The moment she wakes up and she puts on her make up, I walk by and catch a little glimpse of her. She has impeccable punctuality and on the days when I miss this auroral routine, I only have my own unreliability to blame. This homeless woman—who at first glance I perceived to be a man due to her body’s sinewy complexion—is always accompanied by a large roller suitcase, the contents of which can only be what is dearest to her. Like a lioness guarding a fresh kill, she stands over the case and holds it close like a girl her teddy.
I see her applying her make up gently on her face, using the glass siding of an office building as her mirror. Like a Broadway starlet adding the finishing touches to her costume a few minutes before curtain, she whispers to her reflection. These murmurous mantras—spoken in a sultry baritone—are peppered with obscenities like: “I kick your ass, mothafucka” and “I told her to kiss my ass”. These are reminders of past victories, motivations to take on her biggest role yet: “Another Day”, starring her as the indomitable woman fighting for respect in a journey of self-discovery and self-worth. The supporting cast is comprised of people who treat her like the refuse they discard on the streets. Those that are too blind to appreciate her fine cosmetological craftsmanship.
Her lipstick—a metallic hue of blue—glistens in the morning light and grants me the ability to clearly read her lips. Nothing but the truth crosses the threshold of her mouth because that’s all that remains when life has despoiled everything else from you. She spits hot fire. She uses her lipstick like a weapon.
By the time I turn around the bend, she is in the final stages of her ritual. She brushes her eyelashes with mascara as she peers closer, within an inch from the glass. Each brushstroke of the thick tar-like substance is carefully applied as if trying to paint the individual petals of a dandelion.
This woman wears her make up not simply to accentuate her beauty, but as war paint to accentuate her fierceness, like a butterfly warding off predators. Her strength and my admiration of it doesn’t come from her lamentable transient condition. It comes from the way that she faces all the things she fears on a daily basis and yet, somehow, is happy just to be there. Just to be.
She keeps face in the face of the unfaceable and doesn’t feel the need to make up for anything that she has done. She wakes up, she makes up. She takes her time and doesn’t feel she has to hurry. She no longer needs us.