my mom always had her lipstick. she applied it thick, with urgency, and like the ribbon on top of a present, it completed her. the lipstick made her fierce, a warrior, towanda she'd say, like suddenly she had the confidence to solve all of life's problems. she wore a pale frosted pink on those lips she always complained were too thin. you got nice full lips, she'd say, not like mine. it was one of the only complaints she ever had about her physical appearance, besides her nonexistent eyebrows she'd draw in and straight flat hair that daily she would fluff and tease and curl and mousse into something that would hopefully last well into the day. once she was done with her makeup ritual, mom was a knockout. i remember what an impression she made on me; as a young girl, i did a pencil portrait of her with a caption that read: my mom is the prettiest lady i know.
when she died, and i was sorting through her belongings, i found a tube of lipstick in her purse. i opened it, twisted up the trademark pointy tip shaped by her mouth, smelled the familiar scent of waxy makeup. that's my mom. i quickly put it back in the pocket of the purse, and began carrying it around with me...not to wear it, but just to have it close at hand, because it was something she touched daily, something that was so her.