Our theme for the month of October is “flash nonfiction.” Writers were asked to submit pieces that were 250 words or less.

Because then I can battle the day.

When the voicemail ends, I finally allow myself to cry. But my break will be over in ten minutes. I blot my pale, drained cheeks, and find my lipstick. Five minutes. Bottom lip, top lip, smack. I paint on my armor and slip its tube back into my bag.

Because it matches my outfit.

When I pick mauve or nude or pink, I make art with the face I wear every day. I fill my lips with color as well as words. 

And sometimes it’s pretty.

Because it is a routine teenage-me wanted but could not have.

Flute-playing bookended my school days, and I didn’t dare stain my mouthpiece pink. Colored lips were reserved for theater, show choir, and any morning without my instrument.

In college, I started applying lipstick before finals. Before interviews. Before another day of class, work, class, work, sleep, repeat. 

Because it makes me more beautiful.

Not that. Sometimes that. More than that. I hope.

Because it helps me recognize myself.

I identify my mugs by a familiar stain around their edges.

Because I’m tired of understanding makeup only by looks and never by effects.

I have to remember that it is a cue for confidence, not confidence itself. 

Because it is consistent when life is not.

I never stopped wearing lipstick, not even when every errand required a mask. I wore Maybelline 656 to my first virtual meeting. I doubt anyone else knew. That wasn’t the point.

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