Tag: nighttime routine

Nighttime Routine (IV; last entry)

The last drop of violet-colored body oil gurgled loudly down the gunky gullet of her bathroom sink. She chased it with half a bottle of drain cleaner and then sat down, heavily, on the marble-patterned laminate. The temperature inside her felt like it had dropped by a hundred degrees, as though she herself were plummeting down a rockface, into an endless crevasse below. She pictured not-her, falling headfirst through freezing air, blue velvet heels abandoned on the ice. She pressed her closed eyes to the peeling paper of her bathroom cabinet. She counted each full breath.

That night, she dreamed of the products she had made disappear. The slimy, clinical-grade serums, the moisturizers that left a film of sparkle on her hairline, the potions for her persistent frizz, her boxcar scars, the broken veins visible across her neck. They spoke in her dead mother’s voice and told her dark family secrets that she did not remember upon waking but that lingered like grease on her hands. The smell in her apartment made her sick to her stomach as she took apart the instruments of the routine, scattering their remains on a piece of old newspaper. The imitation jade roller was mostly plastic. The Korean towel was easily cut into pieces with safety scissors. The UV light mask was impenetrable, even after significant prodding with a screwdriver; she left it whole, its eye holes staring up at her, its mouth hole aghast. She wrapped up the newspaper and hid the evidence in a corner of her closet.

She was unsure, at first, if by destroying her collection, her hand raised like a sword aflame, she had definitively killed the deal. But when night rolled around and she was still there, alone with her maze of thoughts, her skin a dry pelt over her face, she knew. Her time was hers again. Mind abuzz, hair uncombed, she climbed into the sheets. Her arms and legs felt like sweaty deli meat, which she tried her best to ignore. She could feel her curls matting at the nape of her neck. Something in her groaned like an Eldritch horror of the deep, and she choked it into submission.


Nighttime Routine (III)

She took a week off work to search for the devil. (Technically, this was a violation of the PTO policy at her employer, but she knew Herbert in HR and she knew how to cry to him when necessary.) At the bus stop, her sunglasses flashing against the purpling light of the sunset, her arms crossed tightly over a cream-colored baby tee, she bared her teeth at the odious moon, the yellowing grass, the commuters who stared too long. Every gesture in her approximate direction seemed to her a provocation. Every stranger resembled an ex-boyfriend or an intolerable coworker. Her body itched uncontrollably.

Waiting for the devil at the bus stop failed to replicate their initial meeting-at-the-crossroads, so she turned to the digital crumb trail scattered across his Instagram stories. She followed him through a chain of venture capital-funded coworking spaces, then a suburban Walmart converted from an airplane hangar, then a Catholic seminary, where she was imprisoned for a full day and night after being mistaken for Satan’s accomplice (she ultimately escaped from a balconied window, teeth gritted, with the assistance of an undercover doctoral student posing as a nun and a rope of altar cloths knotted together like a rosary). She staked out the local DMV in a strip mall where the devil had an improbable appointment to renew his driver’s license. She hunted him around a tediously vapid nightclub, and then into a grimy alleyway across the street, where he dissolved into a pool of shadow, leaving her there in a cheap party dress, grasping only moonlight.

She finally pinned him down in the back of her city’s worst-rated Starbucks. He had a stickered MacBook balanced precariously on one knee. “Hey cool girl,” he said when he saw her, breezily, with real pleasure, as though they’d planned the rendezvous. He held her gaze as she slid into the seat opposite him.


Nighttime Routine (II)

Her nighttime routine consisted of forty different steps involving fifteen products and five parts of her body. First, she lit a white wax candle. Sweet, pink-petalled freesia swept into the room. Her head swam. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, she meditated for ten minutes using a loving kindness app. “I forgive you,” she intoned, under the Benedictine guidance of a honeyed British voice. It was said with a genuine attempt at feeling, with the overwhelming desire to summon a revelation like the ones promised to her in the ads for therapy, and she waited expectantly, shivering in the center of her room in synthetic fleece pajamas. But when the tundra of her mind refused to react, she gave up easily, unsurprised—but bitter, nonetheless, at the notion that meditation wouldn’t work on her dog of a brain.

With a shiver of fear for what new pimple or freshly mottled patch she might encounter on its rolling hills and pockmarked fields, she moved onto her body. She twisted around in the dirty mirror to examine every hairy, blue-veined scrap of skin. She ran a roller of imitation green jade over pads of fat, lips pressed together tightly, eyes averted. She scrubbed at her elbows with an intricately woven towel imported from Korea. She applied a mud mask, then a sheet mask, and then a UV light mask. She cleansed, exfoliated, and moisturized her face. Balms, liquids, creams, gels. Baby blue, Pepto pink, grass green. She flossed and brushed her teeth with something battery-powered. In the warm yellow light, her bubblegum-flavored gingiva shone in her mouth like the gilded edges of an illuminated manuscript. (A decorative glint of blood along her lip line from overexuberant flossing.) She meticulously conditioned every strand of her dyed hair with animal fat before braiding it into a loop that she pinned into place. The clips she used cost fourteen dollars and were shaped and colored like monarch butterflies.


Nighttime routine (I)

Clouds were colluding to cover the shyly emergent moon, at a bus stop astride a freshly tarred road, as a bargain was made between the devil and a female millennial. Under the ochre streetlights, she playfully gambled her life away for lack of anything better to do. In that puddle of light, she abandoned her future, gleefully.

They were alone at the bus stop, and the silence of that road took on new dimensions; the air felt specific, hard, and real, as though diamonds had been scattered over the ground. Only the shadows of night were witnesses to the deal, and they made their disapproval clear in how they maneuvered to shade her face in a richly enigmatic, bruise-like blue. Miles away, the ocean—jealous master of mystery—hissed in white and ultramarine, desperate to wield the palette necessary to equal that color. “It’s not possible for you,” the night whispered, half in condolence, half in exultation. “You’re no sinner.”

A calfskin bag was slung over her left shoulder. As she spoke, in sweet, airy tones, she let her manicured hand graze idly over its leather panels. Her fingers, capped with eggshell tips, moved with the rhythm of a rich man enjoying flesh with his eyes. She wanted him to admire her hands, and then to appreciate the brand name emblazoned on her bag. The devil, a willing dance partner, smiled knowingly. She smiled back, lapping up the feeling of him looking at her, drinking in the heady, smoke-tinged air of the city—leisurely, lackadaisically, but nonetheless with a tinge of the anxious enthusiasm particular to the women of her time.