening up when I’m determined to remain bitchy and cold, the corners of my mouth bend downward and I scowl. “This is ruining my day. He’s purposely trying to sabotage any chance I have at getting some writing done. I should be a knight; I’d pull my sword from its sheath and behead both of you.” My eyes pull themselves into slits as I look at her, “Your head will be thrust on the tip of my sword as a symbol of my victory.”

“Sounds like some weird-ass erotica,” the grey feline mumbles. Fat, annoyed that I’m not listening to her, looks to the heavens to silently ask for help. I see her flash a see-what-I’m-working-with shrug to whatever is up there beyond the ceiling. A moment later she turns back to me, “I may have given you a bad metaphor. The idiot that you are took it to fuel this internal idea of yours that you and Boyfriend aren’t a team and are instead opposing forces. You couldn’t be more histrionic right now.”

“Don’t take that tone with me, Fat.” I angle the laptop away from her eyes and open a new window. I search “histrionic”.

“I’m over-dramatic and tend to be self-centred?” The words fight their way through clenched teeth. My eyes skim another paragraph, and the more I read, the more my armour begins to rust. “Balls.” I close the laptop and sit back on the couch.

“Hey, babe?”

I look up, Boyfriend’s headphones rest around his neck. “You haven’t written yet today, you want to…” Boyfriend points at the desk and mimes frenzied fingers typing. “I’m going to take Mutt out.”

“Reads Dostoyevsky and he’s thoughtful?” Fat snickers, “He might be too good for you, boss.”

I stand and pick up my laptop, “Be a little more sensitive, Fat. I’m on my period.”