Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Made up

My commute has become routine. I have commuting friends with whom I regularly sit on the ferry, the snack bar attendant knows I take my coffee black, and I've learned where the dead zones are along the route if I happen to be on my cell phone.

Today's commute was typical. I got my coffee, found my friend, and set out to get some work done after we exchanged pleasantries. But as I pulled out a notebook, legal pad and fountain pen, I noticed a young woman sitting across the isle from me, going through what I imagined is her typical commute. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and looked not much different than I do when I go out to run errands on the weekend. She sat sipping soda through a straw, a common practice on the ferry to avoid motion sickness.

As I turned to my notebook she produced a cosmetic bag from her backpack and proceeded to engage in a multi-step process of applying makeup. Liquid foundation was heavily applied to conceal a few blemishes, followed by a lighter tone of concealer for the area under the eyes and around the nose. Next came a fine powder and a dash of shaded color on the cheeks and eyelids.

I was enraptured by this ritual despite being deep in thought over the outline I was working on. Every few minutes I glanced her direction to check on her progress. After the powder out came the eyebrow pencil that was used to accentuate and better define her already nicely shaped eyebrows. A twist-up eyeliner followed to trace the the lower lid of what looked like hazel green eyes. I watched her, in glances, carefully follow the contour of her eye with one hand while holding a mirror with the other, all the while employing precision that rivaled that of a nuclear engineer.

After a few dabs from a sponge and another brushing of powder came the lipstick, a shade of summer peach that inspired thoughts of English gardens or Spanish courtyards. The lips were lined with yet another pencil to establish a boundary for the color, and with a quick blot, she (and I) realized that we had arrived to our destination.

I've always found the morning and the rituals which we subscribe to be very interesting. It's a gray area of a time between who we were in our dreams, who we are when we wake up and who we become as we prepare for our day. At some point the true self emerges...the question is when? At what point are we just made up?

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