They call it mascara. Inspired by kohl, an extract of antimony powder, the modern product was first an amalgam of coal and petroleum jelly, then chemists found substitutes, preferring waxes, solvents, and polymers. In fact, it has become varnished paint to lengthen the fur of the eyes.
I often meet this lady on the subway platform. Not very tall, well dressed, although I would advise her to wear less fitted clothes. Standing up, among others, she is busy in front of a pocket mirror and a mascara stick. She brushes a few eyelashes, observes the result, starts again. It seems to me to last for hours. It’s fascinating, a real ant, or rather a cat that licks its hair rigorously. Once a result she seems to find satisfactory, she screws the cap she was holding in the same hand that supports the mirror, puts the instrument in her bag and, to my great surprise, brings out another one, which looks thinner.
The merry-go-round starts again at the size of his eye. To be honest, it stresses me out to see her looking for a perfection that will probably never exist in her. I’m not saying she’s ugly, far from it. She may be unattractive and, as I said, too tight in her skirt and clerical gown. By her appearance, by her age, I tell myself that she is a worker like we see so many in the offices, responding very well to the naughty stereotypes that we have of administrative assistants. A good person, dressed in modest clothes, a faded lace as a collar, a bun with barely concealed pins.
Now that the double mascara operation is finished on the right eye, she screws the cap back onto the brush pencil, puts it back in her bag and, perhaps not surprisingly, she takes out the first pencil to attack the other eye.
There, the train is coming. That doesn’t matter. The door opens, a dense mass of city dwellers flees to another line. The mascara lady finds a place and resumes her meticulous and nervous work despite the jolts of the train that has started. I’ve put myself a little behind so she can’t know I’m watching her. Unfortunately, I have to leave, the lady continues her work. The door closes behind me, I turn around to observe it one last time.
It is not uncommon to meet these women who, despite the vibrations, the tremors of public transit, succeed in blushing, in redrawing this line of red, this line around the eyes, this hue on this cheek. I can understand the concern they bring to them to rectify and tame the geometry of their faces, to obey scrupulously the diktats of a certain fashion. However, I find it a little sad that they have to constantly rectify the result. I know very well that not all of them are like that and that men also bend under the weight of other constraints. Aren’t I the first to study, in these same cars, the reflection of my face? It is important for me to know what I am announcing.
We are peacocks and yet we will claim the opposite. We have transposed our love parades, our desires to win, to convince (to deceive, mascara is an Italian word meaning “mask”). We want to survive. For some, this means giving manic importance to the length of their lashes. For others, it will be to write about the first ones or to find the piece of clothing that will make them unique, for the time of a thought.
It’s all empty, all this. It seems useless, just like those people who, stuck on their so-called smartphones, sterilize their souls and thoughts to move numbers to reach the nirvana of 2048 (is it really the number?)
Our little bubbles burst so easily. We hurry to put our finger back in the crack of the dam, and we are surprised to die already, too busy with the insignificant distractions of our daily life.
That’s what’s stressing me out about this lady. I would have liked to approach her, grab her face, look at her eyes and tell her that it’s okay that way, that she can relax. Obviously, it’s not done… and she wouldn’t have believed me. Already that I would have violated her privacy that she would have hurried to take out her sticks again to erase the marks I could have made on the powdered film of her skin.
For my part, my distractions are often sexual. I see a handsome man and want to get close to him so I can better observe the vein in his bearded neck. Seduce and die, no doubt. Masquerading his eyes as others were embalmed under the pyramids.
Eternity is like the devil; it creeps into the details.