by Mila Phelps-Friedl
there is this moment just between waking and sleeping when you can feel everything.
from the constriction and expansion of your lungs to the cotton fibers pressed against your cheek, the staleness of the air against your lips and the gum of mascara built up between the lash and the bleary blue of your eyes.
this is the moment just before the shadow returns to the arch of your brow,
before memories weigh heavier on the folds of your brain and the aches return to your bones.
you turn over in your tangle, sheets twisted between your toes and a single socked foot. propped up on elbows, sinking into the double mattress stretched over the dusty blue of your dorm-issued bed.
you can’t stay here for long because soon your head will loll onto your shoulder and back towards the bliss of your pillow.
you stir again and swing both legs over the edge of said mattress, touching your toes to the coarse carpet, feeling the weight of your body shift your bones back into place.
careful treads now, so as not to disturb your humming roommates in their vocal slumber– knees pop as you sit, placing elbows on a desktop piled with the tide of too many things to do.
the wave has left a scattering of pens, bobby pins and contact solution-splotched papers, bleeding the red ink of corrections into the words that had once been so focused.
you clear a space, brushing aside makeup brushes and at least 12 crumbling maple leaves that you meant to press in that journalism book you never actually read.
tingling fingers grasp for concealer and soon the strokes of flesh colored paint against your forehead matches the thrum of your heart in the morning stillness.
in the half-light, filtering through the window behind you, your face looks haggard, as if the ten minutes of consciousness has already sapped you of all energy.
thick slopes of eyeliner make your eyes seem wider, less cloudy amidst their bleary blue. a new coat of mascara slicks your lashes to your cheeks and when you blink you can feel them flutter on your face.
you look at yourself all made-up, but suddenly things feel much too heavy.
it’s as if you can feel the weight of the pounding, teeming universe in your bones.
you get up and leave the room, a sharp left at the bathroom door and it only takes a moment to turn on the faucet and dash cold water over your face–
scraping off the last ten minutes of making yourself up to seem more alive than you are.
you look up to black-ringed blues, your lashes no longer stiff but soft and light upon your cheeks.
it feels so good to feel like yourself.
give yourself a moment, to appreciate the blush of your cheeks and all the freckles, the ache of your bones and the beat of your breath.
and then when the moment is over, you go and grab the Boston Red Sox hat from the hook in your room, who needs makeup anyway?
and you leave.