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 Feline’s Idea of Playtime

“Can’t help but notice that you don’t play like that with me.”

The back of my neck prickles with familiarity when Fat’s resentful voice echoes a similar point of contention Boyfriend recently brought up. I look over, and she smiles at me innocently, seemingly unaware of my mental association to her complaint. Coincidence, I suppose.

Fat sits directly in front of the television; her grey head obstructs the rerun of RuPaul’s Drag race that plays on a low volume. The sound of queens throwing some shade should be in the background of everyone’s houses all the time. It’s that entertaining. I live to watch Snatch Game.

Fat leers while I play tug-of-war with Mutt on the living room floor. I offer cruel taunts while his white tail flicks from side-to-side like Dr. Seuss’ metronome.  He smiles his doofus canine grin as he grips the end of the rope between his teeth. My hold on the frayed ends loosens enough to let him think he’s actually going to pull it out of my hands.

“Fat, I play with you all the time.” Just when Mutt thinks he’s about to take the rope from me, I yank it quickly out of his mouth. “Getting slow in your old age, Mutt.”

“I suppose mind games count as playing. Although, you’re more of an unwilling participant than anything else.” The bright colours of the television show behind Fat do nothing to distract her. She squints at the dog as if to gesture with her gaze. “You don’t do any of this stuff with me.”

“Okay, fine.” I look around and see a pink tennis ball tucked into the corner where the bookshelf intersects with the wall. After a backward summersault to get within reaching distance, I have the neon ball in my grasp. “Here, Fat. Go get it.” A flash of pink sails across the living room, down the hallway and hits the apartment’s front door with a rubbery thwack sound. Fat watches until it’s out of her line of sight. I hold tight to Mutt’s collar so he won’t race after it like he wants to.

She sighs, “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Go. Fetch.” I point as the ball stops bouncing and slows to a lazy roll. “Bring it back and I’ll throw it for you again.”

“No. That seems stupid.”

Mutt starts whining and I let him go so he can chase the ball. He trips over his clumsy feet because of his excitement and once the sphere has been retrieved, Mutt victoriously trots under the desk with the pink tennis ball in his mouth. I love that it doesn’t take much to make him happy, not like the feline.

I try to contain my exasperation. “Of course it’s stupid. Have you met Mutt? You were the one that said you wanted me to play with you. That’s how Mutt and I play. Pardon me, your highness. What did you have in mind?”

“Actually, nothing. I’m probably just going to nap.” Fat stares in the direction of the kitchen and the room goes quiet with the exception of RuPaul’s girls sassing each other. “Maybe you should make a cup of tea for yourself and Boyfriend. It might be a nice peace offering.”

I bite the inside of my cheek, trying to figure out where she’s going with this. The idea seemed to come out of nowhere. Tea is always a good idea though.

I push off the ground and Fat follows me into the kitchen. I turn the kettle on and grab two mugs from the cupboard. I set the plain red one to the left of my fancy teal mug. As I flip through the containers of David’s tea, Fat stares at the mugs.

I follow the line from her focused eyes to my mug; she doesn’t even glance at Boyfriend’s. “What, Fat?”

“Just interesting.”

“Sure.” I flip through until I find the chocolate tea and nearly slam the container on the counter. I drum my fingers on the tea container until the question bursts out of me like projectile vomit. “What is interesting?”

Her head tilts in the direction of my mug, “As with everything else, you always have to be right.”

Spitefully, I move my mug to the other side of the red one.

Fat smiles, but it’s a definite evil grin this time. She plays with her whiskers in the manner a cartoon villain would twirl his moustache. This move of mine clearly entertains her.

“Thanks for the playtime, boss. Enjoy your tea.”