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Stiches for Eyeliner
By Nancy Jasko
When my best friend in childhood, five years older than me, was reaching her prepubescent years and making up her face, she delighted me one day. She propped me on the toilet, told me to close my eyes, and go like “this” (and she demonstrated how I should raise my eyebrows while stretching my face when applying eyeliner.) Now look up at the ceiling, Lois said. I loved the look I saw in the mirror when she was done, my rosy baby cheeks complimented by my made-up eyes, liquid blue outline.
A half decade later when I was starting junior high at age 12 and Lois was busy working, dating, and attending rehearsals for the high school plays, I began hanging out with Lisa. Again. We were friends since we were four, but we no longer played “office” or “school” or rode bicycles that we pretended were horses or cars. Now we had evolved into going to the roller rink to meet new people or watching out for interesting looking boys who drove around the neighborhood on mopeds.
Fashion had changed a bit since that first time I was perched on the bowl being made-up. The sweet blue-lined eyes were being replaced by fierce teenage black. We first applied it right along the inside rim of each eye, on the wet, mucous membrane. This required a new skill when making up our own eyes: holding the lower lid down while running the eyeliner just above the lashes. Back and forth motion helped in applying it liberally, and that was a necessity because it wouldn’t last long there. Then we outlined the upper and lower lids.
Next, we combed on Maybelline’s Great Lash, in its famous hot pink and lime green tube (and still sold in those colors today, some forty or so years later), layer upon layer, nice and thick for long lashes followed by the delicate operation of separating clumps with a safety pin. Finally, we topped it off with brown eye shadow.
I was waiting for Lisa to get ready so we could go out and look for adventure in the neighborhood one day. Lisa was poised in front of the mirror, red stick of eyeliner in her right hand, lower lid pulled down with her left hand. With the back-and-forth sweeping motion, she was busy applying the blackness inside her lid when she heard her mother’s footsteps going back and forth overhead, from the kitchen to the bathroom, and back again. She ran to the corner by the stairs to listen closer. When she turned back around, she held up the red stick in front of me and told me, “This is yours.” She knew a battle was on the horizon and she was getting her strategy lined up.
Her mother yelled downstairs, asking Lisa if she took her eyeliner. Lisa denied it, with sassiness in her voice. She stared at me through the mirror and told me again that it was my eyeliner, in case her mother asked me directly.
That should’ve been a believable story because, well, Lisa liked to borrow a lot of my things. It was convenient for her. At that moment, actually, I could see my favorite peach gauze shirt that I bought with saved lunch money from Stoned Crow boutique, wrinkled, but hanging in her antique oak wardrobe. It had been about a month since I got to wear that shirt. And Lisa also had a running tab with me, scribbled down on a corner of paper, stuffed in my carved wooden box with ivory accents and red cloth liner that Lois had given to me as a sort of right-of-passage into my teens, a place to keep a girl’s secrets.
The truth about the eyeliner, however, was that it was not my eyeliner and Lisa put me in a position to lie. To her mother.
We heard footsteps on the stairs and Lisa scurried to change what she was doing and sat on her bed to dig through her purse. Because the basement stairs led right into Lisa’s bedroom, her mother had to walk past us to get to the small laundry room in the back.
Her mother started yelling from the back room. Lisa always left clothes in the dryer. She never folded anything; she just aggressively ironed her jeans and blouses when she was ready to wear them. Her mother came back around with an armful of clothes and plopped them on her bed, scolding her. Lisa talked back a bit, feeling like she had to defend her actions, and that surely irritated her mom even more. So while her mom was already on a warpath, she somehow turned the conversation back to the eyeliner that she saw Lisa wearing like a masked raccoon as she stood over her.
“You took my eyeliner, didn’t you?” her mother accused with narrowed eyes and disgust in her voice.
Lisa gave a long, drawn out, wide-mouthed “no” with the same attitude one of our age would say “duh”. She followed it with a firm “I did not.”
“Yes, you did!” She grabbed Lisa’s bag with the unpredicted quickness of a long-legged heron in the marsh plucking a passing minnow out of the briny water with its beak. She dumped its contents on her bed alongside the pile of freshly laundered underwear and t-shirts. Lisa pushed past her to reclaim everything, but her mother quickly clawed past the wallet and tampons and grabbed the criminal red stick of eyeliner, the prize elite, the evidence.
Everyone had one of these sticks in these days. I kept one at the bottom of the oversized sack that I slung over my shoulder in 70’s style, my bag with almost anything available upon request as if I were prepared at any moment to make a deal with Monty Hall. So, the eyeliner really could’ve been mine, but her mother shook this particular one in front of Lisa, accusatorily, and blamed her for stealing her eyeliner. Lisa denied it, again and again, and as I was conveniently standing there, Lisa repeated that it was my eyeliner, not her mother’s.
“Nancy, isn’t this your eyeliner?! Tell her! Nan, tell her! It’s yours.”
She put me on the spot in desperation, but I hated lying, so I didn’t. I didn’t jump in to defend her and I certainly wasn’t going to lie to her mother. The truth is that I was frozen, uncomfortably caught in the middle to witness this family argument, but it didn’t really matter because her mother didn’t turn around to involve me; she knew what she believed was the truth.
“You don’t have to lie, Nancy,” her mother assured. “I know it’s not your eyeliner.”
“Yes, it is!” Lisa screamed, willing the universe to make it the truth.
As her mother shook the stick of eyeliner in front of her, Lisa scuffled to grab it. “Give me back Nancy’s eyeliner!” Her mother, however, was so incensed about the in-your-face lying that she started to swing at Lisa. She made contact with Lisa’s bony forearms that were raised to protect her face as she cowered backwards.
Now Lisa may have been thin, but she had muscle. Both of us were lean and shapely enough to flex nice biceps, but mine was all show and hers was true brawn. Every time we had an arm wrestle, she knocked me down pretty quickly. I earned muscle through gymnastic stunts; she earned hers from scrubbing the bathroom floor at the break of dawn on Saturday mornings. True grit. She reached out and grabbed her mom’s wrist just long enough to wrench the eyeliner from her grip.
Lisa moved out of the corner by her night table in this scuffle and in a blink, with the convenience of antique décor within her mom’s reach, the loud clunk of a heavy wooden bowl hitting Lisa’s forehead sounded an instant before Lisa screamed. She rushed past me with blood starting to gush between the fingers of her right hand held over her eyebrow.
I raced up the stairs after her and caught up with her on the street. We walked quickly down the road toward my house. I shot a quick look over my shoulder, fearful that her mother might be following after us, but she wasn’t. She wasn’t even looking out the front storm door.
When we got to my yard, we were somewhat relieved to see a baby blue Ford Pinto in the driveway. That meant that my older sister was home. We told her the story and she assessed the damage, blood now caked in Lisa’s dirty-blonde bangs. We decided the cut wouldn’t heal with a band aid, so we hopped in the car and went to the local emergency room. Lisa ended up getting a few stitches across her brow. All for borrowing her mother’s eyeliner without permission. Wait, it was my eyeliner, right?
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