My Eyelashes Had Fallen Off
By Leslie Rathe
It always happens like this. I have this intense daydream about a careless tug at my eyelid, pulling that one stubborn sore eyelash from its socket, and the entire row of eyelashes comes right along with it, leaving me freakishly eyelashless.
On this day, nestled in my cubicle, stationed down an infinite corridor of a high-falutin’ “Ad Agency,” I pluck a crooked, dissatisfactory lash from its post in hopes of relieving a non-descript but very real annoyance that sometimes comes to symbolize my entire life. A generalized dissatisfaction that can only be alleviated by engaging in obsessive compulsive behavior. Like pulling an eyelash out from time to time, instead of doing less important things like scheduling meetings and taking calls for my dictatorial boss.
As I satisfy my urge for a guaranteed outcome, I have the requisite daydream regarding the aforementioned.
I say to myself, “Wouldn’t that suck. You’ve got to stop it. Dreams do come true sometimes and you’ve got to stop before this one does.”
As I consider taking control of my obsessive need for control, I feel something far more menacing in the opposite corner of my ring. I feel what every girl has felt at some time or another. The tightening grip of a thong, washed too many times with too little fabric softener and too little care. A thong making itself brutally present. A clenching force of elastic, threatening my most private of lady parts. Like an active unrelenting wedgie. How could I have not realized this morning, an hour ago, a minute ago? How could I have made the decision to wear this undergarment on this morning knowing full and well that I was pairing it with an easy breezy party dress hanging at a respectfully boring length. Who needs an uncomfortable thong if not absolutely necessary?
In the privacy of a bathroom stall, I carefully remove the intruder from my person. And within an instant I am free, liberated, fundamentally soothed.
I walk down the hallway past countless cubicles filled with anxious overachieving assistants typing furiously on their computers while answering, placing, and coordinating calls with their Bluetooth headsets. Imprisoned by their restrictive garments. I float past them feeling light, buoyant. My dress swaying across my legs and up my thighs like soft velvety butterfly wings flapping across my skin. The comfort that this absence of underwear affords me comes as a great surprise. And what’s more, the satisfaction of standing in front of my boss, reciting a list of missed calls with nothing but a thin layer of material between us is more than I could have hoped for. Screw the eyelashes. I was living out a most daring daydream. I was going to work without my underwear on.
The day passed like any other unremarkable day to the unenlightened. But I had my little secret and it painted the sterile impersonal office with rose-colored light.
With a mere two weeks of experience working in the pompous, ego driven, soul sucking Ad world, as I’ve come to label it, I didn’t make much effort to get to know my colleagues. On either side of my cubicle sat two very different and equally disinterested brown-nosers. There was Broderick. A Harvard grad with a penchant for stockpiling frozen venti lattes containing eight splenda a piece into a mini fridge at his feet. And there was Tammy. A, shall I admit it, well-rounded seemingly normal Penn State girl from the country. With my newfound confidence, I decide to join Broderick and Tammy on our exit from “Purgatory.”
We exit through the loading dock, from a door relegated to all assistants and general peons of the company. I lead the way while talking about this and that. Nothing of real importance. Nothing of substance. Which is why I’m completely caught off guard as the toe of my cheap sandal latches on to one of those bastard grates. And without the decency of a warning, my body flings forward, falling head first down the sharp jagged steps. In a classic, slow motion life-flashing-before-your-eyes moment, I feel my dress billow up over my bottom, and a cold rush of industrial air shoot into my nether regions. Instead of breaking my fall with my hands, I use them to try and cover the various holes that are being showcased to Tammy, Broderick and god knows who else standing above. I let my shins do all of the slowing as I skid down all seven steps, to the land on the ground below.
I lay in a mortified heap at the bottom of the steps, giving my best shot at a Houdini disappearing act but of course failing miserably. I was still there all right, surrounded by security guards inspecting my bleeding shins amongst other things. I tug at my dress, obviously and abundantly too short now. Had it shrunk on me? I viciously grip the bottom hem of the dress and tug it over my thighs. My teeth are clenched. I’m raging with humiliation inside. An overly cautious security guard fires up his walkie and calls for a medic. Tammy reaches into my bag to find my cell phone.
“Is there someone we can call for you?” she asks. And in another classic slow-motion life-flashing-before-your-eyes moment I watch as her hand lowers into my bag and undoubtedly lands on my crumpled panties lying just below the surface.
I yell out in a desperate effort to foil her discovery. “I’m fine. It’s cool. It’s just a little blood. I don’t need a medic.” I was angry at everything attached to me. My shins for looking so pitiful and bloody. My hands for not doing their job in magically stopping the forward trajectory of my fall and gracefully lifting me up from the steps like little bird wings. My feet and shoes for obvious reasons. And that dress. That goddamn dress. For convincing me that I was safe. That we could share in a little secret together. We could tell the story to close girlfriends in the days to come about how we got away with fooling them all. Fooling those buttoned up, festooned, ridiculous execs who take their jobs too seriously. We could reminisce how we pranced around the office in my bare ass, above it all. Above the posturing and self-important formalities that only a group of weaklings would abide by.
But that was no longer the story I could tell. Because my feet had failed me. My hands had abandoned me. And worst of all my dress had callously convinced me that it was on my side, covering my back.
“Where’s Broderick?” I ask my new confidante, forced into her role by association.
“He ran off,” Tammy said.
“Did you see anything?”
“No. I just looked up and he was gone.”
I inched closer, “I mean, did you see anything. When I fell?”
Tammy backs off, suddenly realizing that the personal space we were sharing under the given question and impending answer was a little too close for comfort.
In that one gesture I realize that she saw everything. The whole enchilada. The entire buffet with two sides and a dessert. I set my shaking hands down on the ground and slowly lift myself from the grate. My adrenaline temporary numbing the pain from my shredded legs. I peer up to find Tammy still standing there, at a safe distance, but she’s still there, waiting for me.
I limp beside her toward the parking garage, waiting impatiently for her to say something, to give me a signal, a thumbs up or thumbs down. To reassure me that it was between us. But she doesn’t say anything.
As I walk closer to her, I blurt out, “I don’t always do that. I mean, I never do. I’m not one of those gross girls who goes to school without underwear.” I laugh nervously encouraging a rise from her. “Sometimes they’re just too tight.”
But Tammy says nothing. She silently walks toward our cars, parked serendipitously close to each other. Tammy slips her key into the door lock in a way that signals she is about to say something. I watch carefully. She opens her mouth to speak. I lean closer. This is the most important moment in the world, at this moment, I need to hear exactly what she is going to say.
“I know this great place in the Valley. They do awesome waxes. And for cheap,” Tammy blurts, in a nonchalant, surprisingly off-puttingly, non-judgmental way.
I stand there shocked. All I can muster up is a geeky overtly eager nod. “Okay. Yeah, cool. I’ll get the number from you,” I respond, followed by an acute internal scolding.
Tammy shrugs as she opens her car door. “Maybe we can go together sometime.”
I watch her duck into the car as I stand there, unexpectedly relieved by the casual discourse. I turn to my car feeling surprisingly numbed by what just happed. As a victim of my own nightmarish daydream, the outcome wasn’t all that dissatisfactory when I really think about it. Hell, I may have even made a friend.
As I open the door to my car, immersed in self-realization, I hear the sound of screeching tires behind me. I whip around to find Broderick in his driver’s seat, inches away from barreling into Tammy’s car. My eyes catch Broderick, looking over at me. His face is pale, spooked, like he’s seen a ghost. And in another slow-motion life-flashing-before-your-eyes moment, I watch Broderick shield his virgin eyes from my gaze and speed away, practically clipping Tammy’s bumper off.
As Broderick and Tammy trail away, I stand alone in the parking garage; the pain from my fall, paired with the growing humiliation of being caught by Broderick rises up within me. Surprisingly more acute than the numbness that preceded it moments earlier. And I think to myself, maybe I should go back to picking my eyelashes and leave the rest alone.
A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Leslie Rathe currently lives in San Francisco and LA where she writes and directs. Four feature screenplays, five short films, two commercials, and two short documentaries are among her credits. Her films have showcased with IFC, Gen Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Leslie is currently prepping for her feature film debut while continuing to write content for film, TV, and the web.