Jeffrey Hollar’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: First Things First
Tiana stared, wistfully, at the glossy magazine page preserved from time by the plastic sleeve covering it. It showed a fresh-faced girl demonstrating the process of braiding her lustrous blonde hair into a perfect tight braid along one side of her face.
She remembered the magazine spread with crystal clarity since she was the girl in the photos. It had appeared in the March 2006 issue of Beauty Styles magazine on page 147. It was one of several that had been, strategically, sprinkled throughout that issue. While the intent had been to showcase different hair styling options, it had the unintended side effect of launching her professional photo modeling career as well.
Now, scarce six years later, when she looked in the mirror she could see little more than a ghostly after-impression of that innocent young face. Her skin had a waxy uneven tone to it from too many hours spent under harsh studio lighting and too little care in the liberal use of the solutions required to remove the overdone makeup ensuring the model wouldn’t look too washed out in the finished proofs. It was a necessary evil that had wreaked its ravages upon her with little she could do to mitigate its effects.
Her eyes, to her, seemed no longer to have the sparkle and allure they once had. Sunken into her face, they were rimmed by dark circles beneath that bespoke the fact that she seldom slept very well anymore. The demands of her work schedule made long hours and short nights a requisite for remaining on the active roster of her agency representation. While cosmetics, again, could provide a degree of amelioration, at the end of the day the damage remained.
She noted, with an inescapable feeling of sadness, how perfectly the model’s small, if somewhat bulbous, nose seemed to compliment rather than detract from her clean, girl-next-door simplicity. It was the kind of nose millions of the magazine’s readers had been born into this world with. It was the kind of nose that women went their whole lives thinking was perfectly normal, natural and acceptable when taken in the context of their entire face. It was, certainly, not a bad or an ugly nose. Running the backs of two slender fingers down the bridge of her now-nose, she was forced to admit to herself she could have stood her ground a bit more resolutely and refused when her agent suggested she have it…enhanced. For the last few years, she had crippling sinus headaches and intermittent pain as a result of the cosmetic surgical procedures necessary to make her look more “appealing” and “polished” as her agent had phrased it.
No longer able to look at the old photos without causing further feelings of despondence to overtake her, she got up from the couch and paced her loft apartment. She was feeling, decidedly, unwell and nauseated and wasn’t sure whether to place the blame for it on her self-flagellating trip down memory lane or on the inevitable side effects of the regimen of diuretics, laxatives, energy drinks and antacids that were a major component of her daily eating habits.
Whatever the cause of her malaise, she didn’t dare indulge herself with so much as a saltine to calm the roiling sensation. She’d already ingested her allowed calories for the day and it wasn’t even noon yet. Her modeling contract was most specific about her allowed weight limits and she was hovering dangerously close to exceeding them from the sheer necessity of having to eat something to remain focused and able to function.
She nearly walked face-first into the rough brick wall of the corner in her distraction over everything. She’d been wondering for quite some time now if the sacrifices and the suffering, the discomfort and the dissatisfaction were worth it all. She was at the literal zenith of her career with too few years remaining for her to be a viable candidate for anything but niche jobs that allowed her remaining attractions to be depended upon. She wasn’t sure after gracing so many magazine covers, billboards and other media advertisements she was ready to slip into the obscurity of hand and foot shoots. She liked to think she still had a bit too much pride and self-respect to submit to that indignity.
Unbidden, her arms came up and pressed to the sides of her head as if, in so doing, she could persuade her scattered thought and defeatist sentiments to fall in line and let her concentrate on her preparations for the next day’s shoot. An immeasurable amount of time passed before the epiphany took her and the world seemed, after so long otherwise, to appear to her in stark, crystal clarity.
Retrieving the necessary items, she seated herself at her vanity table and scrutinized her face with an entirely different level of contemplation. Extending the blade of the straight razor, she ran the cool side of the sharp blade along the contours of her “perfect” face. Unable to come to any definitive conclusion on what offended her the most in the mirror’s reflection, she pressed the unyielding steel between her lips and nose and began to slice upward with brutal control.
As blood flowed and the pain began, she distanced her mind from her body by attempting to remember if Christ had mentioned cutting off one’s nose if it offended them or not? She knew he’d mentioned the eyes but she would get to that in time…first things first.
Jeffrey Hollar is half Klingon, half Ferengi, visiting Earth in an attempt to negotiate a merger. He is currently working on a novella and a collection of zombie stories with his wife, Lisa McCourt Hollar. Jeff writes almost daily for his blog, The Latinum Vault, found at http://www.jeffreyhollar.com.