THE COLORS OF MY PAIN
I’ve been living with fibromyalgia, chronic pain, for over 22 years. Maybe someone can learn my world if described as cosmetics.
Valium. The yummiest yellow eyeshadow shade ever. Texture powdery. Watch out for the Wallpaper.
Iatrogenic PTSD. Eyeshadow flickering of sterile black and blue–-raises “resting” heartbeat, you turn into a feral animal, uncaged, ready to attack the men in white coats who shamed you, never believed you, broke and bruised your body and spirit at the tender age of 19. Best paired with Valium. Take a chaperone.
Elderly Lovebird. This eyeshadow is orange as warm as sun, texture softer than any pillow. The color shifts to an iridescent down feather yellow. The rays soothe you and teach you how to breathe again.
Hand Spasm. Color of heartbreak and panic. Your independence and love of podcasts are in jeopardy. No social media allowed either. Turns into color of tears and blood that can stain your journals to document this pain. Turn it into beauty! Turn it into beauty!
Nerve Pain. This is mixed with magical, innovative ingredients that make you experience something quite extraordinary. After you apply invisible créme body moisturizer on the skin, every nerve on your body becomes visible and pain radiates all throughout entire body and does not stop! Please wash off with alcohol and fright within 5 minutes or you are now one of us.
Titanium Rods. Silver metallic eyeshadow with a cold sturdy grasp on the skin. Titanium eye-firming cream also available. Actual titanium, so $$$$. Smells of morphine from 1993 and Shannon Hoon, late singer of Blind Melon. This shade will make you look shiny and new. After closing your eyes you’ll feel rods in your spine, from thoracic vertebrae 3 to lumbar 2. Gives you an impeccable posture, but your lower back becomes immobile, too. In addition to being sparkly and having no crow’s feet, you will feel compelled to purchase Frida Eyebrow Pencil.
Frida Eyebrow Pencil. Thick eyebrows are in! And Frida is trendier than ever. To have a natural, thick brow-look, you need a unibrow. This pencil is perfect for filling in the brows and giving a very natural, subtle unibrow. Elderly Lovebird (see above) appears and becomes feisty. She will attack the pencil. Do not apply when the bird is present. After you achieve your full natural trendy brow-look, you will be able to completely physically relate to Frida Kahlo’s painting, “The Broken Column.” Your back will start bleeding and you’ll feel nails puncturing your skin. Makes you disdain other white girls who say Frida Kahlo is their soul-sister. Feeling immense back pain will make you lie in bed for hours upon hours. Don’t worry, for the Elderly Lovebird will keep you company and stand on your forehead for photos, and lovingly preen your brows. Comes in 3 shades: Trotsky, Wounded Deer, and Feet, What Do I Need Them For If I Have Wings To Fly.
Crackle. A universally flattering body toner that makes muscles calm down when submerged in warm water. You’ll hear tiny crackles as your muscles subtly get looser. “Wow,” you will remark. “This is how most people feel every day? No wonder you can vacuum and make dinner,” you will marvel with enlightenment.
Leaves you fresher, body re-calibrated.
Aging Surviving. A blurring high definition finishing powder, a dusted-on lie to disguise your life. This will give you an airbrushed look, and an airbrushed brain with atrophying brain cells to allow you to continue to age and survive.
Voodoo Doll. A moisturizer with two fragrances: Pin Prick and Random Terror. Apply this creepy cream from head-to-toe, yes! Gently massage onto your scalp down to the soles of your feet. You will start to ache all over. First the trapezius muscle becomes stiff, almost immobile. Wait for the surprise attacks! You can’t prepare yourself.
Sleep. The most perfect poem you have ever written is embossed on sparkling black eyeshadow. As soon as it is applied, the poem will be absorbed into your dreams never to be found again. You are safe, you’ve escaped under velvet blankets to the floors of the ocean. Dreams of lipstick ensue.
Surrender. Violet lipstick for heroines, so strong and peaceful. Don’t mistake it for weakness or not fighting or you’ll end up in the 7th Circle of Hell after I kiss you on the cheek.
The Little Mermaid Syndrome. An enchanting, glamorous mermaid makeup trio: two eyeshadows, Shattered (golden shifting to teal, turns eyelids into gleaming fish scales siren-calling home to you as you sleep) and Knife Stabs (metallic rust, hints of blood-stains and broken decades of dreams), and a sheer lip balm, Mute, to soothe your painful articulation muscles that make you suffer in silence, sometimes having to quarantine yourself to heal. Mute smells of sea salt and children’s sandcastles. Best applied after Lovebird Lip Exfoliator. Do not take selfies while wearing the lip balm, for you will get #fishface. If eyeshadow is applied 300 days and nights in a row, scales will appear elsewhere and a mermaid tail will replace your sore sad former prized ballerina legs that have betrayed you on land. You will have no more pain, finally free, returning home in the ocean.
Numb. Lavender with a cold blue sheen, looking like you're so cool, losing oxygen, drowing in the bliss of not feeling feeling.
Lovebird Lip Exfoliator. Congratulations! You have an elderly lovebird in the flesh and feathers that will happily tear off bits of dead skin on your lips in an effort to preen you and make you more lovely to her. After exfoliating, the lovebird will walk under your chin and snuggle. You then realize that nothing matters but love and regurgitated birdseed.
Water. Answer to everything. See “Love.”
Lip Venom. A wonderful lip plumper that shapes your lips as if they were stung by bees. Bee-utiful! You then feel like your lips have been kissed by the worst kisser ever, leaving your lips sore to ever kiss again or even to talk. Your beautiful lips will assist you in eating bland bowls of baby food because you haven’t figured out yet to put delicious food in the food processor to make it tastier. You will be the object of desire in all your online photos, but no one will ever be able to kiss you without pain. Sucking on straws is out of the question for the rest of your life, you, beautiful person with the voluptuous lips.
Ouch! Bright and Glistening Teeth Bleach. Apply these strips to your teeth and they will remove decades of medicinal memories and grape juice stains (your tummy never lets you handle wine and coffee). As you open your mouth to remove the strips, your facial muscles spasm and you are no longer able to smile on command. You can only smile naturally. People will think you’re trying to look sexy or that you’re miserable. You’re not miserable. You’re very sexy and this bleach will illuminate your beauty. Also for some reason, lipstick will now always get on your teeth. You’re sexy, but you’re not cool. Also, you try to smile with your eyes when engaging with babies and toddlers, but you make them cry instead. It’s hard to eat blueberries and cookies without more pain.
Holistic Bullshit. A powder that contains every “cure” people have suggested over 21 years: bee venom, placentas, 5HTP, oregano oil, acupuncture needles, bruisings from acupuncture cuppings, Vitamin D, emu oil, baby foreskins, raw garlic, B vitamins, black cherries straight from the jar, skin cells of every Whole Foods employee, Buddhist yogi and Tai Chi fanatic who will command you to masticate on the spot and find God. Pour powder into unfiltered coconut water and mix thoroughly. Take a sip and spit it at the next person who accosts you.
Grief. Dry spidery, black veiled, false lashes makes your eyes so big and sad. People will tell you that you look beautiful because that’s all that ever matters, right? “You look better without makeup.” This doesn’t have to do with you, presumptuous young fellow. I’m just trying to get through each second of every day. When you reach for comfort on social media while collectively mourning for our post-Obama country and world, the edges of your hands start hurting—keep off the phone! You’re alone and you keep forgetting to look at the moon. Each evening you forget, your false lashes turn inky and run down your face. People still tell you you look beautiful. But chronic pain makes you feel so goddamned lonely. If only you didn’t overdo it talking to your long-lost cousin last night. If only you stood up to the physical therapist 20 years ago. If only you asked for help 22 years ago. You can’t uproot and move to Spain or Canada or pin a safety pin for it prickles your skin. “Safety” hurts like a cactus prickling your soft-skinned heart. Seeking hurts. Stick with the moon and water. When you remember the moon, the black ink cascading down your face transforms into a melancholy rainbow. Remember that the light from the moon and the water will always harmonize your grief with rainbows.
You are ultimately responsible for the harmony you seek.
Love. Makeup remover. 99% water. You are accepted for you. You are clean and whole again.
Holy, Holy, Holy. Golden scrub. Softens and glistens your skin. You are aware of all of your blessings. You take nothing for granted. Everything is sacred, especially your skin after using this scrub which is made of 48 karat gold. Not to be mistaken for Holistic Bullshit.
Redemption. Either found in parchment, or in the bizarre singing of Allen Ginsberg’s William Blake poems. You realize it’s all okay because you have a) family, b) friends and c) the arts. You realize that’s why you have been put on this earth.
Tamara Hattis has a B. A. in Communicative Disorders and Creative Writing from the University of Redlands, where she also did her graduate work in Communicative Disorders. She has performed and participated in writing workshops and readings at the University of California at Berkeley, Idyllwild, Redlands, California, and El Rito, New Mexico. Hattis has also written and performed an autobiographical play titled "Staring Back." Her work has been previously published in The Sand Canyon Review.