MAUVE LIPSTICK AND AN ALLURING POUT
Occurred: End of my freshman year (high school, 1998)
I will never be the girl who can wear white and not spill on myself. You know the girl I’m talking about. She is your friend, your neighbor, your cousin, your best friend’s girlfriend—or in my case, my sister.
She always chews with her mouth closed, and never spits when she talks. She can wear no make up and still look like a Calvin Klein cover girl, and then when she does wear it, her eyeliner never bunches up in the corner of her eyes creating a big black eye booger. She makes a ponytail and a baseball cap look sophisticated. Her panty hose never run, lipstick never gets on her teeth, and not once in her life has she ever passed gas; the mere thought appalls her. She has a cute, high-pitched giggle that when activated causes her nose to crinkle like a bunny rabbits. Her eyes always sparkle, her teeth—always white, and her features are perfectly symmetrical with high cheekbones that are constantly a natural shade of “rosy.”
I have to thank my sister, though…I never would have made the amount of guy friends that I had in high school if it hadn’t been for her.
* * *
It was another boring high school day. The drab yellow walls added to the monotony of traveling from class to class day after day. Only today was slightly different.
I had an audition coming up where I needed to learn how to play the violin. Mario and I were both in drama class together and he was an accomplished violinist. I planned to ask for his help. If only I wasn’t so painfully shy. I would have preferred to slide down a banister of razor blades and land in a pool of alcohol than randomly approach the hottest guy in school.
We had just moved to High Point, North Carolina, so I was starting over. Again. It was only two years prior that we had moved also. I hardly ever spoke to anyone unless they spoke first, and even then I responded with one-word answers:
“How are you, Colleen?”
“Are you adjusting?”
I was also a liar.
So, anyway, you can imagine how hard it was for me, Colleen Katana, to go up to the dreamiest boy in school and invite him over to my house to teach me to play an instrument that, when I played it, sounded more like a dying cat.
Mario towered over my 5′1 frame. He had a lean build with dark hair and even darker eyes. His style was…unusual. He had an emo feel to him before it was cool to be such. And once a month he would come to school in a costume, just for the hell of it. One time, I remember, he was a sailor. Another time, he came in scuba gear. And the strangest part of all of this was that he pulled it off. He made coming to school in costumes look cool. And every girl wanted to date him, including me.
I quietly walked over to him before drama class started, twirling my hair between two chewed fingers. For being so good-looking, he was surprisingly approachable. I fidgeted with my notebook that rested between one clenched arm and he greeted me with a wide, toothy smile.
“What’s happenin’ Col-Leen.” He always broke my name into two very distinct syllables when he said it. A tradition he still does to this day. From anyone else, it would have been annoying. From him, it was charming.
“Uh, hi Mar—uh, Mario.” I had to stop and clear my throat after saying his name. In my shy, breathy voice, I continued. My voice was so soft, it’s a wonder he even heard the words I was speaking. “I was wondering if you would be able to help me with something. Maybe after school on Friday?” I managed to choke out some words about the audition and needing to learn how to play violin; or at least fake it for a day. He was more than happy to help.
Friday took forever to arrive. Each minute of each day for the entire week was like torture. What would he think if he met my brother, the black sheep of the family? Why was he so quick to accept and help me? He can’t really be that nice. No one this good looking is honestly friendly, right? Isn’t that what Dawson’s Creek had taught me?
Friday finally rolled around. Mario and I got into his ‘85 Honda Accord and drove back to my house, listening to Jimmy Eat World all the way. Walking into my two-story suburban house with Mario at my heels, I yelled, my voice bellowing through the hallway. “Mom, I’m home!” It was probably the loudest thing Mario had ever heard me say.
As soon as I was in my house, I morphed into a different person. I bounced into the kitchen and tossed my backpack onto the hardwood floor. Mario followed, dumbfounded at the change in my persona. As we walked from the foyer into the kitchen, my mother was pulling a cake she had baked out of the oven. Wearing a skirt and blouse with an apron over top, Mario later told me she reminded him of Donna Reed. The introductions were made as my mom and my new friend met for the first time.
We sat down at the kitchen island and my mom served us each an enormous slice of chocolate cake. Eyes wide he looked from my mother, to me, then back to my mother. “Wow, um, thank you Mrs. Katana.”
“You’re very welcome, Mario. You can call me either Mrs. K or Mama K. Most of Colleen’s friends do.
I had no idea where my mom came up with this lie, because none of my friends ever called her Mama K. I suppose it was her own fantasy. She sent me a wink and just like that the lightbulb illuminated my stupid brain. She was attempting to make me sound more popular in front a guy who she knew was one of the most popular kids at school! And guess what–it worked.
“Cool, Mama K.” My mom smiled and nodded and bounced away, back towards the oven. The cheerleader in her was escaping again, as it had a tendency to do when she was around younger people. I expecter her to break out in a “rah, rah” routine any second now.
As I was about to say something, my brother—who was living in our basement saving money at the time—came upstairs. It was 4pm and he had just woken up. Long, scraggly brown hair hung matted past his shoulders and he was wearing mesh shorts and an oversized Cinderella t-shirt—the 80s band, not the Disney movie.
For a reason that I still do not understand, Mario’s eyes became wide and a huge smile was plastered over his face as he stared at Bo. By the look on his face, you would have thought Salma Hayek had just emerged from the shower in nothing but a steamed towel. “Nice shirt, man. Gotta love 80’s monster rock, right?”
“Yep,” my brother, Bo, adjusted his crotch just prior to shaking Mario’s hand, ” S’cuse me. I gotta piss.” Yes, that is my brother. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mom’s head fall into her hands.
Mario looked at me laughing. Not a condescending laugh, or a judgmental laugh, but a laugh that led me to believe he was just overall amused and intrigued by Bo. He pointed at him with his thumb, like a hitchhiker. “That guy is awesome!”
We walked down the stairs to my basement for privacy, in an attempt to begin practicing the violin. When we reached the bottom, Mario jolted to a stop. “Whoa. Are…those….real?” Instinctually, I glanced down at my breasts. In movies when you heard lines like this, isn’t that what men were always referring to? But Mario was looking not at me, but straight ahead, his eyes were even wider in disbelief than when he met Bo.
“Oh, yeah,” I shrugged, finally realizing what he was referring to. “There’s one over there, too.” My dad collected old arcade games. As in, the huge machines that you would go to a game room, stick a quarter in and spend your afternoons trying to win crappy plastic prizes that were held in a glass case, as if they held some value. At that time we had Double Dragon, Spy Hunter, and a Star Wars pinball machine.
Mario’s head shook in disbelief. “Your house is awesome.”
The afternoon passed quickly and before I had a chance to realize how late it was, my mom called down and invited Mario to stay for dinner. He, of course, accepted. Who wouldn’t want a meal cooked by a contemporary Donna Reed?
We came upstairs for dinner, and there she was, sitting at our waxed, mahogany dining room table. A vision of loveliness, home for the weekend from college: My sister. She had perfectly tanned skin, softer and silkier than any rose petal and was wearing subtly beautiful makeup with mauve lipstick that accentuated her already pouty lips. His jaw dropped to the floor, saliva trickling out onto our stone tiles. My dad, standing beside Mario, looked from the ogling boy to his older daughter and back again to the boy. With a playful smack upside Mario’s head, he went and sat at the head of the table. “Roll your tongue back in your mouth boy, and let’s eat.” Mario did as told.
As the night ended, I walked Mario to the front door. He looked at me, his expression unreadable. My eyes narrowed, curiosity oozing from my tear ducts. He opened his mouth to say something, but stopped himself.
I figured I would have to be the first to say something, which is a rare, rare thing. “Well, thanks for coming over. Even if I didn’t get any better at playing violin, it was still a good time.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it was.” He turned and opened the door. Pausing, he turned to face me again.
Eyebrows arched, I kept my eyes on his and turned my head to the left. “Yes?”
“Everything I thought about you was wrong.” A short, sharp breath escaped from his nose, “I thought I had you figured out Col-Leen. Your family—your life—is awesome.”
I nodded. “Yes, it is.” I had to suppress the urge to throw my arms around his neck and hug him in that moment.
His hand fell from where it was resting on the doorknob and slapped the outside of his thigh. “And your sister…wow, she is hot!” I had to suppress the urge to clench my fist and hit him in that moment.
I could not understand everyone’s fascination with her. Sure, she is beautiful. But how could it be that people always confused us for twins, yet she was considered hot one? I was confused. I was frustrated. Throwing my hand at the door, I stopped him as he was about to walk out. “Hey…what is it that makes Bridget so hot?”
He sucked on his teeth, taking a moment to think. “Well, a lot of things. Her lips, for one.”
I looked down at the floor. Not really the answer I was hoping for.
“So…would you like to hang out with a few friends and me tomorrow?”
My head snapped up from the floor. I answered quickly…too quickly perhaps. “Yes!”
“I’ll even pick you up, if it’s easier.”
Since I couldn’t drive yet, that was much easier. He stepped closer to me and wrapped his long arms around my body, pulling me in close to his chest. This wasn’t the courtesy hug that a lot of “friends” give you. This was an embrace. The type of hug where you held the other person, listening to their heartbeat while feeling your own pound against your chest. Before pulling away, he whispered to me, “Don’t worry, Col-Leen; you’re hot too.”
As he walked out the door, he spoke over his left shoulder, “Feel free to invite your sister tomorrow night.” He winked, got into his car, and drove off.
The next night, I “borrowed” my sister’s mauve lipstick. My lips never looked so pouty. I never returned it to her, either.