It smelled like crayons, I always loved the smell of lipstick. I’d stare at mum while she carefully traced the outline of her lips with a pencil, then like a painter, colored across her pout. She’d smack her lips together, making that sound, I always asked if I could try it. She said I was too young. She always wore the same shade, that deep ruby red, that made her porcelain and flawless skin look even more fragile. She was beautiful, even though she didn’t know it

Sometimes when she was downstairs cooking roti daal I’d sneak upstairs to her vanity tray. With trepidation, and excitement, I flurried through her potpurri of colors. I didn’t want her to know, but I wanted to try. Wanted to try and be pretty, I wondered if the boys would ever like me. The hot pink was my favorite, it reminded me of Jem and the holograms, her electric pink hair. I pranced around the carpet for a few minutes in hot pink, feeling like I had been overcome with hot pink sass. Strutting back in forth in her bedroom, I wondered if this is what it felt like to be a woman. I couldn’t wait. I wanted her to show me how to use the pencil to outline my lips, perfectly traced and inviting, like hers. But I knew she would get angry. I was still a kid she’d say. I had plenty of time.

I know what she means now. I never feel like I can be a blank canvas when I go out into the world, lipstick is matted on me. I feel naked without it, stirring with insecurities from my youth. -NJ

Lips that beg to be painted, blooming from a moonface so open that it has its very own moons, two baby crescents that wane and wax below her eyes with the tides of her life. One puckered slightly above the other, lifted straight from her mother's face in that way daughters have of stealing features.

Lipstick was dance recitals, bright red, lifted from her mother's purse, smelling like crayola and like lady-dom. Etched ever so, ever so, on her toddler moth, bottom lip, then top lip, then, Watch Mommy! Smash, rub, smash, but ever so, so you don't color outside the line and dye your toddler skin. Then, Look at Mommy! Lipstick smudged on her long fingertips to mush into the toddler cheeks, a living dollbaby now.

Now, lipstick is hope, an adornment added to her centerpiece that thinks to itself, maybe tonight, maybe tonight. Lipstick is trying to feel young and trying to feel like a Woman (TM) all at the same time, which has been her way her entire life, born an old woman and hoping to die a baby. She still does it Mommy's way, in that way daughters have of stealing their mothers' mannerisms. Bottom lip, then top lip, then mash them together, and feel it all at once. -KM

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