I stand at the bathroom sink and look at my reflection through a film of toothpaste spots. I am sick. Just a virus, but it has hung on long and hard. My cough is a rough bark in my chest. My breathing a growl. If it weren’t so dramatic, I would call it animalistic. As it is, I call it annoying.
I hold on to the edge of the counter as I cough, my shoulder blades, abdomen, ribs tight and sore. My glasses slide down my face so I take them off. My reflection in the mirror grows blurry. I prefer it that way.
My hand gropes for a make-up sponge, and I squeeze a line of ivory foundation across it. I rub it across my nose, cheeks, chin, forehead. I reach for another bottle and dab concealer under my eyes to hide the circles from a night filled with feverish tossing and turning.
I go through the rest of the steps. Powder and blush to cover my paleness. Eye shadow and lip gloss to bring warmth. Layer upon layer to hide under.
But my cough. That damned cough. Nothing can cover that. It is persistent and loud. Like a sneeze during a game of hide-and-seek, that cough will give me up every single time.
As I powder and pluck and smooth, my mind wanders to all of the ways I hide. As a child, it was a literal ducking into dark corners. But as an adult, it is more subtle. It is dresses and new shoes. It is forced smiles and insincere laughter. It is blush and lip gloss.
The last step is always the eye-liner. I stretch my eye lid with one hand and smooth brown eye liner on with the other, then switch. I slip my glasses back on and survey my work. Decent. The blue-gray circles under my eyes only peek through slightly. A bit of bronzer has camouflaged my peaked cheeks.
But then I cough, doubled over, the sound echoing in my small bathroom. And when I look up, back into that toothpaste speckled mirror, I see my eyeliner, smudged and messy.