Friday, February 21, 2014

Masks Chapter 3: A Youtube Novel

I’m just too busy to worry about a broken date. 
            I swatch a selection of corals on my inner left wrist.  Eye shadows, blushes, lipsticks, glosses and even a lip liner.  I can’t tell the fucking difference, powders or creams, leaning toward pink or orange.  So I grab some makeup remover, wipe it all off, start swatching it again and still can’t discern anything.  My oracle has died and all the ashes look the same.
            Shit.  What an asshole.  Brad knows how much I worry about money, always and with the deep paranoia from never having any growing up.  He grew up in a normal home with all the safety that privilege confers.  My mom sold cosmetics, always Estee Lauder, after my dad killed himself when I was two.  Now you know how Gail and I bonded at yoga one day.  Some things, and definitely people, will forever remain a mystery.  Why?  For one thing, they’re dead.   But for life and people both there is no easy answer, as with a multiple choice question where all we need do is pick a, b, c or none of the above.
All I know is that my family struggled and for too many years I hated the man who deserted us.  A quick bullet and all his problems got dropped on our shoulders.  Now I mostly work and date men who’re too arrogant to imagine a world without them.  Like Brad….the asshole who just told me to lose weight if I wanted funding.  As if my profitable business is a joke.  And while he advises, I create.
            The light from the sunroof is hitting at just such an angle that my corals glow.  Wow!  Now that effect is gorgeous.  Imagine light hitting a woman’s cheek bones like that.  She’d be an angel, glowing and alive, but also ethereal.  Standing, I stare down at the colors haphazardly slayed before me.  A rainbow of options, much as I might yearn for black and white choices.      
            Even though I have real work to do and my phone has begun to ring I ignore it all and go over to a big cabinet in the corner of my office.  Looming large and bursting with old products, I open it and grab some glittery shades and balance them in a hammock I make of my shirt.  Digging through the drawers with my free hand, the other holding my shirt, I dig for other shimmers I can remember.  More organized and patient people would also start grabbing brushes but I know what I need to see and want it fast.  I’m escaping a fight and trying to turn that energy into a creative outlet.  It beats eating, which I’ve evidently been doing, and alcohol, which I just might do tonight.
            Digging through the drawers some more, I know what I need:  a bronzer and all the soft shimmers I can find.  No chunky glitter, just the softest shimmer. Ad a bubblegum pink. I want to make an angel powder with a peach undertone, as pinks are too cliché and I want a beach angel, as befits my locale.  Why can’t I mix those pinup girls of the 1960’s with a beach and a soft angel sheen?  It works in my mind and I walk back to my table, gently laying out my powders in a heap. 
            I can see the girls in the ads, one with almost white hair and light green eyes, with the other very dark.  They both need long hair and contrasting skin tones.  But warm undertones and in white bikinis on Santa Monica Beach.  No Tahiti here.  Surfboards and opaque coral lipstick.  Super retro.  With blues, greens and an almost white, sparkly, on their eyes.
            My phone rings and I knock my knee into the table as I crack the powders out of their compacts with a pencil.  Then I mix, ignoring traffic, the phones and a siren.  My eyes well up with tears and I know that I’m escaping my breaking relationship by trying to create, which comes so easily in a way that men never will.
            Why does he do this?  And again I see that smile, wicked and full of fun, but ultimately so empty.  I want to get away but then he says something funny and acts like he knows what I should be doing and I fall for the act yet again.  But slowly I’m losing myself.  I can’t help but wonder if he does provide my company funding whether I’ll eventually lose the company someday too.
            The term sheets he sends others are so full of traps that, if anything goes wrong, they always disadvantage the company to Brad’s advantage.  Money men hold the strings, contractually, or they don’t provide funding.  And once you take that money you start to run.  Fast and successful and they’ll shower you with more and make you run faster so they can double down on a winner and increase their earnings.  Get tired or fall behind and they swoop in to “save” the company, including kicking out founders and bringing in new management.  I know all this because of the stories Brad tells me.
            “They take the money because they’re greedy to succeed faster or desperate,” he says about entrepreneurs.  “We exploit the greedy and ignore the desperate.  Everyone has a way that they can be manipulated and it’s my job to find it.  I need to do that so my own investors make money and I keep my job,” he told me at dinner a few nights ago.  A nice overpriced Italian restaurant with waiters imported from Southern Italy.  I twirled my pasta, trying to spear a scallop amidst tomatoes while he picked at a huge grilled Branzino fish nestled in a bed of roasted potatoes.
            And I wonder how I got here.  So I mix my powders and wonder if he’ll finally dump me today, solving one problem only to create another.  We’ve been fighting a lot lately.  He’s been disappearing more and I know he broke up with his previous official girlfriend only after we started dating.  I didn’t know then that he had a “girlfriend” and probably a few women “friends” on the side.  But what goes around comes around and I can see a few warning signs, my weight included.
            Los Angeles is a competitive city when it comes to men, especially attractive and wealthy ones like Brad.  My friends all tell me to appreciate him more, work harder to keep him happy and all of that crap.  As if I don’t have a company to run.  I cry into my orange/brown/shimmer powder and smear some on my wrist.  It’s perfect and exactly as I imagined.  I can make my sea angels come alive and bring that glow to regular women.  But I can’t seem to make my man happy.  If he’s still my man.
            Can I still add this concoction to my new line?  Probably not.  But I can introduce new products after a respectable wait following the initial launch.  These don’t fit the spare aesthetics of the initial concept but I was already planning to build complimentary add-ons later.  The whole line is coloring driven, with “prescriptions”, or recommendations, based on undertones, hair and eye coloring.  Even personal style.  I had a software engineer write a program that can customize a million flattering looks so customers don’t need to judge for themselves, unless they want to.  Why make people rely on online swatches or bad fluorescent lighting to pick colors?  Why not customize looks and product lines based on complex but easily programmable algorithms? It isn’t like a computer can’t do so in a second.  And women want to look more beautiful.  A match made in heaven.
            Brad called me a genius when I pitched him the initial concept so I went ahead with it.  But that was about six months ago.  Now we fight over the fact that he’s frequently rude and impatient and my tone isn’t always correct.  Another tear hits a dusty coral mound and I realize I’m feeling sorry for myself.  He has always hugged his smartphone and acted like an asshole – it just bothers me more now.  Why?
            My phone keeps ringing but Frankie, my assistant, has been doing a great job of dealing with all those people calling.  I have a button I can hit when I don’t want to be disturbed and believe me it’s on.  I don’t freak out often but I know that when Brad threatens he means it and he just hit my weak spot.  This company is all I have and at this point I’ve invested too much in this new line not to get that additional last bit of funding to meet ALL the orders I have.  Indeed, I actually got too many orders, usually a good thing, if you can fund them.  And he knows it and I guess I should have expected he might pull this sort of cheap trick to try to get part ownership in the company.  Brad, my advisor and confidant, knows better than anyone how successful it is! 
            I remember when I first met him and he made me laugh so much.  He was tan and tall, we bumped into each other literally, when I backed into him at a friend’s Fourth of July party.  Brad was juggling a few beers while I was rushing back to my best friend with two overstuffed barbequed burgers.  That difference would always divide us.  I like to eat while he prefers to drink his calories.  Different personalities, right?  I think so.  I dig into things while he likes to keep all light and distant.  Full versus inebriated. 
            “Want a few beers to go with that?  Your boyfriend would want a drink too,” he said, and smiled in that crafty way he has when he thinks he’s being smart.  And I fell for the trick.
            “Oh, I don’t have a boyfriend,” I responded quickly, not wanting to discourage such an attractive man whose eyes ran up and down my expanse, legs covered by only scraps of some denim shorts I could pull off then.  “This is for my friend,” I finished lamely, the light dawning.  And of course he asked me out and suddenly, before I knew it, I had a boyfriend.
            I met him because I didn’t want to.  I hate how when I say that I really don’t want to date I end up dropping into a relationship.  And my company was just as demanding then as I was expanding distribution into major retailers.  Brad was my ready shoulder.  I had so much work to do then.  And now.
            The phone rings again and I finally kneel in my overstuffed chair studying the mess and bending over my table.  I know none of the calls is Brad.  He’d never show such weakness.  He lets everyone wait and knows the power of not responding or reaching out first.  A negotiating tactic he taught me.  I’ll die before I call so soon to apologize for hanging up on him.  Meanwhile, he’ll never apologize for his transgressions, which I consider worse but he’ll just laugh about it with a friend over drinks later.  I know him that well by now.  I too have been that companion lounging with him at some dark bar, in awe over his prowess in life.
            My door opens and I brace myself.  If someone at this company ignores my closed door and do not disturb phone block I know it’s serious.  Frankie, my vegan part time yogi assistant rushes in, her zen calm gone and clearly agitated.  Many of those I hire come from yoga since my studio is one of the few places where I actually meet people as I’m mostly working or with Brad.  What got her so riled up?
            Frustrated, trapped, but not quite desperate, I lean over my table and blow, watching my magical glittery powder lift off into air, dispersing like the ethereal dream I know it is.  Later I’ll deal with angels and craft an image around that concept.  For now, I need to deal with real people and life itself.

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