October 20, 2008
By Cariza Labayog, Ewa Beach, HI

It is the hottest and longest day in July. I am in a high-walled soundproof room with huge sophisticated windows that sparkle different colors on the tall ceiling. I sit in front of an old brown vanity dresser in the farthest corner of the room. It could possibly fit even fifty more people, but everyone would probably bump or crash into each other and they’d never get anything done. The room is stuffed up with all different smelling perfumes the mothers overdose their kids. It starts to burn my nose. I doubt even the massive crowd outside could smell a girl standing up on stage. The crowd outside is even drowned out by all the kicking, screaming and crying that I start to think there’s more of us in here than there are out there.

My auntie starts to spray me and tells me I’m starting to smell like sweat. I tell her it’s because I am sweating. She rolls here eyes and tells me it’s because I’m crying. I begin to protest, but she puts the spray down and hugs me tightly. I hide my face in her warm soaked cotton shirt and I suddenly realize, “Oh my gosh, I am crying.” I pull away from her and look up at her sharp midnight eyes. She wears an encouraging smile that kills me to think if I don’t win this, she’ll die. This is my fifth or fourth contest she’s entered me in in and I’ve never won any of them with first place. I know she wants me to, I can tell by the way she puts make up on me. She has artistic eyes that are careful and slow but calm when she’s painting me. She murmurs too. I hear her tell herself, “Not too much, you don’t want to scare the judges and not too little, you don’t want to look plain.” I think she ends up putting just a little less because I still end up looking plain. I do understand I’m not as pretty as the other girls though. They have new dresses that emit light at every movement and they have styled hair; it looks like you’d get lost in all those swirls, loops and long wavy ribbons. But my auntie comforts me, she tells me it doesn’t matter whether or not a peachy red shade of lipstick is the only make up tool we have for my lips, cheeks, and eyelids. We’ll manage to put the “W” in “OW”.

Number Eleven came in from the stage with a huge smile on her face. Her pretty long hair swayed smoothly in the air. She wore grass skirts with coconuts as the only thing covering her top and beautiful shells that coveted her head like a crown. She’s already won even before they declare her as the winner.

My auntie looks at me; I can see she’s as intimated as I am by Number Eleven, but she quickly hides it and grabs my face. She looks at me and tells me I will win as long as I do everything as we practiced. She kisses my forehead, holds my hand and walks me to the entrance stage because I would be next. The music stops and a second later I hear a quiet knock. I look up at my auntie who’s quick before my eyes. She opens the door and number twelve creeps in with her black shining dress. She eyes me up and down and I smile, but she looks away. “I hope you don’t win,” I instantly think.

The moment I enter through I feel the surge of butterflies fluttering inside me furiously. I was wrong, there are a lot more people out here than there are in that room and they could smell fear. They all looked at me, criticizing the way I looked; ragged shirt, torn slipper and hair that looked like Big Foot slept in it. I walked straight to the microphone and open my mouth, but nothing comes out. It’s like a nightmare where you try to scream but there’s no sound an you can’t open your mouth. Only this isn’t a dream and I can never wake up. I being to tremble and shake. My hear wants to jump out and the skin on my face is starting to feel hot, and it’s no because of the weather. I’d rather be somewhere else.

Suddenly, someone from the crowd yells, “Do something” and I instantly loose my breath. Streams of tears flow down my face and I turn towards the dressing room. I hear the crowd start to whisper then suddenly grow louder behind me. I knock as loud as I could until I see my aunties face. She smiles at me and the first thing I want to do is to hug her but I feel so ashamed and humiliated that I just run past her and into the corner. I know the rest of the girls are staring at me, in shock and in relief, possibly thanking God they now have one out of twelve chances of winning instead of thirteen. But I don’t care; I never wanted to be entered in contests anyway.

I sat in the little corner for a few more minutes until they called out every contestant to line out in front of the crowd. My auntie persuaded me to at least come out and I did. The girl who danced hula won first place, Number Eleven of course. I won in seventh place, which doesn’t even count as winning and number twelve was eight place. In the end, somehow I still felt proud of myself and I don’t know why. I made my auntie vow to never enter me in another beauty pageant or any other contests that required being in tight dresses, I wouldn’t ever enter again even if I was paid a billion dollars.

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