Sketching

The Turmeric Turmoil, or The Danger of Easy Solutions

“I look old and I hate it,” I say to a friend over Skype. “Should I try some fancy anti-aging cream?”

“Try a homemade mask,” she says and sends me a Youtube link. “It’s a Brazilian woman, she’s very popular.”

I don’t speak Portuguese but click on the link anyway. The ‘Brazilian’ woman is blond and speaks English with an Australian accent.

The recipe of the homemade mask that promises youth and beauty in ten minutes and forever is simple. A tablespoon of turmeric powder, some milk, two drops of oil. The ‘Brazilian’ applies the mix to her face to demonstrate how smoothly it looks. Then she washes it off and claims that, due to this mask, she always looks young and fresh and pretty without any make-up.

“Well, she is young and fresh and pretty,” I think. “She barely needs any mask at all.” But I have an hour before my son leaves school so I decide to give it a try. What do I have to lose?

I prepare the pumpkin-colored mix and spread it over my face. When the mask dries I rinse it off and look at myself in the mirror.

My skin looks fresh and smooth and pretty. And it’s bright-yellow.

“Oh my god!” I’m ready to faint. “I have to leave in half an hour! And go outside! Where there are people!”

I grab face cleanser and nervously rub it into my face. My face is still yellow. I grab soap. It works. The yellow turns green. My skin is still surprisingly soft and tender. I could be the most attractive corpse in the cemetery beauty pageant.

“I have to leave in ten minutes!”

I call to the friend who sent me the damn link and skip all the preambles, “My face is green because of this stupid mask! Was it a prank?”

My friend sounds innocent and surprised, “Has it stained your skin? Really? They should inform about this, don’t you think?”

“I’ve no time to think! What can I do?”

“Uhm… Well… Maybe, try olive oil. They say it cleans the skin.”

I hang up. I won’t add greasy glitter to my already olive face. I take a deep breath and think. Then I grab a bottle of baby cream and a roll of kitchen towels. After five minutes of aggressive scrubbing I sit before a huge pile of dirty paper, and a desperate red face with greyish-green spots all over it looks at me from the mirror.

I give up. Seven blocks of shame on the way to school are inevitable.

In the street, I fix on the tips of my shoes. I don’t look at people. They look at me.

I rush into the school, grasp my son’s hand and turn to leave.

“Are you all right?” My son’s teacher stares at me. “You seem… agitated.”

“Uhm… Yeah… I don’t feel well.” I put my hand on the stomach to prove it and pull my son outside.

We almost run home and bump into Mrs. Gossip right next to the house.

“Hi Joan! Have you heard what happened to…” She breaks off and stares at me for fifteen long seconds.

Great! Now all neighbors will talk about my green face.

“You look… somewhat younger,” she finally says. “Have you used Botox?”

I search for sarcasm in her eyes but find only disapproval and envy. She keeps talking about how inappropriate it is to do what I’ve done, but I don’t listen. She said ‘younger’! The mask works! I’ll have to do it again!

Sketching

The Stories the Waves Can Tell

breach

I sit on the sand and look at the ocean waves. I like their repetitive patterns. I like their loud breathing and noisy manner to collapse their exhausted bodies that crossed the whole world to arrive from another continent’s shore. If you live next to the ocean the waves’ singing can be your friend and your lullaby as their rhythmic uproar is soothing and reassuring. Everything comes, everything goes, and everything comes again.

Every wave greets the beach licking it like a newly adopted puppy dog, and the sand greedily sucks in the rests of the ocean’s salty saliva. “We met, and now it’s time to say goodbye, we’re going back. Someone is waiting for us on the other side.”

“Who can be better than me?” the sand seems to ask. “What can be softer than my tender hug? There are rocks on the other side that cut you in half and laugh at your breaking into a thousand tiny tears. Why do you keep returning to someone who you know will hurt you?”

“They don’t laugh, those rocks, they cry. And they need us the same way you do. That’s why we come back to them as we come back to you.”

I sit on the sand with my eyes closed. There are so many stories the waves can tell you if you listen to their wordless tune.

Flash-fiction

Why?

Everything hurt. His finger the hammer hit when he got distracted with a sudden noise. His foot on which the damn hammer fell from his trembling hand. His head the elephant smashed with his rubber trunk in a paroxysm of unexpected rage. But most hurting of all was the burning question, “Why? Why did he allow all this to happen?”

He knew now, only now when it was too late, what an insane idea it was to play Frankenstein and bring them to life. He thought it would be amusing to see how his favorite toy, his dwarf of a robot, would interact with a pigmy-sized elephant. “A puppet playing with a puppet. How brilliant!” He couldn’t help grinning at his own wittiness while working on the hinge structure of the animal. And it could be amusing if he hadn’t overstepped the line.

Who could know that the old magic, those few strange words from an ancient book he read out loud partly for curiosity but mostly for a joke would have a real power and transform artificial things into live creatures?

He froze up on the floor gazing at two of them, the clock-work elephant who became mad and destroyed the whole workshop throwing instruments and the finest equipment at the walls and his robot, his best work he was so proud of that now was jumping up and down on the broken glass and whose bulb eyes glittered with malicious joy.

When the shock of first seconds was gone he realized in what danger he was and hurried to crawl into the cage for experimental animals. He locked himself in and clenched the key in his fist. They got quiet, those two, came up close and stared at him first and then at each other.

“They can destroy me along with the cage,” he thought and shriveled up in the corner yet knowing it made no sense, no corner could hide him now. He had a strong wish to pee. Shrunk into a spasmodic knot of fear, he screwed up his eyes and waited, for a blow, for a shriek, for anything. He waited for three infinite seconds but only heard crackling of broken glass moving away. In disbelief, he opened his eyes. The door stayed half-open after two steel beings were gone.

The abrupt relief made him wet his pants. “What a shame,” he thought but didn’t feel it. Two heartless, ungrateful creations of his left him alone. He opened the lock and crawled out of the cage. He had no strength to get up and stayed sitting on the floor. He was smashed.

It was painful enough to see them, these metallic toys, overpower him, but oh, how it hurt now when they left. He breathed in heavy loneliness of the old workshop where he spent all his life. He had no one but these two who had neglected him with such ease and disdain. He had no one at all as he never believed in the power of heart which now betrayed him and ached.

All his life he avoided people, those strange, talkative, fussing about creatures with their feelings and passions and ridiculous ideas of love he never took seriously. He stayed away knowing that they would only disturb him with their sorrows, their worries, their human mess that distracts from work. He hid himself here, surrounded with metal, the perfectly cold, predictable, obedient material. Why on Earth did he bring to life his flawless mechanical creatures when he knew that life means pain and betrayal? There was no one to blame, he did it himself. But why?

Flash-fiction, Sketching

Autumn Retreat

ocean-at-night

She felt autumn breeze with all her skin, every pore welcomed its refreshing touch after the infinite hot summer.

She sat on the porch of the tiny cabin watching how big, noisy waves hit the shore again and again. She greeted each one and said goodbye to each one. She breathed along with the swaying water that, far away, played with reflection of the moon, breaking it into sparkles, juggling them and gluing again into a shaky bridge to another world.

She was all alone, far away from her family, friends, city hastle, far from everything that made her life hers. She was far away from him.

“I don’t miss him,” she realized. “I don’t miss anything. I’m in peace here, with the waves covering one another and disappearing one in the other. We were like waves; we were like these waves all the summer. Now it’s autumn, and I don’t miss him.”

She sipped martini from a tall pink glass and looked at the small sparkling circle bathing on the bottom of it. “I hold the moon in my hand.” She smiled. “I hold the moon.”

She heard a seagull; its harsh and abrupt cry cut the dark sky. “The bluebirds don’t live by the ocean,” she thought. It was the only thing she regretted.