Tosca Giustini

Betty pulled on her cigarette. Her face inhaled a look of pure satisfaction. Standing quietly, she listened to a drunk man explain the physics behind what he called the whirlpool of the sky. It was 2 AM on a Tuesday. They stood on the sidewalk outside of the local pub.

She didn’t correct him. A whirlpool is a considerably strong body of water created by opposing currents. Black holes simply aren’t. She was peeved. But instead of showing him this, she played along. She giggled appropriately when he told her that his butthole was a reverse black hole, and nodded politely when he explained that black holes had nearly perfect black body radiation spectra.

She is into this, he thought, and took a step closer.

He was attracted to her. She was hot. Her backlit silhouette made her look like a top model. The rays of light from the lamp post curved around the shape of her breasts, her waist and her legs. The contour of her body matched the shape of Tyra Banks he had seen in a magazine when he was 14.

Once she was done inhaling her cigarette, she threw it on the ground and crushed it with her foot. She politely excused herself and stepped into the crowded bar.

In the bar, her body radiated light. Betty was a local celebrity. People recognized her as the 2011 winner of Miss Teen Vermont. She was a star in Vermont, bright and hot, innocent and radiant. In the summer of 2011, her fans revolved around her in awe at press conferences. In shopping malls she would stand on a stage, all eyes gravitating around her sash. In parades, she waved at the people who smiled and cheered as if her existence somehow kept them alive. Her grace and beauty reminded people of a prettier world, one where all humans weren’t just tiny creatures hanging on to a tiny rock. She gave them something over which to come together, something to gravitate around.

2012 rolled around, and she became insignificant; once the TV commercial and parade offers stopped, Betty developed a bad drinking habit. One emancipation from her parents, two dramatic public breakups and three DUIs later, Betty’s presence seemed to have expanded into a massively bigger and less enticing version of its former self.

She sat at the bar and ordered a drink. Betty wanted to drink the void away,  and grew increasingly louder and sloppier with each drink. Her face became redder from the drinking as people’s awareness of her worsened. She passionately monologued about red giants, and shook her body in excitement to demonstrate a supernova explosion. She babbled to men about nothing in particular, as men stared at her breasts and offered her more to drink.

The drunk man from outside bought her three tequila shots. Blackout.

The shell on her face seemed eerily natural. She was normal looking. No one would ever have guessed that she had an inch of makeup up on. She planned it that way, every morning ritualistically applying her foundation. Betty never let people see her acne. Using makeup was her way of prohibiting any eyes from seeing her true self. Betty often told herself that she used makeup to protect others.

She once sat at a dermatologist’s desk.

“I’ve tried everything.” She rubbed the intersection of her thumb and her index finger. “The face wash made my skin too dry, so I tried the cream. The cream made his skin too moist, so I tried the ointments. That made the puss turn green. I got herbs, that didn’t do anything. I am really at my wits end. Please doctor. Help me!”

She whaled, embarrassed. A tear oozed down her cheek.

“And after all this treatment how does your skin feel?” the doctor asked his patient.

“Irritated. But it’s mostly—well, I’m insecure now. And—”

“Really I’ve seen a lot worse. What treatment are you taking now?”

“I do the face wash in the morning. Then I put on the cream. Recently I’ve been applying concealer, you know— for the insecurity. I take the herbs in the morning with my tea. And then I do the face wash a second time at lunch, and a third time after dinner. The ointment goes on before bed.” Betty was out of breath. The doctor scrambles to write it all down.

“Let’s have a look, shall we?” said the doctor. The situation forced his lips to painfully stretch upwards at the corners.

Betty rose reluctantly, and follows the doctor to the examination room.