When working in a nursing home, I cared for this old lady who was addicted to lipstick.
Her mind was all pockmarked—a soap opera hunk became her wayward son—and she smelled slightly of stale urine under the Jean Naté. But that lipstick was her I-am-still-here-goddammit stamp on a fading world. Whenever there was a gap in our conversation, or a commercial on TV, she’d pull out a tube of Pink Passions and just slather that nothing mouth like one of those freaky, televangelist wives. She must have went through a tube a day. Her niece found a place that sold them bulk, I think. Had to change her pillowcase constantly, but none of us had the heart to take that color away.
She still wanted to be beautiful. She still wanted to be kissed.
Down the hall from Miss Luttrell was Mr. Lyons, a real firecracker of a man who raged at the talk show guests on TV, and us nurses, for the dead wife who left him six months ago. When she was breathing, he'd had no use for her, but now that she had stopped, he sniffed the air like a bloodhound that’d lost its master. That’s usually the way it goes, far as I can tell. But he wore his anger like a cheap toupée that slipped over his eyes to hide the guilt and shame. Too easy to see that scrubbed baby scalp below. Anyway, we all liked him, in spite of his nasty. The wound was so raw, you know.
One day I caught him checking out my ass. I knew he must be doing something because he wasn’t yelling at me. Got me thinking, it did.
When it came time for Bingo in the rec room that week, I made sure to park Mr. Lyons’ wheelchair next to Miss Luttrell’s. They weren’t much in the way of players—he yapped too much and missed the calls, and she was distracted by the wind from the fan—but that wasn’t the point, after all.
I sat in the corner as that swivel fan swung our way. Miss Luttrell started to hunt in her pocket for something. Mr. Lyons finally shut his trap.
And I waited for my chips to fall.