Parade

She knew the directions by heart:
Apply moisturizer.
Apply foundation
Apply Dermablend under eyes in patting motion
and blend into surrounding skin.
Finally,
set with powder.

The first time he gave her the black eye
the makeup worked.
No one in the office noticed.
Although she had to keep reapplying
every hour.

But when he punched her in both eyes
Dermablend proved to be more challenging.
The “high-performance” cream that “hid all of your imperfections”
just wasn’t a match for her boyfriend’s clenched knuckles or
studded silver rings.
Instead she called in sick and Googled
how to hide facial scars.
Green concealer was best to cover the redness
but her black eyes were still a carnival of colors;
gold, navy and magenta.
Sunglasses were the easier alternative.
A cataract operation, she told people.
Even though twenty-eight was too young for cataracts.

One morning the subway train
suddenly stopped.
Her sunglasses flying across the car.
The woman who picked them up stared
at her rainbow eyes,
lids so swollen they would be miniature golf balls
and handed her a small white card
with a phone number.

A year later she has thrown out all the lying makeup:
foundation, setting power, concealer.
All the tubes of Dermablend.
No more patting motions.
No more boyfriend.
A new city.
A new job.
“What is the opposite of hide?”
she had asked at her first meeting.
“Parade,” a woman shouted,
as everyone clapped as loudly
as fireworks exploding
a night sky.

This is a reprint of work originally published in Cathexis Northwest Press.

Penny Jackson’s poems and stories have appeared in magazines both here and abroad, such as The Edinburgh Review, Ontario Review, The Croton Review and The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses. Her short stories are published in a collection L.A. CHILD by Untreed Reads. Awards for her writing include a Pushcart Prize, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and the Elizabeth Janeway Prize in fiction. She is also a playwright and a filmmaker.

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