On Beauty This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Since I can remember, I have been obsessed with beauty. Vanity has always been my favorite sin. Presumida, my mother used to call me, the cascade of Spanish syllables pouring from her Cuban tongue like a shower of stars. My grandmother had a different word for it: krashive.

It’s a condition that has affected all the women in my family. Maybe I was born with it, a tiny seed planted in me from the womb and nurtured through my childhood as I watched my grandmother and mother apply their creams and ointments without fail every morning and night. Now I am a young woman with my own box of magic salves and potions to keep my skin young and beautiful forever.

“There’s nothing wrong with being vain,” my mother told me one evening. I was twelve years old, sitting on a plush rose stool observing as she applied her charms. She was throwing a party that night for her artist friends. There were always artists coming and going from my mother’s house. They left her gifts all the time—tiny sketches penned down on napkins and stationary, beautiful watercolors—and portraits, so many portraits.

I wished artists would paint portraits of me. The most I had was a big olio of a raja, a fat boy prince wrapped in emerald silk who supposedly had my hands. I remember staring at them, the chubby fingers loaded with jewels and heavy gold rings, and finding no resemblance to my thin pianist’s hands.

My mother’s own fingers were shorter and plumper than mine, but she had a way of making all their movements graceful. They held her lacquered makeup brushes poised with a delicacy that mesmerized me, then came sweeping down in one fluid movement that left a trail of diamond dust on the sheer, petal-soft skin of her eyelids.

“Night,” she said, showing me the jet black powder. “Now we mix in some starlight,”—she blended a stroke of silver into the velvet that rimmed her amber eyes— “and smoke”—a touch of gray at the corners. Her lips were a wine-colored stain against the porcelain perfection of her face as she smiled at me.

“All done.”

My mother, the enchantress.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback