Life imitates art, so I buy a lot of impressionist prints from the discount bin at Big Lots. I fill the apartment with them. Pastels everywhere, the green-blue dabs that I hope will make the air cool and fragrant, my home a place of peace and the safe kind of beauty. On the walls, the painted white ladies walk the parks and twirl their parasols. You must stay out of the sun! they chant, We all must stay out of the sun!, their voices like bells or wind chimes or some other cute metallic thing. I tell the parasol ladies they are being classist, that some people have to work outside because they have no choice, and did the parasol ladies ever think about that? The parasol ladies say Look in mirror, remember what the doctor said about skin cancer, how you have you have this risk inside you? I scoff at them, and throw shards of glass into their cardboard. How’s this for a mirror, I say. Later I feel guilty and I apologize. The parasol ladies say it’s fine but I sense some distance between us still.
In the dermatologist’s office, there are also women on the walls. The doctors remove the problematic mole and express sympathy about the hideous scar they are leaving. We can fix that too, they say. And the women on the walls are like: I used to look this, but now I look this. The message is you can buy whatever kind of look you want.
Me, I like to look like an impressionist painting. You can get some cheap-ass lipsticks and you can punch each shade against your vanity mirror and turn your reflection into a Lisa Frank kinda cloud. I’m saying you can be all pinks and purples.
I’m saying you can even dye flowers now, even cacti. There are these gasoline rainbow succulents that catch my eye at the Home Depot. They are beautiful and I buy eight of them, hold them against my breast and stagger through the parking lot stroking their spindles with my chin, whispering: all you have to do now is stay alive.
Reem Abu-Baker lives in Tuscaloosa, AL, where she is the fiction editor for Black Warrior Review. Her work is published or forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Meridian, NANO Fiction, and other journals.