When it was obvious that he wasn’t coming, Francine put the angel hair and the Texas toast under foil and got moving. This was her day off and she had things to do and she wouldn’t be caught dead not doing them on account of some prick.
She turned on Keeping Up with the Kardashians and stood at the kitchen counter watching while she unpacked her shopping bags from earlier in the day. The girls were all bickering on screen like they always were. Francine loved it. She missed her girls. Becca was off in LA, or near it at least, and Dana was gone. Been gone for a while by then.
She unpacked her groceries and the laundry detergent. Powder, not those pods that teenagers had taken to eating on the YouTube. Remember bath salts, Francine had said to her daughter on the phone after watching the video she’d sent, remember being scared some hitchhiker would eat your face? She couldn’t make this kinda thing up was the funny part. Real life had gotten so strange. Made the Kardashians seem pretty boring in comparison. She sat down at the table with a spoon and a Kmart bag. The kitchen was small enough that from her seat at the table, she could reach the middle shelf of her hutch, where right next to her fancy plates was pretty much her favorite piece of property. And who would believe it was anything other than a tub of Vaseline, encrusted in Swarovski crystals, still in the little silver box placed under her seat all those years ago by Tyra Banks herself.
She handled the tub delicately. It had lost a few crystals over the years. Out of the Kmart bag she pulled out a new Vaseline and broke the seal. Her eyes on the screen, she diligently scooped the new goop into the almost empty tub, as she had every few months for all this time. When she was finished, she wiped the excess off the edges and rubbed it into her dry elbows. On commercial break, she went to her room and came back with her magnification mirror and some cotton balls. With a cotton ball lathered in petroleum jelly, she wiped the make-up off her face. It was clear she wouldn’t need it tonight. She rinsed her face in the kitchen sink and wiped it clean with a paper towel.
She ran the errands she hadn’t finished earlier, when she’d wanted to make it home for dinner—the market, the vet to pick up her big baby Ralph, and the gas station on the corner for a soda and smokes, two bottles of the cheapest red wine. She left the window open for Ralph, his big dumb head half hidden by the big cone around his neck like a satellite dish. He howled and howled.
She had been beautiful, undeniably so, once. There was this in bits, she liked to think, leftover on her face, but it didn’t really matter. It was a small town. People remembered. And even when she had not one drop of make-up on, she still carried herself like someone who knew she looked good when properly made up and that was enough. She had very nice skin. The man scanning her Mountain Dews and Marlboro Lights in the AM/PM noticed this and said so. She smiled. He was new.
No Kenny today? She said this instead of thanking him.
No ma’am. Just Rod. He pointed at his name tag and she nodded. You from around here?
Not quite, it would seem. Rod was staring at her earnestly and the attention annoyed her. Didn’t he know how much better she looked dolled up? Didn’t he have any taste at all? She wondered what Kenny had told her about the women around here. She left without her change, not in the mood for any more men.
There was a voicemail from Becca when she got back home and she dialed her back excitedly. She wanted to tell her, remember when she’d come to visit them and Dana got them tickets to sit in on The Tyra Show? And hadn’t they felt just like celebrities? Not that celebrities were ever in a live audience, but still. Proximity. They’d done just what the woman with the clipboard had told the lot of them in the waiting area. Tyra is going to share her biggest beauty secret. You’re all going home with it as a gift. It’s worth a hundred dollars. When we let you open the box under your chair, we want you to really go ballistic. Be ecstatic and stay that way for at least two minutes, until the lights on the sign turn off. Remember how I’d said this is just like Oprah and you’d said not exactly because Oprah gives her guests cars and we’d gotten Vaseline? How funny that had been? But how Tyra had raved, writhed on the floor in excitement! What a sight! What a commotion! And not a month later, Dana is in rehab. I’d had no idea. Six months later she’s in the ground. This life, baby. This life. Becca didn’t answer, so she left a voicemail. Said she’s sorry she missed her call but she’s been awful busy.
She ran a bath and opened both bottles of wine. She poured herself a glass and then tipped the bottles into the tub. The water turned a faint pink, nothing like the picture in the article she’d read online that told her the wine grape extracts would prevent wrinkles, but she sank into it anyway. She didn’t do it often unless she needed a pick me up. The first time she’d tried this, she hesitated before lowering her lady bits into the alcohol. Should she have researched this more first? It’s all for the cause, she’d told herself. She was going to live forever, it seemed, whether she had a reason to or not. Might as well take care of herself. The smell was pleasant. It made her feel luxurious.
She dried off with a pink towel, imagined her pale skin was drunk and youthful. She walked naked to the kitchen and broke an ice cube out of it’s tray. There were a lot of hogwash articles floating around, she knew. It was a fool’s market out there. But this trick worked. This is straight from the Victoria Secret Angels themselves. Over the kitchen sink, she ran the ice cube over her face and sucked in from the cold. She did this every night and it always stung the same way. She had no reason not to have an absurd nighttime routine. There are worse things you can do to your body. With her pores nice and frozen, she patted her face and slathered on Vaseline, still on the table. She rubbed it until her face had just a dull shine. It would soak in as she slept and trap her beauty, or what was left of it.
She grabbed a piece of Texas toast out of the fridge and ate it in bed, watching the shows she’d left on TiVo during the week. Catching up with old friends, she thought. He’d come over or he wouldn’t, complain about crumbs in her bed. The greasy face print on her pillow.