duct duct duct
subscribe submissions contributors back issues trumpet fiction contact us legal links
support ducts
art gallery
ducts stage
best of ducts

Mom in the Mirror

By Gail Eisenberg

Profile of Angelina Rafaela

She leans in closer to the mirror, careful not to knock over her perfume bottles, the edge of the dresser digging into and dividing the flesh of each thigh in half. She holds the silver eyelash curler in her right hand, raises it to her left eye and very slowly, very steadily grabs the lashes, squeezes, holds, and releases. She moves on to the right eye and repeats this process. She bats her eyes three times.

Next: Eyeliner. This woman is so adept she doesn't even have to open her mouth while applying. Now lipstick, red lipstick, likely named Red Hot Mama or Hellfire or Devil's Own. She uses the dark eyeliner to outline her lips, dabs twice on the same tissue, discards it, and purses. Her face, this face, slowly comes together.

A beauty mark. Like Marilyn. But hers is handcrafted, carefully cut from black construction paper and glued to her face. Beauty mark as accessory, a literal sex symbol and must-have, as if possessing one is an indicator of attractiveness, an indicator of anything. In pictures, it moves from below her right bottom lip to above her right upper lip. It's as unpredictable as she is.

Tonight she chooses the long strawberry blonde wig and leaves the flowing brunette one to rest on the Styrofoam skull. She eases it onto her head, neatly tucking in her own jet-black-dyed-blonde hair, and using a few strategically placed bobby pins to keep it in place. She teases the hair until it's big and unruly and wild. Like Charo. Cuchi cuchi.

She stands back and stares into the mirror out of vanity. The way she looks, the way she is looked at, is her only source of self-worth.


Tight pants.

High heels.

Hoop earrings.

A snake ring coils up and around her thin pointer finger. A shiny, bronze bracelet clasps the skin of her upper left arm.

She stands back and stares into the mirror with the hope that she might recognize some small part of herself. Daughter. Mother. Wife. Woman. Good daughter. Loving mother. Doting wife. Decent woman. That she might remember a time when she was happy, looked forward to another day, had the confidence to use her middle initial to sign report cards. A time before she surrendered the child at sixteen. Before she shamed her family, her God, herself. Before the medications failed her and the misdiagnoses sent an electric current through her brain. Before the nose job and breast augmentation. Before time aged her. What we do to preserve a body, freeze an egg. What we try to do to preserve a mind.

To say she disintegrated before my eyes would imply that she was once whole, and of that I can't be sure.

Return to Fiction