#137 Guardian

by Grace Lee

Don’t leave me, my eyes beg silently. She’s been saving money since that week she couldn’t walk. I’ll become a makeup artist, she whispered to me.

When our father goes to work at the factory, she tosses her pre-algebra book aside. In the glossy pages of Glamour, she studies techniques for layering eye shadow, memorizes distinctions between warm versus cold skin tones, what colors harmonize best. She practices on me, her life-sized doll.

“Make fish lips,” she says. She applies a rosy powder to my pudgy cheeks.

“Now pucker them like this- look, get it?” she demonstrates. She paints a layer of 99-cent lipstick across my peeling lips.

“Ew, it tastes nasty!” I recoil.

“You’re not supposed to eat it,” she sighs and rolls her eyes. “You’re such a child. When I was your age...” her voice trails off.

I giggle, “Last year?”

“Sit still,” she commands, impatient to finish. With a few soft strokes, she makes memories and bruises disappear.

She shields my face with her left palm, her right hand posed around the Aqua Net can.

“Close your eyes and hold still. I’m serious. It’ll burn.”

This is one of my mother’s favorite stories: In Seoul, she would send us off to preschool and kindergarten on the city bus. As my mother waved and smiled, my sister instinctively placed me in her lap and wrapped her arms tightly around my torso with serious eyes.

Mommy never worry about you, she laughs, because you have good big sister.

16 comments:

KC Gayla said...

Love this. Very good.

Anonymous said...

Yes - I love this, too. Impactful yet subtle writing.

Jacqueline Torres said...

Beautiful detail and specificity in the service of illuminating a universal sentiment of family (sisterly) love. So effective in such a short space.

caro lamar said...

Aww so sweet. So many layers in this piece, your mom and her visions, your dad, and your sister. School and dreams.

Anonymous said...

This was a very sweet piece; short and lyrical. Such suggestive details (e.g. "With a few soft strokes, she makes memories and bruises disappear.") of course help place the reader into the lives of these women.

Jain Kwak said...

Love this writing. Makes me miss my sister and the memories I have with her.

Anonymous said...

The simultaneous expression of innocence and loss in this piece is heart-breaking. Thanks for sharing.

Akira Ikezoe said...

The lovely scenes come to my mind though I'm an only child.

Grace Jahng Lee said...

Many thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate all of your responses.

Sophia Chizuco said...

Very sweet. I wish I could have a sister. Thank you for showing me your lovely world.

Lisa Pellegrini said...

This reminds me of when I was in college, and the girls down the hall gave me make-overs. Fun times! Very sweet story, and for me, it is not just about sisters but about celebrating girlhood and the joys that come with it. Nice work, Grace.

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous memory. Lovely to read, like a watercolor made of words.

Monsoon Wind said...

This is So sweet. I love it.

TKP said...

Poignant and beautiful, Grace!

TKP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Well-built writing, heart-wrenching in just a few words. Thanks.