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6:00 A.M my alarm goes off. It blares and wails next to my peaceful sleep and rips the warm sheets of slumber from around my poor body. I leave the window open when I sleep and regret it every morning, because no matter what the weather in New York is like, brutal cold always slips through the screen and tries to snake in the cracks at my neck where the blanket can’t provide a barricade. I groan and thrust the covers off in one quick motion to cut short my agony –like ripping off a band aid I guess- and I shove my feet into my Victoria Secret slippers. I chatter my way into my kitchen and pour myself a crappy French vanilla latte. I don’t even like the stuff, but I’ve had it for so long I’m afraid to make a change. Sometimes when it’s really cold I put my face over my mug for at least five minutes and let the murky heat crawl up and fan over the tired contours of my face.
Then I get to the real business: makeup. I pull myself into the bathroom and take a look at my grungy face. My eyes are droopy and bleak with the fuzzy film of dreams that still cover them, my skin is pale and blotchy from when I had my cheek smushed into the pillow, my lips are chapped, my breath could bring a full grown man to his knees and my hair…well my hair usually looks impossible to be saved at that time in the morning.
But then I open my Gucci bag, and my real face stares up at me. I grab the foundation first and lather the thick cream across my blotchy skin. I powder away the plastic looking finish; add a bit of bronzer to bring out what should be remnant of my summer tan and swipe a bit of glitter blush over the bones of my cheek. Then my mouth begs to be fixed as well. A gloss goes on first, then a pale liner to smooth the flesh and finally a wine colored lipstick that’s supposed to make my lips look bigger. Now eyes. A neutral swipe over the lid, dark liquid liner on the top, thick black ink thickening my lashes and then a bit of olive green sparkle to match the sweater I plan to wear. I curl my hair and spray the hell out of it. I brush my teeth, swish a bit of mouthwash and finally, I am done.
I get dressed, throw the rest of my latte into a travel mug, grab an energy bar, lock the door behind me and let my Jimmy Choo pumps click all the way down the hall of my apartment.
The subway is usually quiet at that time of the morning, especially for the city. I get on at approximately 7:15 and sit in the same seat I always do, right near the window and right across from the hunky business man who rides regularly except on Wednesdays. He’s good eye candy for the morning, with a strong shaven jaw and big blue eyes with a thick mop of professionally disheveled ink black hair. We never talk, but I daydream sometimes that he asks for my number or compliments my top I wear that particular day.
Once I’m done ogling over him I pull out of my bag the new Allure magazine. The sweet scent of perfume and crisp, shiny papers flood up to me and curl comfortingly over my shoulders like a well-loved blanket. I cross my legs, flip my hair –just incase he’s looking- and start to read. I brush up on my makeup skills, indulge in which colors I should be putting on my lips now that winter is approaching, and memorize what eye shadow is current for the fall until exactly 8:00 where I get off before the hunky businessman, hoping he gets a whiff of my new DNKY perfume as I pass.
My day ensues.
My routine is not usually tampered with or altered in anyway, it is not shortened, lengthened, added to, taken away from, and it is always set in stone and followed to the mark. But a few weeks ago, it wasn’t.
The alarm went off crazily, flashing red light over my face that quickly crumpled in response to the morning. I hit the snooze until it was 6:15 and went along with my practices as usual. My latte might have been a little too strong, an omen perhaps, but I ignored it. I figured I needed the extra caffeine for the stressful day at work that I had coming. So I leaned over it for five minutes, trying to calm the goose bumps that dappled my arms and legs, and sipped a bit in a thoughtful morning daze. Then I finally pulled myself from the kitchen chair and hobbled to the bathroom to put on my face.
I looked in the mirror with the same dejected attitude that I did every day. My skin was gross, my eyes were crusty, my breath was horrible, my hair was disastrous –but I couldn’t let my spirit be dampened! I had my trusty bag of makeup right on the counter! With a sleepy smile of hope my eyes scanned the sparkling counter. No bag.
Still hopeful of my new face soon to come, I bent a little a look around the counter. I threw open the doors of the cupboard and started to get nervous. Already my routine had been meddled with and when I rose back up to the mirror the immediate devastation was clear in my boring, un-beautified eyes. I raced into my room, throwing clothing and bags up from the floor to try and see the carpet –maybe my poor bag was lying down there somewhere, ready to be rescued. I searched like a madwoman for a good ten minutes until I could take no more time to look or be late, and then came to the realization I must have left it on the subway. My makeup, my magazine, my life…lost on a New York subway.
I felt like crying. Especially when I dragged my feet back into the bathroom and saw what I had five minutes to work with. Gross. I tied up my hair in a scraggily pony tail and tried to rub the sleep from my eyes. The final product was no better than when I had woken up. I debated as I started to get dressed if I should show up at work at all that day.
The temptation was quickly squashed. I needed the job and I needed the money, and not showing up was unprofessional. Especially for something so trivial –well it wasn’t trivial to me- as this.
I dressed in my prettiest outfit to maybe try and compensate for the state of my face and hair and chewed on a piece of gum to try and stifle my toxic breath. I left my latte in the mug because I was going to be late if I didn’t, and I sprinted out the door in my highest heels –the only ones that went with the outfit, of course.
I got on the subway just before it took off and collapsed into my regular seat. At least that part of my routine hadn’t been changed, I thought wearily as I turned my head to the window. I dared not even look at my “crush” for fear he would balk at my ugliness. I dared not look at anyone for that matter. I was content to keep my face to the window the entire ride. Maybe once I got to where the shops were I could buy myself a big hat that would shadow my face and hide my frizzy hair for the day. But I didn’t have any money. It was in my bag.
I heaved a long sigh and slumped back against the seat. That’s when I felt someone sit down beside me. Now, I’m not usually very irritable, but I wanted to pop whoever it was right in the face. How dare they invade my seat, my special seat, when there was plenty of room on the subway and when I was having one of the worst mornings of my entire life? I turned my head, about to tell them off, and two crystalline blue eyes shot right into mine. I think I jumped. I might have even gasped. Good lord.
“Didn’t mean to scare you,” he said with an easy laugh that rumbled evenly in his obviously muscled chest. His voice was deep and velvety smooth against my rough, bedraggled appearance.
Our comparison must have been humorous. Here he was looking like he’d just stepped off the set of a movie in his crisp suit and glowing smile, and here I was as if I’d just stepped off the streets, save my clothing. I giggled nervously and smiled, but on the inside I was mentally slamming my face into the window of the bus as hard as I could. Why was fate doing this to me? What had I ever done to deserve that morning? The one day the Greek-god equivalent of a guy in a suit talks to me, is the day where I look like I’d just been hit with a truck.
My smile was probably more of a grimace.
“Can I help you?” I managed out, hoping the gum was sufficient enough to mask my breath.
He was way too close. Any other day I would have enjoyed it, because I would know he wouldn’t have been able to see any flaw –only the sweep of my big lashes and the gloss of my wine colored lips. But that day I knew he could see every little blotch and blemish, the paleness of my mouth and the fairness of my real eyelashes.
“Actually I was thinking maybe I could help you,” he said and gave me a crooked smile that made me melt.
His smell was invitingly masculine and fresh, as if he’d just come from a brisk shower. I shied away from it, knowing I probably smelled like my cheap latte or the dying fruitiness of my gum. Oh how I longed for my perfume and my mascara then, I could have flirted, maybe even gotten his number! But now my chances were shot, no guy would ever want a girl he knew looked like me that morning. Who would ever want to wake up to that?
“Oh?” I asked, mildly surprised. I wasn’t sure if he was flirting or telling the truth.
Then from his side came my beautiful Gucci bag, my baby. I almost screamed. I felt my mouth open, thankful that my gum didn’t fall out, and my eyes widened as they tried to drink in every last drop of the wonderful image. My makeup, my perfume, my money –it was all right there!
“You left it on the seat yesterday so I figured I’d keep it safe,” he said with another dazzling smile.
I wanted to snatch it from him ask him if he could give me five minutes. I could do a quick face job and spray some perfume on and then call him back over so we could talk more. With a soft sigh I realized how unrealistic my fantasy was. My happiness drained out as my smile faltered. I had my makeup back now, but now my one love interest had already seen me without it. I’d ruined his image of me forever. Maybe I’d have to start riding a different subway. Maybe if my luck was good there would be another gorgeous one like him.
I looked up at him with a halfhearted smile then and graciously thanked him.
“I was so sure I’d never see it again,” I laughed, and then noticed he was watching me.
It was a curious, almost observing stare. I felt scrutinized and backed up into the corner just a bit, hunching my shoulders. I wouldn’t have minded if I didn’t feel so naked. I raised my eyes to meet his again and hoped he wasn’t still staring. He was. I bit down on my lip to some how fulfill my need to scream in frustration. He was staring right into me, in those few seconds I felt he knew me like a good book.
Then, finally he broke the insufferable silence.
“Your eyes are a very pretty blue,” he said, polite and gentleman-like, but his smile was definitely one of flirtation.
He said it as though he was noticing for the very first time. I couldn’t believe it, had he really just seen them? I sat close enough for him to have been able to see, and I spent every morning flipping through magazines to consult them on which color eyeliner, eye shadow and liner would bring out my faint blues the best. I wasn’t as mad as I was confused.
He pulled something out of his pocket and then pulled a pen from his chest pocket. He scribbled something down just as the subway screeched to a halt. He placed it in my hand and then stood to go back to his seat.
“This is your stop, isn’t it?”
I looked behind him fleetingly and saw my stop outside the opening doors. I nodded and stood in a hurry, a bit flustered with all that had just happened. I stepped out of my seat.
He winked at me as I exited and a few moments after the doors closed behind me the subway was off again. I opened my hand and tried to make out the messy scrawl that decorated the scrap of paper.
A number. Dear god, it’s his number! His name was gently written on top of the numbers with a little smiley face next to it. I took a few moments to appreciate my luck and savor my victory. Once I was finished I grinned, shoved it in my pocket, and practically skipped my way to work. I didn’t bother to stop and buy a hat.
When I got home that night, I dumped all my makeup into the trash, along with all my French vanilla latte mix.