Billie bought her first tube of eye cream at twenty-two. Too young? Well, maybe. But when your botoxed, microdermabraded, laser-resurfaced mother slips you that slow scrutinizing look of hers, lets it slide down the length of her poreless nose, tries to squint but can’t and finally says, Ooh honey you might wanna start using a good eye cream—how do you stop the subsequent spiral?
If you’re Billie, you don’t. You ride that spiral right down into the dark, baby girl. You research ingredients and procedures into the night, fingertips pressed to marred face, cellphone screen aglow. That’s what Billie’s done, year after year.
She listens to every magazine writer. Every blogger. Every high school classmate turned mom turned entrepreneur selling miracle cures on Facebook for whatever ails, as long as what ails is your face. Miracles in cream or serum form, miracle of a miniature medieval torture device—tiny roller of needles to aerate the skin. But don't worry about that last one, ladies. You’ll barely feel it!
Billie listens as they all raise voices and palms skyward in unison to proclaim the good news: Girl, there is work to be done! But I've got what you need—the cream the serum the lotion the scrub the mask even the wheel of needles, praise be! All you have to do is scrape away the broken surface then slather on the good stuff.
Slather. That nauseating verb, worming its way into Billie’s life, crawling up under her skin, burrowing, finding a home there. Constant reminder, constant whisper.
Slather. Like what you do to a turkey—melted butter dripping greasy yellow off the basting brush—before easing it in the oven.
Yes, Billie, just like that.
Make yourself a feast, girl.
To slather is to eradicate the cracks—the smiles the grimaces the worried furrowed brows, even the laughter that throws your head back and unhinges your jaw and splits your once-smooth skin.
Face like a cracked ancient painting? Oh have we got the elixir for you, Billie. This little jar will rewind ten years! Freeze time! Stop the world spinning through space!
Fabric of your life bunched and wrinkled? Try this potent miracle-worker! Plump and smooth from the inside out, like filling a flat tire.
Hell, while you’re at it, why not throw it back and try heavy starch? Sometimes the old fashioned remedies work best. Go ahead, iron out those stubborn wrinkles. Steam them, press them smooth. Flat flat flat. Burn away the past, let the old you slough away, peel it back slow and sticky, unmask what’s underneath, lay bare what’s red and weeping, loose this stunning new face on the world.
Now, Billie, isn’t that better?
Isn’t that so pretty?
Annie Frazier is a NC transplant living in FL who's just earned her MFA in Fiction from Spalding University. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in The North Carolina Literary Review, apt magazine and Crack the Spine. Annie also has fiction forthcoming from Still: The Journal. Find her book reviews at Paste Magazine and NCLR Online and follow her on Twitter @anniefrazzr.