After a few minutes’ determined dabbing, re-dabbing and some dabbing after that with a cotton pad, my face is covered with a comically uneven layer of Milk of Magnesia, whitening as it dries. This is good for the pores. Two layers of Healthy Hoof Hoof Lacquer are drying on my fingernails because it’s the only base coat that keeps my nails from flaking off in layers like mica. My hair’s pulled back in a hairband and I live in fear of passing my reflection in a mirror and wailing, You are working for the weekend!
This morning, my student worker, whose name reminds us that movie angels start out on training wheels, asked a series of carefully considered questions in a language that is not her first.
She: When we see purchase orders like these, we close them?
Tata: If we wait a few weeks, the money will be real. If we close them now, not so much!
She: The money is not real now?
Tata: No. Not until it becomes real in a few weeks. It looks real, doesn’t it?
She: It does.
Tata: It’s not though. Excuse me.
I dial Sharkey’s work number. His voicemail picks up.
Tata: I LOOOOOOVE CAULIFLOWER!
I hang up.
Tata: So we might wait a few weeks and close the orders then.
From the other side of the cubicle wall comes the amused voice of my co-worker. He and I talk through this wall all day, everyday. We’ve considered cutting holes in the wall and installing a puppet theater.
Him: What is it that you love about cauliflower?
Tata: Sharkey listens to his messages on speakerphone. He hears my voice and sprints across his office to slap the OH NO, IT’S TA! button. I like to think I’m responsible for elevating his heart rate to an aerobically challenging level.
Him: That’s just like you! Always thinking of others!
On cue, the co-worker will tell people I’m brilliant and throw food, so I do not velcro his sneakers together. The office walls are decorated with pictures of Elvis, Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao standing next to xeroxed and taped-together him. Also: he spent a whole day not speaking any words containing the letter E. His pranks interest me. I make a genuine effort not to give him concussions.
My nails have now received two slender coats of cheap, startling electric blue polish. St. Ives Apricot Radiance Deep Cleaning Cream Cleanser did a nice job of unchalking my face. It’s important to exfoliate lips because they don’t shed cells the same way the rest of the epidermis does – or so I’ve read. It’s Wednesday; I’ve Naired my face. The first time Mamie turned a corner and found me doing what Grandma called “my Santa Claus impression” Mamie screamed like she’d caught Coco Chanel dead in a tube top.
Mamie: Oh my God! Is it rabies?
Tata: No, it’s cosmetology and you’ve read about it in Hairless Girl Weekly.
Mamie: What? Are you deriding my long, luxurious crimson tresses?
Tata: Never. I’m guessing we find your arm hair with Jimmy Hoffa.
It’s true. Mamie has no arm hair. She also shaves her legs once a month to spite me – because she doesn’t have to – and she cackles the whole time. It’s like millions of voices suddenly cry out in terror and are suddenly silenced. Then she moisturizes.
Gunning the engine on the milk truck of human kindness, Sharkey emails.
Sharkey: And you know where you can shove your cauliflower!
Tata: Of course, dahhhhhhhling. Call me and tell me how much you admire me!
Sharkey: I’ll call you and tell you to kiss my ass!
Tata: And you admire me! It makes you sound taller.
To paraphrase Gene Kelly: gotta tweeze! Then slather. There must be goo. And two layers of top coat forming a chitinous shell. Displays of softness are for cosmetic purposes only. Smoothness is the way to go.