Nylons because I am pale. Those were my legs stolid and white as rain wetting the air where it hangs; velocity-wrapped shape of the moment caught just in the path of a headlamp and then dark. Those were my legs too sliding down down into dark, the sharp snap of the band at the waist, black stretch blending me in to the heels ringing curtly through the door and the skirt slipping northward on the sheen. How experienced we are at being clothed.
And then in the make-up chair. Big lights and mirrors and wasn’t that my hair barreled softly into waves? A girl tells me to hold my breath and she sprays. Static rustling of aerosol. She says she will set me. Set me how? She smiles plainly at the question. She says, apart. The promises we make within our narrow range of influence. More lights. Now I am made head to toe with the hair given notice on where it can go; the heels still curt. Nylon run over pale skin powdered towards the top; red lips. Isn’t this always how it goes—final look set inside a style? We are told that we choose this. I can see the lacquered black coated on the lashes when they are downcast. I know how much a lipstick can make an iris shine blue.
Directives: Listen to the questions from the woman in the chair. Answer enough to keep the audience, but no more. Do not incite. That was my smile facing hers, mirroring. Her hands folded on her lap and mine on mine. Legs crossed. Fit. Notes to nod amicably, sharp chin. Notes to stand out. Apart. But only this much. By an inch. By enough that at the end they will know you. They have been you. Yes yes this was my art this is my human condition. I have others. Conditions? Yes. Other conditions. Where was I raised and where will I go? The flattest part of town is where I came from. I’ll go forward, keep pushing forward. What is life? Quote another. Life is the short time in which we are alive. -Philip Roth. Although he had to put it in a young girl’s mouth. So few things that we fully say. Mutual thank yous until the lights go off. Cut. I am more the woman asking the questions than I am myself. More the audience than either of us. We are the audience. They identify. They say, that sounds like me. They are proud to be me. I stand apart. They stand apart with me. The collective unique. This was not the hair I came in with. These nylons. They cover the legs. My skin is like yours is like mine: bridled. A picture and a handshake. Thank you, thank you. Smile because we have been dressed to stand apart.
Here is another condition: doorway again, curt heels. Sounds that echo along the arc of the word home in the clip of the steps on old wood. Three steps in and he hears me. Home, home, home. His scent the only one I can distinguish in a crowd, and his sounds. This is what makes me distinct. He says something but I’ve already found him, the bright of my iris pinning the surge of his in a mirror. Thick brown, is what I call them. The color. He hears brown as if I am saying where I’m from and who I am. The flattest part of town is where I came from. He says, brown like what? I kiss the lids. Brown like black.
Buttoned and beveled edges of a couch bought to show who we are. Each thing chosen from the given range of styles that have come before. Another look for an audience. It says, we are this with intent. This couch and this room and these lips, red and powdered at the top. These barrel-rolled curls. But this moment no one looks in and we are coming undone. Shedding it slowly. Constant pursuit just to find our way back. Back to this. Nyloned legs spread both ways across his lap, shaped as they are in the path of the moment. The seam running a third line parallel through my two. That pinkish springhead nosing up from a more guttural place. The female tucked inside and the man always trying to tuck in too, to go back, back to this. I swell against the seam. Light from a real source sideways through the window floods the angles of his face and spills into the black of his pupils pushing out the brown. That thick brown, bright brown, brown like black. I rock forward and kiss the lids. Rock back. Full swell of him beneath me too, the skirt slipping northward on the sheen, slipping over my head and to the floor. Hair unset. His full palm in full grip of each of the two halves meeting where the seam runs up the back, fingertips netting just there, pressing in. My pupils matching his pupils in the way they widen out to black. Block out the blue. Rock forward. Seam pressing in.
Rock back. Tearing at the seam now where his fingertips have spread. Tearing apart. Nylon curling in his grip curling into skin spilled out in a cleave. Tearing sounds like open. The inside of anything ripe is always wet. Wet like rain, this wet white as rain in the headlamps before it falls into dark. Life is the short time in which we are alive. Where are you going and where are you from? Forward. Really? No. Really I am going back, back, back to this. Back to where I came from. I am going always back to this.
Because here is the true condition, as he rocks with me, extends through me, nylons tearing down and running softly off: There is no apart. The difference between us now is not found in a single breath or pulse of the heart, not in the sweat mixing along the contact points of the skin, not in the hair running together, not in directive or pursuit; not even in the orb of the irises pushed out now to black, pupils flung open as the sole channel untampered enough to conduct the closed circuit of the universe.