Ash Wednesday

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

I get up right after we fuck and go to the bathroom and lean against the sink. I look at myself hard in the mirror, studying, scrutinizing. Who is this wild girl reflected back at me – the big eyes with pupils sparkling and black, the flush beating in my cheeks up high, the hair tangled. This wasn’t me, this was a changeling. I do not recognize her at first.

Later, I sit alone and stare at my phone for hours and I see nothing and say nothing. It’s just endless scrolling and none of it stays in my brain for longer than a moment. I wonder why I care and why I reach for it so often, but I don’t have an answer for that. It’s mindless and it passes the time, I guess.

Outside, the snow is falling, thinking about covering up the old and dead but changing its mind. It, like me, prefers the ugliness and the grey. We always think January is the worst month of winter, forgetting that in reality it’s February that kills your spirit most.

I don’t know what to do with myself in the hours outside of work. I scrub the bathtub till my hands are dry and raw. I use the harshest of chemicals, the most noxious cleaning agents, because nothing else will work. I contemplate bathing in it just to see what it would do to my skin. I try to get to sleep early, but instead wake up from nightmares where I’m soaked in blood. Bleary, I look around my empty bedroom – no presence in the bed next to me – and I imagine ghosts and faces where there are none. My radiators are hissing like angry snakes.

I guess I just feel haunted by my surroundings.

I lay back in a doctor’s office and a woman sticks a needle over and over into my lips, making them swell and bruise and bleed. I know it’s coming, but I still tense up with each poke. My new lips are painful for a few days. He had declined to kiss them anyway, so I don’t mind. Then they’re suddenly beautiful and perfect overnight, and I’ve totally forgotten how I looked before.

I’m just a little bit newer, which is good.

It’s Ash Wednesday, the day where merrymaking souls go to church and repent for the mistakes they made the night before. I was always so troubled by Ash Wednesday as a child, though I never wore a dark smudge on my forehead for an entire day. It’s such an obvious way to ask God to notice you. You exchange your bad self for your good one overnight, and then you pretend to be pious and holy by giving up a vice until Easter.

It’s bullshit. No one really ever gives up a vice. It still follows you around and rides piggyback. No one is absolved by a little bit of ash – only by fire, I suppose.

It looks like there’s blood on my hands, but you know it’s just lipstick. TC mark

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