She paused mid-stroke, the slim pen hovering over her right eye, as she lifted a questioning glance at the rearview mirror.
He cut his eyes hastily away, “Nuttin,” the cabbie mumbled.
Slowly, his eyes crept back to the rearview mirror to fixate upon his passenger.
Her hand had resumed its deft movement across, leaving a smooth unbroken inky black line in its work. An expert flick of her wrist, and the line was flourished with a perfectly winged tip. A fatter pen this time, with bristles at the tip. It looked like a tiny toilet brush to him. Her mouth parted in concentration, the lady brought the brush close to her right eye and made a few indiscernible quiver with her hand. Suddenly, her lashes looked fuller and darker. His own mouth went slightly agape in astonishment- how on earth did she do that?
Her made up eyes abruptly flew up to the mirror again, catching his gaze. Her glance was no longer politely questioning, and flashed with irritation.
“Is something wrong?”
He flushed with embarrassment and fixed his eyes resolutely on the road again. “No, Ma’am”
“Well then, if you don’t mind, please speed up a little. I’m late for my meeting.”
“Omigosh this is like, THE BEST lippie ever. I like, got it as a birthday present from Danny once? And I-”
“What? Hang on, I need to tell you how amazing this lipstick is. I mean, it doesn’t even fade after I ate like, McDonald’s and stuff. I mean, can you believe that? Most lipsticks can’t even last through-”
“No seriously, lemme finish. Most lipsticks can’t even last through a freakin’ Starbu-”
“What?,” the slightly plump and not-as-slightly chatty schoolgirl asked in an aggravated tone, as her friend, a taller gangly girl, interrupted her for the third time.
“That man there is creeping me out.”
Sheila craned her neck down the aisle in the cosmetic section of the drug store where she was browsing around with Megan- a routine that both girls religiously upheld on their way home from school everyday. She caught sight of a slouch-figured man who had turned away a moment too late to hide the fact that he had been avidly listening in to their conversation.
“I saw him at the aspirin section when we first came in,” Megan whispered, “but he started moving towards us when we were checking out blushers, and became like, a total pervo-lurk after that. He followed us from like, aisle to aisle, Sheils. Do you think he’s, I dunno, trying to ask one of us out or something?”
Sheila casted a disbelieving look at her friend, “Are you insane, Megs? Look at him. He’s old enough to be our Dad. He’s probably just another pedo-perv. I’m going to set him straight. HEY YOU!” she shouted across the aisle.
The man started, and turned towards her.
Sheila, who was never one to mince words, continued, “Are you like, thinking of perving on us or something? Because seriously dude, my dad is a cop and he will have your ass.”
A familiar crimson worked its way to the man’s face again, as he lowered his head in mortification, painfully conscious of the suspicious glances from the other patrons in the store who had overheard the schoolgirl’s belligerent words.
“Didn’t mean no disrespect, Miss,” he muttered before making a beeline for the exit.
Sheila stared scornfully at his retreating back, “What a nutcase,” she told Megan, before resuming her tribute to the lipstick.
“May….I help you, sir?”
The salesgirl at the makeup counter asked with more than just a touch of skepticism in her voice. For one, this man was alone with no wife or girlfriend in tow. And second, his shabby clothes and the tattered hat that he was twisting in his hands did not inspire the salesgirl to hope that he would be a prospective customer.
The man shifted his weight from one foot to another, “Yeah, um…well, uh-”
The girl gave an inward sigh. It had been a long and busy day at the departmental store. Her feet hurt from her new flats and she had been unlucky enough to have been stuck with a group of bratty teenage girls who came for the free makeovers that the store was offering as a promotion, and left without buying anything. And now it seemed like she would be ending her day with another non-sale nuisance too. “I need a bitchin’ drink,” she thought aggrievedly.
“We are closing in half an hour, Sir. Is there anything I can do for you?” she cut his stuttering short with a tinge of impatience.
The man hesitated, and pulled out a crumpled magazine cutout from his pocket. He laid it flat on the counter between them and told her in a low voice, “Yeah, I saw this in the magazine and I want…I want to redeem that.”
The girl glanced at the cutout. It was a coupon that offered a free step-by-step makeup tutorial that comes with purchase of their basic make-up kit. She frowned, and looked up at the decidedly un-metrosexual man in front of her. “Sir, this make-up tutorial is a practical session, and we would need to apply it on-”
“Yes I know,” he rushed to cut in, “I would like to know how to- I just would like to learn.”
“Sir, I’m not sure you understand….we would have to do this on your face.”
The man set his jaw resolutely, while his face turned an interesting shade of maroon. He gave an almost imperceptible nod, and mumbled, “I understand.”
The salesgirl stared at him for a moment. Just when she thought she had been in this gig long enough to have met every possible sort of whack customer, life went all out to color her surprised. “I guess drag queens all gotta start somewhere” she mused silently.
Out loud, she said, “Well, if you say so sir. Could you please come around and sit in front of the mirror then?
He stayed silent through the entire demonstration. She would have thought he was just mentally unhinged, if not for the fact he actually scribbled notes in a looseleaf notebook as she explained to him the function of loose powder, and how eyelash curler was seriously underrated, and that one should always, always dab with a stingy hand.
As removal was not included in the package, the man went home with smokily accentuated eyes, rouged cheeks and softly glossed lips. Passer-bys slowed down and stared, and he suffered through wolf whistles and taunting insults as he made his way back to his cab from the mall.
“Mommy, why does that man look like a girl?”
“Don’t look, sweetie.”
The man dropped his keys on the mantlepiece as he entered. Clutching the bag of newly acquired cosmetics in one hand, he took out the looseleaf notebook from his coat before slinging it over the newel post.
“In my room!”
He jogged up the stairs and went into the bedroom.
A girl was seated in front of a vanity mirror. She caught his gaze in the mirror and beamed at him, “Hi Daddy.”
His throat caught. “Hi Princess, you look beautiful.”
She grinned impishly, “Beautiful enough to be voted Prom Queen?”
Her feet were encased in diamante studded shoes that shimmered with every move she made. Her hair hung loose and cascaded in curls down to her waist. Her dress, a floaty periwinkle blue that fit her to perfection, had a princess neckline and split-sleeves.
The sleeves were specially tailored to end an inch above her elbows, where the skin of both her arms puckered like a closed rosebud, from the amputation done after the accident she had when she was 5. She had lost her arms as well as her mother in that one nightmarish event.
Her father folded her into his arms and pressed a kiss on her forehead, “Beautiful to be voted Queen of anything. Your mother would have said the same.”
She sighed wistfully as she leaned against him, “I know this sounds stupid, Dad, but somehow, I wish I could find a way to do my makeup though. I mean, it doesn’t bother me on regular days, but I guess I wanna look a little special on Prom night.”
She felt the edge of his mouth lifting into a slow smile and asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Well sweetie, I have a surprise for you……”
Happy, happy Fathers’ Day to all the fathers out there. This one is especially dedicated to my own superhero dad, who always make me feel like I have been blessed inordinately more than the rest.