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Make-Up

by Anne Baker
2002

1

"Sir,…Sir?"

The stewardess tried to wake the sleeping passenger.

"Uh, what….?"

"Excuse me Sir, but you seem to have a nosebleed, here’s a tissue. The washroom is free – you’ll want to freshen up." she suggested referring to the stain on his shirt collar.

"Thank you." answered James Conway as he reached for his travel kit. The tissue quickly turned scarlet as it absorbed the blood.

"You’ll want to try and hurry as I think the Captain will be beginning his descent soon." the stewardess said apologetically.

Jamie reached the small toilet and closed the door. Turning to the mirror he saw the stain on his collar.

"Shit!" he exclaimed and reached for a fresh tissue.

The non-stop flight from Tokyo to New York was not the first he had taken but the dry cabin air had proved more bothersome this time out. His nostrils had dried and the unconscious scratching he had done throughout the flight had weakened a blood vessel.

A few minutes was all it took to stop the nose bleed and clean his shirt collar.

James looked at his watch – 7:45PM. "Great," he muttered to himself. "Thirty minutes of sleep in the last 36 hours."

The last day in Japan had been spent sightseeing outside of Tokyo at the Edo Village. The previous night had been the farewell banquet where an important quantity of Suntory whiskey had been drunk – mostly by James.

James looked at himself again in the mirror. The lack of sleep showed in his eyes. The warning had not yet been given that the plane had begun its descent so he took a few more moments to freshen up by brushing his teeth and having a quick shave.

 

2

"Hey, my man!" yelled Steve as James walked into the apartment they shared. "Sayonara!"

"That means ‘goodbye’ idiot," said James as he dropped his suitcase in the hallway. "Good to see you too, man," he said to his long time best friend.

James walked over to his favorite chair and flopped down in it, "Man, am I burnt out."

"Got just the thing for that," said Steve as he reached forward to pick something off of the coffee table. "Rolled it special for your return."

"No way, man," said James as he saw the large joint that Steve had prepared. "I still have a serious buzz going from the last couple of day’s drinking."

"AW MAN! I rolled it specially and I’ve been looking at it for the last hour. Look at it – it’s a masterpiece! I’m lighting it," he said excitedly.

"Hi Jamie!" said Maggie as she came out of the washroom.

"Oh geesh!" said James when he saw her.

Maggie, Steve’s on again and (mostly) off again girlfriend, walked into the living room straight towards Steve. "Can I have some of that?"

Steve inhaled deeply and passed the joint to James who half-heartedly took it. Maybe it was the sight of Maggie but now he too inhaled deeply.

"Wait your turn," says Steve as he started blowing small smoke rings. "That’s Jamie’s welcome home spliff."

Maggie crossed her arms in a huff and sat down on Steve’s lap.

Maggie eyed the joint as James took another deep toke.

The ex-dancer, painter, make-up artist, stripper and heroin addict was not Jamie’s favorite person.

 

3

"NO WAY!"

"Aw come Jamie, just for a couple of days before she finds her own place," said Steve holding back a yawn.

"That’s what you said the last time and she was here a month. And, when you left," said James turning to Maggie, "You stole our CD player and $400.00!"

"But Jamie, I said I was sorry. I’ll never do that again. I.."

"You’re right, you’ll never do that again cause your not staying!" shouted James as he got up. "Now, I’m crashing and I don’t want her here when I wake up," he said to Steve.

He grabbed his suitcase and walked unsteadily towards his room.

 

4

Steve was snoring on the sofa as Maggie got up, grabbed her purse and went to the kitchen. She opened the utensil drawer, took out a spoon and then headed for the bathroom.

A few minutes later, Maggie exited the bathroom and walked towards Jamie’s room.

Jamie lay passed out, sprawled upon his bed obviously a victim of the excessive partying, jet lag and general lack of sleep.

She looked at him dreamily and said, "I hate you."

She stood in the doorway for a good 5 minutes before saying out loud "My, you’re pretty."

She then went back to the bathroom - the lure of the last bit of dope too strong to resist.

 

5

"I’ve got some coffee on!" yelled Steve from the kitchen.

James opened his eyes and looked at the alarm clock. Quarter past noon.

At least he’d had a chance to sleep well.

Remembering the previous evening, he called out, "Is she gone? And you’d better say yes!"

"She was gone when I woke up," answered Steve. "Don’t worry man, I’m finished with the cunt."

James rubbed his aching eyes and swung his legs out. He reached down and picked up what appeared to be a small dremel tool. What quickly caught his eye however was his wallet on the floor. He picked it up and opened it.

Empty. Even the Yen were gone.

"FUCK!" he shouted.

"What’s the matter man?" said Steve as he approached James' room.

"The bitch did it again. She’s ripped me off for at least $250.00!!"

Steve walked in the room.

"WHOOH DUDE!!!" said Steve, a big grin growing on his face. "She did more than rip you off!"

"What the fuck are you talking about asshole?"

"Look at yourself in the mirror dude, or, should I say dudette?"

James turned his head to see himself in his dresser mirror.

He was sporting full make-up - eye shadow, eye liner and lipstick. "Very funny. Ha, ha, ha."

Steve let out a wolf whistle. "Man, she’s talented. You look like a real chick all made up like that – a good looking one a that!"

"Up yours asshole," muttered James as he stared at himself.

"Come here and give Stevie a kiss."

James pushed his way past Steve and headed for the bathroom to clean up asking, "Was this your idea?"

Steve couldn’t help but start laughing. "No way man, I passed out on the sofa about an hour after you crashed. She must have done that before she split."

"Shut up! Stop laughing and check around for what else the bitch might have stolen." said James as he entered the bathroom.

 

6

"THIS SHIT IS NOT COMING OFF!!"

"And what shit may that be?" asked Steve, satisfied that nothing else was missing from the apartment.

"GET OVER HERE NOW!"


"Ok, Ok, calm down Jamie. I’m coming." Steve got to the bathroom to find James furiously rubbing a soapy face cloth all over his face.

"THIS SHIT IS NOT COMING OFF!! THIS IS NOT A FUCKING JOKE ANYMORE!!" Panic clearly echoed in his voice. "THIS IS YOUR FAULT, FUCKHEAD!! YOU AND THAT FUCKED-UP SKAG OF YOURS!!" yelled James as he realized that no amount of rubbing would remove the eye and lip make-up.

"Now you hold on Jamie, I had nothing to do with this," protested Steve.

James spun around and punched Steve squarely in the face. "DO SOMETHING!!" he screamed.

 

7

"Ok, I’ve just talked to Ken’s girlfriend Geena. She works in a beauty parlor and she says that if it’s what she thinks it is, that shit’s like a tattoo. She’s coming over right away to check it out," reported Steve.

"This STINKS!" yelled Jamie.

"Hey man, I’m doing what I can here," said Steve as he sat down across from Jamie at the kitchen table.

"She must have used that dremel thing I found in my room," said James shaking his head. "Oh man, I am SO screwed. I’ve got to give a report tomorrow - I can’t go to work looking like this. Oh man……."

"You might as well call the cops," said Steve dejectedly.

"Fuckin’ right I’m calling the cops!" shouted James.

Steve watched his best friend get up and walk towards the phone. "Holy shit…." he said out loud to no one in particular.

Half an hour had gone by before Geena arrived.

"Sorry to tell you this Jamie, but this is permanent make-up. It’s like a tattoo," explained Geena. "The inks are pierced into the skin. Really nice job though," she added as she examined the shading and the blending of the colors.

"I don’t care if it’s a nice job, this isn’t funny," said Jamie as he started to grasp the seriousness of his predicament.

"Jamie," said Geena gently taking his trembling hand, "This isn’t funny at all. Normally, the women who get this done get it done because they know it’s permanent. They don’t want to take it off. Whoever did this to you is deranged. It’s going to take plastic surgery to get this off."

"We’d better take you down to the hospital," said Steve. "Oh man, I’m really sorry," he said fighting back tears.

Geena added, "Jamie, I’m not trying to make fun of you but you’d better shave before we take you down there. You’ll look less conspicuous without facial hair."

Jamie couldn’t take it anymore and broke down in tears. Steve and Geena looked at each other and then at Jamie. At that point Steve realized the true extent of what had happened to his friend and took Jamie in his arms. "It’s going to be OK buddy…."

 

8

"Ahh,.. Mr. Conway, I can only confirm what the young lady has already said," said the doctor in the ER. "This is quite serious. You’ll have to see a dermatologist and a plastic surgeon as plastic surgery is your only alternative. The only thing that I can tell you is that based on what I can tell, the pigments seem to have gone quite deep, as if the person who did this to you went very slowly."

Jamie took a deep breath. "So, where do I go to see the dermatologist and plastic surgeon? Can this be cleared up today?"

The doctor held back a chuckle. "Oh, I’m afraid that this wont be cleared up today. Even if a doctor was able to see you as an emergency..."

"But this IS an emergency!" yelled Jamie unable to hold back his frustration any longer.

"Yes, I realize that, but what I’m trying to say," continued the doctor, "is that your skin tissue has undergone a form of trauma due to the tattoo. Any attempt to remove this right away would result in serious complications – infection, serious scarring.."

"How long?" asked Jamie resignedly.

"You’ll have to consult a specialist. I wont venture a guess for fear of making things worse - I know this must be terrible for you. All I can do is fill this referral for the appropriate specialists and fill out this form that you can give to the police for your assault complaint."

 

9

"Miss,….I’m so sorry,… er,.. the doctor will see you now."

"It’s OK…."

The consultation went as Jamie expected.

"Pigments are deep,…major scarring is possible….. should refer you to another specialist."

It had taken a week to get this appointment.

A week of staying at home.

A week of being on sick leave.

A week of not looking in the mirror.

A week of yelling at Steve.

 

10

"You’ve got to go out sometime," said Geena.

Since the day Jamie's nightmare had begun, Geena had become a good friend. She even came over daily to give Jamie facials to help his skin strengthen.

Steve was not allowed to watch.

"I’m not going out more than I have to. People are going to laugh." Jamie said dejectedly.

"It’s doing you no good being cooped up in here. Granted, and I know you don’t like me saying this," said Geena, "but you look like a girl - a pretty girl. When you stop and think about it, what's really wrong with that? What are people going to laugh at?"

 

11

"You’re right!" said Jamie as he walked down the street with Geena. "No one’s even noticing anything!" Geena had helped him with his hair and suggested what to wear. He was very passable as a woman.

"I told you." answered Geena. "So, you look like a girl. It’s not as if you look like the monster from ‘Alien’. People only see what they expect to see. Just dress unisex and there won't be a problem."

"This is so bizarre," said Jamie as he shook his head. "It’s like seeing life in a whole other way. Like that guy at the restaurant holding the door open. And the waiter, I’ve never had service like that before."

"Any news from the cops?" asked Geena.

"I called them this morning but they haven’t found the bitch yet. The worst thing is, even if they find her, a lot of good it does me."

"What do you mean?" asked Geena as she casually slipped her purse strap over Jamie's shoulder.

"Even if they find her and we go to trial, she’s a junkie and she’s broke. She’s likely going to plead insanity and do six months in a hospital somewhere. Meanwhile, I won't get a penny and I’ll have to fill out a whole bunch of forms to get victim’s compensation."

"Sounds like you’re screwed," said Geena. "I'm tired of walking, I’m grabbing this cab."

"TAXI!" she yelled. A car came careening over two lanes and stopped in front of them. A door opened and Geena and Jamie got in.

"Where you ladies want to go?"


12

"So what you’re telling me is that those are my options."

"I’m afraid so Jamie. I think the Company is being very fair here, seeing that your ah…,"

"Injuries?" suggested Jamie.

"Good, injuries,…I like that." Greg Carlson, Jamie’s direct supervisor, always seemed to depend on Jamie to have the right word at the right time.

"Christ, it’s hard looking at you like that," Greg rubbed his hand in front of his face almost hiding his shame in the role he had to play in Jamie’s drama. Jamie was dressed in an androgynous fashion and his longish hair was set in a feminine style.

"It’s OK. I’m almost getting used to the way people react." Jamie said with a shrug.

"Right." Greg pulled himself together. "So, as I was saying, since the Company bears no responsibility for your injuries, I think it’s being very fair. I mean, if you take the option of accepting a position outside your competence, you’ll have to accept the pay cut in order to follow union standard and that wont make you happy."

"However," he continued, "Being on a retainer equal to your salary for an equal number of years you’ve been with the firm, in this case 5, is a good deal. Plus you can claim expenses on your taxes."

"But you're guaranteeing that I can come back if …."

"Absolutely. If you can regain your appearance to a sufficient degree that it doesn’t interfere with customer relations, I’ll be the first one to welcome you back."

Jamie added, "And I’m sure that the Company’s lawyers have looked this over and have assured you it’s bullet proof."

Greg nodded.

The waiter came by their table, "Here is your coffee Sir," He turned to Jamie and asked "Do I refill your cup as well, Madam?"

 

13

"Geena, what would you say if I told you, just out of curiosity of course, that I’d like to try on a dress." Jamie asked as the two of them walked in the park.

"I wouldn’t be surprised in the least." answered Geena. "As a matter of fact, I've been expecting this."

"I spent quite a while looking at myself in the mirror last night," Jamie said looking as a bird flew out suddenly from a bush.

"I called last night but Steve said you had been cooped up in your room all day and he didn’t want to pass you the call." Geena said as she took Jamie by the hand.

"When that doctor yesterday morning told me what lay ahead for me, I thought I was going to die."

The dermatologist had been quite blunt.

"I don’t know what to tell you," he started. "If we remove the tattoos, there will be significant scarring first of all. The lips will become very, very thin."

"Secondly," he continued, "And this is what concerns me the most, are the eyelids. The pigment went in very deep. Even if we managed to get a halfway decent result with laser surgery, I’m afraid that the loss of tissue will be such that your eyelids may not be thick enough to serve their natural purpose. If that is the case, that even virtually rules out laser surgery for the possible damage it could cause to your corneas."

Jamie, expecting bad news, responded with "So I’ll look like a burn victim - is that what you're saying?"

"Obviously, in your case my unfortunate young man, your scarring will be limited to areas that basically identify the nature of tattoos you had removed."

"So, I’ll look like someone who obviously had permanent make-up and then had it removed. There wont be any hiding it - making it look like it was something else?"

"No. Unless we were to introduce scar tissue for esthetic reasons to give the impression of scalding or something else but that would be madness," said the doctor gesturing with his hands.

"So, what do I do?"

"That is not such any easy question. You know, in a way you’re very lucky," said the dermatologist taking another close look at Jamie’s eyelids, "You say this was done to you maliciously, but a beautiful job it is. What I don’t quite understand is that someone so obviously talented applied too much pigment. Unless they worked in slow motion."

"The person that did this to me is a junkie. I wouldn’t be surprised that she was high at the time."

"That might explain it. And you didn’t feel anything? Is that also what you're telling me?" asked the doctor running a finger tip on Jamie’s now closed eyelid.

"I was passed out from jet lag and partying myself. I probably would have missed a freight train rolling by my head," replied Jamie in a exasperated voice.

"Speaking of head," said the doctor, "I’m afraid that I’ll have to refer you to a therapist to help you make whatever decision you’ll have to make. It’s one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t decisions my young friend."

 

14

"Look at me." Jamie told Geena as he saw himself in the mirror. "This is what’s really getting to me. Like I’m not trying to be narcissistic or anything, but I don’t look half bad don't I?"

Jamie stared at himself in the mirror. He hadn’t put on a dress but was wearing a stuffed bra under his denim shirt. Geena had induced curls into his longish hair and the result was very natural – for a young lady.

"Jamie, I told you from the start, this is my line of work. The bitch did a super job. Great coloring on your eyelids – complex even."

Jamie was sure he could detect some jealousy in her tone.

She continued. "The eyeliner is perfect and your lips are simply glorious. I’ve been doing this for a few years and I wouldn’t have done as good a job as she did. I know you hate it when I say this Jamie, but you make a very pretty girl."

"That’s the worst part," Jamie complained, still looking at himself in the mirror, "It’s too good. It’s too well done a job to say that it's an androgynous or glam look."

Jamie got up and walked over to his Powerbook. He opened up 'Photoshop' and called up a Tiff file.

"I played around with a recent picture of me to simulate what I would look like with the stuff removed," he explained before turning the screen towards Geena.

Her face blanched. "Oh my God….."

 

15

"The therapist says I should give this a try," said Jamie as he tried to explain to Steve why he'd dressed in a feminine style top and pants. And, to especially explain about the breast forms. "Steve, say something," said Jamie anxiously.

"What can I say? I’ve felt responsible about this whole business from day one. Am I supposed to laugh at you? Am I supposed to feel guilty? Is that what you want?"

"Well no, asshole," Jamie replied, "It’s just that the therapist says that the Jamie I’ve been up to now is no more. And you know what? She’s right. Either I become the creature from the ‘Black Lagoon’ or …"

"Let me guess," interrupted Steve, "Or you become Brooke Shields from ‘Blue Lagoon’. Hey, that’s not a bad one isn’t it," said Steve, proud of his one-liner.

"Very cute. You’ll pay for that you know," said Jamie punching Steve on the shoulder.

"Ow! You hit like a girl too!" yelled Steve in mock pain.

"Why you…" Jamie started to run after Steve but quickly turned towards Steve’s room. He exited a few moments later with a small bag.

Steve stopped. "Hey, not funny. Put my hash down, man."

"Not before you say you’re sorry."

"OK, I'm sorry. Now give me my hash."

 

16

Steve and Jamie got to the restaurant just before Ken and Geena arrived.

"So, how do I look?" asked Jamie for the tenth time.

"Calm down man,"

"Stop calling me man," snapped Jamie.

"You look fine, mellow out."

"Easy for you to say. You’re not the one meeting Ken dressed as a girl." Jamie was wearing a green coat dress, charcoal pantyhose and black pumps. He clutched his purse nervously as they awaited their friends.

"Relax man, you look great," answered Steve in a reassuring tone. "I never thought I see the day where my little buddy looked good in a dress and pantyhose. Anyways, Geena’s told Ken what to expect so just play it cool. Besides, it’s been five month’s now since this whole thing went down – it's not news anymore."

The supper went well. Ken, fully prepared, greeted Jamie with a peck on the cheek and a "You look great."

"The part that surprises me the most," said Jamie as they finished their supper, "is how much the way other people see me affects how I see myself."

All attention turned to Jamie as he continued, "I’ve never been someone to blindly follow others, especially when it conflicts with my own ideas, but in this case, the way people see me as a woman affects how they interact with me. And, to my surprise I respond in kind! Maybe it’s subconscious," he explained, "Maybe I want to protect myself and I don’t want others to feel bad so, I play along. Then, it just got to a point where I realized that appearing to be female is different but not bad."

Jamie sipped his wine and continued "It’s strongest when I look in the mirror. It’s an indescribable feeling to look at a different face in the mirror and come to terms with it. I feel that I can make a clearer choice between continuing to be a what I'm told is a good looking woman or a disfigured man. I’ve come to grips with the girl I see and I realize that it’s not that bad."

 

17

"It’s been a tough year, but I think that I’ve decided what I’m going to do," said Jamie as he sat down at the breakfast table to join Steve.

"I know what you’re going to say. Go for it. You have my blessing," said Steve, head stuck behind the newspaper.

"I’m getting the make-up removed and going back to being a guy."

Steve spit out the mouthful of coffee he had just taken all over his newspaper. "Are you fucking nuts?"

"Why do you say that? I’m a man aren’t I?" said Jamie calmly.

"Well yeah, but jeez!" exclaimed Steve as he wiped his mouth and the table with his place mat.

"But jeez what?"

"Well, look at you. You’ve adapted well to a difficult situation, you followed through on all the medical options, and, you've been basically living as a woman for the last 10 months. You’re even working a bit again."

"Why Steve, if I didn’t know you so well, I’d say you’re upset."

"Upset that my best friend would rather look like a burn victim rather than …"

Jamie cut him off. "Now Steve. There’s absolutely no disgrace in being a burn victim or living with any other disability."

"You know I’m not suggesting anything of the sort. It’s just that you’d knowingly choose being disfigured over being beautiful?"

"Aha! There’s that word!" said Jamie triumphantly.

"What?"

"So, you think I’m beautiful do you?" Jamie asked coyly.

Steve turned beet red. "I swear if you’re setting me up…"

"Setting you up for what?"

18

"Miss,….oh Miss?"

The stewardess tries to wake the sleeping passenger.

"Uh, what….?"

"Excuse me Miss, but we’ll be landing shortly and you’ll have to fasten your seatbelt."

Jamie does as instructed. "Can I have a glass of water please?"

She has had a good sleep. As he takes her compact out of her purse to check her hair, the stewardess returns with a glass of water and Jamie takes her Premarin pill which she has taken out. It's been a month since her surgery in Thailand which she had combined with a business trip to Japan.

Jamie has taken the Tokyo to New York non-stop before ………

The End

 

 

 

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2002 by Anne Baker. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder.