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.
Courtney Zonnefeld graduated in 2018 with a degree in writing. She currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she works for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, and saving up for more herb plants. You can usually find her wandering a farmer’s market, hunting for vintage books, or browsing the tea selection in coffee shops.