Monday, 7 February 2011

Cadmium Wax

It was red that month, her hair, her long straight hair. She was into reds. Red was her hobby and her vice. She expressed the deep cadmium wax from the tube. It glistened against her lips. They stretched tightly against her teeth like a canvas. She had no idea that you could actually relax your lips while applying gloss. There was no need to relax. She preferred harder things like lipstick.

She unzipped the outer pocket of her thick leather case, snapped the gloss, and dropped it in.  She'd retrieve it later for post lunch and pre-meeting grooming and approval. She was not an easy-access pouch herself. She was not a pouter. She only pouted when trying for a pay raise. The falsity of it only subtracted from her salary. Cadmium Cure--too night clubby for a Monday. Wiping it off, she grimaced again for a subtler shade, manipulative mauve.

She stared in the medicine cabinet mirror. Uma Thurman stared back. It was an unwritten sequel to the killing of Bill. She had a secret that his life depended on..."My tip, you live." She was gazing down the barrel of her lipstick at her line manager. It was the only weapon she had. How she looked forward to Tuesdays and Fridays.She blew him a kiss down the boardroom table. It landed in his water glass. He pointed to the flow chart speaking of targets. He was only one tier above her. One political tier. She wiped it away.

He gazed over his bifocals and raised his eyebrows at her proposal. There was no fine print. "In my opinion, it would not be too inter-office of us to share an intimate lunch somewhere other than a restaurant. I'd like to go over some finer points not discussed in the meeting. You are on the sixth floor. I am on the fourth. We could get stuck in the lift. I like the thought of you above me. "

He agreed there. He was above her. He had only ever flashed her with his wedding ring and eight hundred pound diver's watch he had bought in the Maldives on his honeymoon. It said to 800 meters, but he hadn't tested it in deep water. He took it off to shower and he was not about to get it wet snorkeling. His wife packed his lunch or came for lunch sometimes. But logistics aside, Uma soon retracted her statement and her lipstick once she found out he voted Tory. She had never fucked or voted Tory.

He had, however, taken a dip with another party, their Thai maid. After a few laps, he felt the need to rinse her off. He didn't want the entire pool to close on account of not wearing a cap. He carefully removed one of his wife's more expensive pieces of jewelry from her box and took it to the pawn shop. It was always left open in a rush. She left every morning at six and wore studs.

There was a dinner party a few weeks later. Not a business dinner, real friends. She felt like wearing that necklace he had bought her in the Maldives. It wasn't there. She checked the drawers. It didn't go with anything their sixteen year old daughter would wear. It could only be the maid. She was fired on the spot with a quick text message. She didn't text back asking why. The number was strange. It was the wife.

It took a while to find a replacement. In the meantime, they shared the chores like they used to. She took his coat to the cleaners on the way to work and checked the pockets before placing it on the counter. A few coins and a piece of paper. Three thousand two hundred pounds....pearl, diamond, and emerald necklace. She reached for the necklace that wasn't there and dryly cleared her throat. She pinched at her esophagus and swallowed down the zeros. The dry cleaner noticed her pursed contemplation. He knew that look. He had cleaned a lot of pockets.

She quietly spoke through her teeth pointing out the stain on the lapel to the cleaner, "please use a light remover as it's linen." She loved him in that suit. Details she had once ironed lovingly when she used to press his suits herself. She looked on the bright side. He had gone to great lengths to clean the maid from the house. He had even been given a sudden mid-year bonus which he applied to an unexpected cruise. They would both lie in the sun. The small piece of paper was already illegible from the sweat it had absorbed from her palm. She'd keep it to herself and employ tanning oil for the wound. The next maid would definetly be a Helga. She'd take the day off to make sure of it. She rummaged through the wicker bin in the bathroom...several bottles of half-used tanning oil and mosquito repellent all in different languages. She would board the boat with the bottle of Bain De Soliel in the easy access pocket of her carry on and an I'll-let-you-live smile.

The girl on the fourth floor was predictably in Red. She was monochrome with steep moods. It showed up in her grin, her wardrobe, and on her nails. Why buy a black coat when you can wear a red one? A red faced watch. Why waste any time? She was at the finish line before the race had even begun. It was a primary way of being. If it were a word, it would be loud, bold, unafraid, and right now. It was a monochrome world unhindered by courtesy, winding her way up the office stairs in a controlled way, subtlely sarcastic, and petty as pink. She had taken extra care to dress as it was a Tuesday, but the word was he was on a cruise with his wife.

She often complained about her fellow work colleagues over a coffee. A cruise. Her only holiday was going up north to attend to her demented mother. They had held a meeting without her. She was supposed to deliver a proposal, but she was sick that day as her favorite dress was at the cleaner's. How cruelly coincidental. What had she done to be so popular herself? She'd ask the short girl. They needed to go for a drink.

The short girl was a painter. She did nothing but paint and had an interesting harem of colors. She blended her colors well. There was the occasional use of white--her arctic explorer boyfriend. The muddy under painting of her retired chef neighbor, a constant background noise, and a few tertiary colors....more recently, skater boy. He was twelve years younger and had a twelve year old son in the Channel Islands. He had moved to England to be closer to his son.

Tall girl looked at her own palette. There was her ex-husband who was just plain grey. She painted her pictures only in red adding black or white depending on the hue of her day. She was monochrome with steep moods.

People were in high spirits. Someone had won a football game or perhaps it was just a Friday. He had seen the two girls walk into the bar. They had caught the back end of a joke as the birthday boy leaned over to kiss the shorter one on the forehead. She went with it and broke into a wild gypsy tango. They settled down in a dark corner with their orders. The taller one was doing port-de-bras with her pale arms animating her recent dance lesson at Pineapple. The shorter one was the obvious ear. He made his over to compliment them on their recent tango. He had come for a friendly beer and they looked friendly.

The taller one seemed to speak for them both. She had a reporter style way of chatting to members of the opposite sex. Clinical. Did he work at one of the local hospitals? He paused. Such an ignorant choice of opening lines. She looked at her watch as if she were timing their conversation. He had only a few minutes to make an impression. Little did she know, he had already summed her up.

He hadn't walked into his local for a speed-dating discourse. He hadn't arrived to explain the intricacies of how to diagnose cancer of the spleen or how to share the results with the parents of the six year old girl. Yes. He had found the cyst--a very white section on the x-ray that morning. He had bought some time and told them it was still in the lab. He had bought a drink and sighed his way through several pints that afternoon.

He dodged her blunt questions. So you work in the area? Yes. Where exactly? One of the hospitals? She obviously never took off her office clothes even when wearing pyjamas. What a prober. Suction please. She had a sharp pen and a desperate notepad.  He had a sharper yet scalpel, but he didn't operate unnecessarily on people with colds.

By this time, she was usually inserting something about her job. It was a position, not a job. She corrected herself. She was an approved paper pushing tree waster in the name of the council. She had typed half a forest down. His secrecy had left no invitation for her own professional seduction. The conversation did not peak, in fact, it never left base camp. He moved back to his table and the girls went on to discuss how the bartender reminded them of Mr. Bean.

Girl one- Girl two

G1: Did you fancy him?
G2: Who?
G1: The guy who came to chat with us.
G2: He was nice enough. It was a....
G1: I bet he was a doctor. That's why he wouldn't say anything.
G2: I bet he was just in there having a think....with a drink.

G1: Don't you ever have an angle?
G2: Yes. I wanted a beer and a friendly chat.

Girl one's chin jutted out as she grinned at the idea of a friendly chat. How sweet. How fucking pleasant. She grinned at everyone as if she were surrounded by fools or clowns. Girl two was quietly disgusted at Girl One's uncamouflaged gold digging ways. She really did believe in friendly chats. She chatted with people at bus stops, on park benches, in post office queues, and sometimes, even in pubs. 

1 comment:

DOGBOY said...

what a journey, so many stories, so many lives...what does it mean?? I ask, THEY asked.