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Aditi Mukund

The Woman Behind the Counter by Aditi Mukund


Makeup salesladies can take one look at the lipstick you buy, and tell you whether you’re in love or not.
She’s the only one who knows that when you say, “Um, I’m looking for something light coverage, maybe a little dewy, and what kind of nude lipstick do you have?” you’re probably going out on your first date, and he’s probably the boring kind that nude lipsticks are usually reserved for. And then you go back to get some black eyeshadow, and she knows he pulled the regular you-have-beautiful- eyes (even though you probably don’t) which made you read some article about how you could make them ‘pop’. But then you walked back, sheepishly, to return the eyeshadow (“doesn’t suit my eye colour”) and she rolls her eyes and places it in a drawer full of black eyeshadow, all returned by girls who went out with boring men who told them they had beautiful eyes.
Then you go back in the third time, and now things are interesting, it’s obvious that he’s good looking, because now you want a red lipstick, but ‘nothing too loud’. She hears you. You want to have sex, but you don’t want him to know that you want to have sex.
And she sees you the fourth time, and now she knows you’re a goner. You pick up a more muted rose pink shade for your lips, something he wants you to meet his parents in (he thought the red was hot, but then it was all over the sheets, and that was hard to get off). You think you’re in love because of the glint in your eyes and the smile on your lips, but no, any saleslady worth her money knows that it’s in the cheeks. She knows you’re in love because your cheeks glow with a pink that she herself cannot describe. It’s not the neon pink that screams, “I got fucked in the back of a car,” (which your boyfriend is too missionary for), and it’s not the bubble-gum pink that’s usually reserved for a breathy “he texted me back”,( which you’re not  into anymore, thank god). She knows you’re in love because your cheeks are the colour of late night I-miss-you-babys, and you’re-perfect-sweethearts, and the boxes of chocolate and bouquets of your favourite flowers. They’re the result of a symphony between roses, orgasms, and love letters.
But that doesn’t last too long, does it? Roses die, orgasms aren’t forever, and love letters can be burnt. Soon, you’re buying concealer for your under-eye bags. Colour corrector for the stress-induced acne breakout. Bronzer, to bring some life back into your sallow cheeks. All sorts of ‘lifting’ and ‘firming’ creams for lines and wrinkles which didn’t exist a month ago. You don’t know this, but she set aside some mascara for you when it all began. Waterproof, because now there will be tears. She knew all along, of course.
But then you come back in, much later, and you do her proud without knowing it. You buy a deep plum lipstick and a turquoise blue eyeliner and nail polish the colour of Fanta, all of which usually scares the boring men away, and somewhere, she knows that you have stumbled upon a very liberating kind of relief, a freedom you always had but chose not to use, of wearing exactly the kind of makeup that made you happy. It helps with the sales, too (close to nobody had ever bought that lipstick before.)
But then, another woman’s voice interrupts her thoughts- “Can I have something peachy nude for the lips?” it says. “I’ve got a date tonight”, and you don’t know why she sighs before reaching out to get the box with the nude lipstick.

Aditi Mukund is a 19-year-old who is equal parts terrified and equal parts excited about what the world has in store for her. She is one hundred irrelevant tweets away from being a journalist. The only way she can write in the third person is by imagining that it’s what people will say about her at her funeral. Part of her hopes that that made you uncomfortable, because that is one of the few things she can do very well (apart from winged eyeliner). She is also probably the only millennial who simply doesn’t see the point of Snapchat.