Doll by Emma Whitlock, photo by Margaret Bednar
“You know, like ‘que será será,’” he said, when she asked.
“Remember,” he went on,“when Doris Day, she sing it in that beautiful dress, yoohoo.” Then, wiping beige (foundation) from his own tan fingers, he turned over a hand-mirror on the countertop. The back showed a picture of her–Doris Day, decolletée in a red satin as deep as his lipstick.
It was the style he too had adopted, Clare realized, with bleached puffed bangs, elasticized sleeves he pulled below the pudge of sallow shoulder-
“You know her?”
In fact she’d seen Doris Day lots–afternoon old movies, TV nights late–Doris Day with the smile like milk, Doris Day with the voice like picnic tables, Doris Day with the little doll legs like Keds.
“She so cool, so fresh,” he laughed from his side of the blusher, “She don’t even have to try. Like you, mamita” he looked at her in the big mirror now, the one in front of them, brushing one honeyed fingernail gently down her cheek. “Ay que linda.”
She flinched, not used to being touched. And also, because, her cheeks were absolutely not, no way, horrible-to-even-contemplate, like Doris Day’s–
“Not the cheeks, no, mamita–” he laughed, understanding–
“No, no. Her cheeks,” he looked at his picture, “they are rotund- eh – like the most beautiful bottom in the world. No, this,” he stared back at Clare in the big mirror, gesturing towards her mouth as if it were something he presented, something on display. “Those lips , see,” tracing the bottom curve, “that pout they love so much, mami.” Her lips felt the warm whorl of his fingers; her nose. the fragrance of talc.
”They constantly want me to bite them,” she said suddenly. “You know, to make them puffier or something.”
“No, no, Mamita, no biting. Just a little sheen, here.” And now his soft frame blocked the mirror, his index finger icy with goo.
“A little tinto.” A baby finger this time, as he bent so closely to her that she could see the individual pores of his black eyebrows beneath the bleached bangs, the curled lashes around his even blacker eyes.
After a space of brush and fingertips, he stood back and she saw what she knew must be herself, only it was now sculpted, cheekboned, svelte.
“Looking good, mami. Looking so good. Grrr.”
She wanted to laugh too, but sucked it in like the cheek-hollows, pivoted her face back and forth while he, humming, unpinned the plastic cloak.
Será. “Looking good,” he always said when she came in for a shoot, even when she knew she didn’t. Even when he added “ooh but tired, mami,” one finger gentle below her eyes. “What you doing so tired? A little girl like you, eh?”
Then, he was gone. For some time. And she noticed, sure, but she didn’t actually do that many shoots, and nobody talked to anybody around those places, and so so she didn’t think too much about it, until he was back, only so different this time, round cheeks worn to bone, tan dulled grey.
She could not somehow ask why. He did not say/ Only “hey you,” and “looking good,” and, after he started with the make-up, “look here, mommy,” holding up one hand for her to turn towards, until just once, when her tooth caught lipstick and he reached our his bare forefinger to wipe it off, to reach right into her mouth–
And then he stopped sharply, sighed, looked her straight in the mirror’s eye, and like a sunken magician who’d lost both handkerchief and dove, extended a small box of kleenex. “Here, mami, you wipe it, eh? Okay?”
This is sort of a draft excerpt from Nanowrimo novel I’ve been working on (in a terribly desultory fashion) – sorry, it’s so long. I am posting it with one of the wonderful doll pictures posted by Margaret Bednar on With Real Toads. The particular doll was made by Emma Whitlock. Thank you Emma! Thank you Margaret!
I should note (as I wrote to Brian Miller), this is just a little sketch from the manuscript that I thought fit the doll. It is not central to the story truly. (Sorry!) The book, if I ever get it together, is called Outsider Art.
P.S. since posting I inserted “mami” in place of “mommy.” It’s pronounced like mommy (when I hear it) and I wanted to keep that sound, but it’s usually used by an adult to a child as a term of endearment. k.