I am standing in the makeup aisle at the drug store, blinking beneath the bright lights, staring blankly at the choices. I pace, lean down, and squint at the labels. There are too many plastic tubes, too many colors for lips and eyelids and eyelashes. This is a foreign place. I don’t read this language. I don’t know these words. I have been persuaded by some motherly, grandmotherly, societal advice to be here and “look my best”. I am susceptible to these voices—I drift toward them and away from myself.
I pick out a shade of lipstick and lip-gloss. I start shaking and rush to grab a silver tube of mascara before I lose my nerve. I buy all three—hiding my eyes from the cashier—and hurry out of the store and into my car.
At home I place the makeup on the bathroom counter, change my clothes, and go for a run.
My husband touched my bare face every day, little caresses against my cheek, ear, chin, and temple. My body knows his hands: the breadth of each finger pad, the coarse texture of each finger tip, the smooth, fleshy skin of his palm, the weight of his whole hand against my cheek, the pressure each finger exerts on my face, and the thin trail of moisture each finger tip leaves behind on my skin.
A few hours after the EMTs and police left our house, I took a nap. I woke up to the weight of my husband’s hand on my right cheek. I opened my eyes and his disembodied, ghostly hand was there, hovering in front of my right eye. His fingers drew back as if to say, “Sorry I woke you.” I tried to keep his hand there, on the right side of my face. Don’t blink, I told myself. Stay, I told his hand. Don’t leave yet. Come back and rest on my cheek. His hand did not stay.
Before the memorial I make a hundred sane decisions each day—what to eat, what to wear, where to get the programs printed—but every time I enter the bathroom, I see the makeup, three little tubes, and I am filled with anxiety. I am momentarily paralyzed. Should I put the makeup on now? Should I practice putting it on? I don’t. I turn and exit the bathroom.
It’s the day of the memorial service. I feel out of synch with time. Time is moving past me, I’m moving past it. Sometimes this happens. I observe my surroundings and wait for the feeling to pass. The makeup is sitting on the counter. I stand. I dress. I brush my hair. I look in the mirror. Synch. There I am. It’s me. My movements match time again. I place my right hand on my bare right cheek. Time to go.