Written by Anne Marie Ward
After, together, reflecting:
I realized I had never kissed anyone wearing lipstick before, yet. I had worn lipstick and kissed so many times. I would mark dates’ lips, cheekbones, chin clefts, hip bones, and nose tips with the richly colored waxy parenthetical sets of my parted mouth. Lipstick blotted fresh, just before they arrive — post-outfit-change and post-post-legs-exfoliation, a slew of dating rituals preceding my mouth. I’d touch it up just before they had a chance to lean-in, ideally, always wondering —
— had they, though? Kissed a date who wore lipstick before? Maybe they had? Kissed someone wearing lipstick? Most of it would come off beforehand — wiped off with a tissue or napkin. Or smudged around a burrito’s tortilla or on the rim of a Diet Coke. Which surprised me.
They turn to look at me, “you don’t mind that I wore my makeup, right? Or my feminine clothes? I didn’t wanna turn you off.” “Not at all…not at all! Never!” I offer like a gentle hand, and I sincerely mean.
We hunch in front of little mirrors at the dining table. Lipsticks in hand, bullets twirled up, they turn to me and ask if I normally define my —what was it called, again? Pointing to their top lip, they lean in to see their reflection. “Cupid’s bow?” I recall. With a quick twang, the snap of a taut string, a sudden sting, a phrase is recovered from deep memory. It is recovered from the five hundred thousand perfumed pages of beauty mags in mailboxes and supermarkets and waiting rooms, some hidden away in the top bunks of Christian summer camps. “Yes, Cupid’s bow!” they nod, as they paint over their Cupid’s bow with ‘Opinionated’ in a deep purply red. Their top lip now a vibrant curve, like Pinot noir splashing roundly in the bend of a wine glass after a high, fast pour. Then they look over, away from their reflection, decanting again, breathing like red wine in the open air, and see what I do with mine.
I take my thumbnail and run it down my ‘philtrum’; I had forgotten that particular indent’s name until they compliment mine… how they enjoyed my particular version of the mark where the sides of the face merge in utero. Fusion. Completion.
Continuing the art:
Scraping some extra lipstick with my nail, I perfect the schmear, really defining the bow and going over the groove a second time gingerly with my middle finger. I study the shade at the corners of my mouth and check my teeth. A shade called “Tannins” I tell them. “Tannins?” they are puzzled. “Yeah,” I respond, “like those acids in red wines or maybe also acorns or definitely cranberry juice — the ones that make my mouth feel cottony dry and lips a little tingly.” This name made sense for the bright, bright red… Hmm, tannins give wines their body, in young wines that haven’t softened with age, the internet says. I thought I had grabbed ‘Toast’ from the bathroom earlier, which I liked a little better on me. It was a little more orangey and less stark against my skin. Continuing to paint our faces, I recommend tips, and they giggle about the weird sensation of pulling false lashes from one’s eyelid.
Makeup was new-ish, for them. I had a decade-long amateur career in trying to look fuckable, but was trying to learn how to make myself look and feel good for myself. I had mumbled many frustrated ‘fuck’s in my time as eyeliner smeared the wrong way or eyeshadow sprinkled below the eyes. We look at our finished reflections, the shimmery shades on the facets of our cheeks, brow bones, and the bridges of our noses.
Then, they ask:
“so, you want to move to the couch?” Subliminal signals from touches are raising body hair. Coyly, softy, we touch each other’s hands and arms before leaning in for a kiss. Fingers in hair and on the nape of the neck, their rougher cheek against my chin with tender hormonal acne and concealer. We lean back into blue fake velvet cushions, before pulling away and seeing blotted Tannins spread thin all over. In the hour after, I see ‘Opinionated’ in its waxy, shiny glory smeared illegibly over my own face in the bathroom mirror, fading with a makeup wipe before a shared shower. Gone.
It was definitely the first time they had kissed anyone while their lips were painted with the word Opinionated. They felt pretty and happy, and euphoric. Euphoria tinkled like windchimes in nail beds, in the pulse that throbs in the bend of crossed ankle, in a hot face.
All of it:
As sudden and intense as cramp, but a rush of pleasure instead of a stab of pain. I hope I never hurt them. I hope they never hurt me. How can another person make me feel this way? I didn’t know someone could change the coding of my brain — how thoughts form and nerves fire and hormones flow.
“Should I get a condom?”
Slight rustle, crinkle, tear of foil —