Me As A Geisha by Frances Ulloa

I’m not sure who gave me
the tube of Cherry Red Lipstick
so perfectly hued
that my lips
looked black and blue
a bruise that had never been kissed

The cylinder of wax
was more a purple blue-red
a ruby stone encased in tin
I wore a slash of it on my lips
faithfully daily
to period one American Lit
and mouthed along to Annabel Lee
who lived by the sea

I wore it ceremonially
to class where the prom princess
stared and whispered evil to her friends
To theatre where my friends loved
my bold lip gash
To the library where I hid in the stacks
and wrote about Jay Gatsby’s world
and the fleur de lis on Milady’s arm
and how Aragon and the other nine
would come and save me
from my darkness
Where even cherry red lipstick
could not color my pale pure white world
and curve my lips into a sweet angelic smile

I wore it the day I met
my first boyfriend
born and raised with the island wealthy
where he learned to speak pristine English
and laugh at my long voweled accent
He had an unusual appreciation
for Nietzsche and Nabokov
and said my cherry red lips
reminded him of Lolita
I curved my mouth
into what he thought was pleasure
for being compared to a literary goddess

I was almost out of the scarlet wax
when my Punahou beau
took me to a party
where several Buff and Blu teens
sat in a sunken Tantalus living room
drinking imported beer
watching a strange movie
about a model and her rapist
laughing as they grew drunker and bolder
as they saw her tied to a four-post bed
cherry red lipstick smeared
on her frightened face

I didn’t want to watch
Hemingway’s granddaughter
being violated on screen
I left for the bathroom
Punahou boy calling me with his Hawaii Kai suave
I locked the door behind me
and scrubbed off my lipstick
before my handsome fox could get any more ideas

But I wore the last of the cherry red tube
of wax and resin
as I smiled at graduation
the ending of Lipstick
a vivid thought in my head
the scene where the model shot her
make-up loving attacker

I smiled with the last sheath of oil
from my cherry red stick
even as I knew my own invader
was still alive on the south side of my island
in his hill top home
but I was out of lipstick
and no longer cared

About Annabel Lee
or Lolita
or Milady
or the Fellowship of Nine
ever saving me from my cherry red
lipstick stained world

Wendie Burbridge is a published writer, playwright, and a teacher of literature and writing. She is a contributing editor at where she writes the travel column “Off The Rock” and does book reviews for “Hot Cocktail Reads.” She also writes the “Hawaii Five-0” blog “The Five-0 Redux” at the for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Originally from Hawai’i, she now lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

References: Punahou school, Lipstick starring Mariel Hemingway

Photo credit: Creative Commons License Me As A Geisha by Frances Ulloa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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