As promised, here is the videoof me reading at the first-ever Chuck Palahniuk’s Midwest Story Nightin Youngstown, Ohio!!
And for those of you who would like to read along, below is the text…
Without further ado, here is SPLIT LIP.
by Maegan Heil
At the hospital, the nurses have got those looks on their faces where you can just forget about patient confidentiality.
Behind those raised eyebrows, behind the crinkled-up foreheads, already they’re cooking up the nicknames–what they’re gonna call you after you shed that paper gown and slide your legs back into those pants.
While they snap on the latex gloves, while they shine a light between your thighs, what’s running through their nursey brains is, How. How does this even happen?
How it happens is you’re lying on a table, sweating from the crotch down, while Olga or Helga or Whoever stands above you sprinkling powder on your pubes, telling you to hike a leg this way (smear, rip), pull a piece of skin that way (smear, rip). Pull it! Pull it taut, like a drum!
Smear, rip, smear, rip.
Smooth as the inside of your wrist when she’s done, but when she rings you up, it’s cha-ching, cha-ching, Daffy Duck with dollar signs in both eyes, we’re talking seafood dinner for two here.
So the next time you’re on the table, hands spreading your cheeks, legs splayed like some kind of crime scene chalk outline, you start to take notes.
You start to go, How hard could this be?
And instead of booking that next appointment with Olga or Helga or Whoever, you pop into Sally’s Beauty Supply.
Behind the register, the cashier folds a stick of Big Red into her mouth and nods you over to Aisle Two.
You come back with an armful of goods to dump on the counter, and when she cha-chings it all up, the damage is nothing–not compared to that lobster dinner Olga or Helga or Whoever’s charging.
Back home, you head for the bathroom. The bathroom ‘cause it’s got two mirrors: the full-length booty-slimmer that hangs from the back of the door, and the handheld vanity jobby, where your reflection is normal-sized on one side and zoomed-in on the other. And you better believe you’re gonna need both to do what you’re about to do single-handed.
On the bathroom counter, you spread out the goods: the powder, the popsicle sticks, the muslin strips, the warmer, the wax.
You peel back the plastic lid, careful not to goo up your fingers, but a dollop of wax clings anyway, trailing a mess to the floor that you’re gonna have to blow-dry off later if you want your security deposit back.
You plop the tin in the warmer, and just before you pop a squat on the toilet to hand-shear your lady locks down to proper waxing length, you click the warmer to ON.
There’s no temperature gauge on this thing, it is just OFF or ON, and you have got to watch it. Too hot, and, aside from burning the meat off your curtains, the consistency turns to soup, and if you’ve ever tried to scoop soup with a popsicle stick, well…
What you want is warm-hot, and how you get warm-hot is, once the bottom of the barrel begins to bubble, you click the switch to OFF and begin to stir. Stir until it scoops like honey, then smear a glob onto the skin, spreading the wax with the hair—in the direction the hair grows.
Next, take one of those muslin strips (which you have so smartly set out ahead of time so you do not find yourself fumbling with the package, frantically trying to free a unit of cloth before the smeared goop cools into a tearing-the-meat-off-your-curtain state).
Press the strip over the wax and smooth it flat–again, with the hair.
Then tuck your fingertips up and under the corner of the cloth, and in the opposite direction (deep breath), one, two—
At the salon, this is the part where Helga or Olga or Whoever builds up your confidence. You’ve been waxing your upper lip for years, and pain-wise, this is no different, not where she’s ripping out hair: along the outside of the pube zone, AKA the bikini line, where the edges of your underwear go, where the nerve endings aren’t so…alert.
Smear, rip, smear, rip.
Back in the bathroom, in front of the booty-slimmer mirror, you smear-rip this part standing, sometimes lunging both legs like a crab, sometimes leaning back beneath an imaginary limbo bar (how low can you go?)–whatever it takes to get your Chubby Checker taut.
One side (smear, rip) then the other (smear rip).
This side (smear, rip), then that (smear, rip), working your way in, until all that’s left is the undercarriage, and then, well…
You ever been to one of those restaurants where they have that hot wings challenge? Where if you mow down a gaggle of ghost-peppered drummies, they’ll pin your Polaroid to the wall?
When the waitress plops down the basket, just the smell of the sauce singes your nose hairs.
But you? You’re no quitter. You tell your brain to tell your mouth to chew. And swallow. Simple as that. That basket below you? It’s just chicken. You’ve had plenty of chicken in your day.
The undercarriage? That’s the part of the hot wings challenge where you suck a quick breath in out in out, and go, Let’s do this.
In the bathroom, the whole setup: the powder, the popsicle sticks, the muslin strips, the warmer, the wax, it all comes with you to the floor.
And that little vanity mirror?
Spin that spinner to zoom and plop it between your thighs.
Now lie on your back, like you’ve just fallen from a fourth story window.
Splat–one leg pointed to three o’ clock.
Splat–the other leg bent at the knee.
With one hand, reach beneath that magnified booty, up and through to just below where you’re about to wax, and pull it! Pull it taut, like a drum!
With the other hand, dip that popsicle stick into the jar. Now scoop and spread! No time to waste. Drop the stick in the tin and, with a mental clock ticking in your head, retrieve the muslin strip you so smartly set on your stomach ahead of time.
Nevermind the clammy hands, the sweat-coated hair follicles. No time for powder! Smooth the strip into place and, while you grip the corner of the cloth, tell your brain to tell the muscle above your elbow to tug. And yank.
You know this motion.
You know it by heart.
It’s the motion you made as a kid when every night Mom would come home with a family pack of raw chicken. An orange sticker taped to the top and the words, FRESH MEAT printed in black ink.
You’d stand at the sink peeling skin from the thighs.
Tug, yank. Tug, yank.
Same motion as you’re about to do to yourself on the floor of this very bathroom.
Call it muscle memory if you want. Just a tug and a yank. Just like chicken. Nothing to it. On three.
At the salon, this is the part where Olga presses four firm fingers on your freshly de-furred burger to alleviate the sting. But once you know what the sting feels like, once you know what to expect, well…
See, it’s not the removal of hair that hurts.
Estheticians like Helga and Olga know this. They know that the hair must be a quarter to half inch in length. That the wax temperature must be between 100 and 140 degrees, same as steak cooked medium-rare.
Olga and Helga get paid to yank that skin off your chicken so that DIY’ers like yourself don’t take too long to muster the meat–or worse, you’ve mustered the meat but smear-ripped too slow, and then, well…
You ever fall asleep with gum in your pubes?
Squirt a dollop. Squirt a bottle-sized dollop of Gigi’s Wax Remover (second ingredient, Mineral Spirits), into the gummed-up tangle.
Massage meat until curtains come free.
Avoid members of the opposite sex for days–better yet, weeks.
But isn’t that how it always happens with love? That the second you stop trimming your tenderloin in search of Mr. Right, ba-dum-tss–there he is, and the next thing you know, you’re at the bathroom counter, scootching your toothbrush to the side, wrapping up the cord on the hairdryer.
Mr. Right could give two damns about your lady locks.
He says things like, What’s a landing strip?
And, Brazilian…Hmm…You mean like the country?
Au naturale it is! For weeks, for months, for years…
But…maybe tomorrow is your birthday.
And sure, Mr. Right’s gonna to take you out for that seafood dinner your mouth’s been watering about, but maybe this birthday is one of those turn of the decade doozies. And what better way to hang on to your twenties then by ripping the hair out of its follicle, plus maybe Mr. Right could help–not like kinky–not like those dildo on a sawzall stories they whisper about in the hospital. Just to lend that extra hand you’ve always needed.
When you ask Mr. Right, he rolls up his sleeves, Daffy Duck with hearts in both eyes.
So you load up your arms and dump out all the supplies: the powder, the popsicle sticks, the muslin strips, the warmer, the wax.
You peel back the plastic lid, careful not to goo up your fingers, but a dollop of wax clings anyway, trailing a mess to the floor that you’re gonna have to blow-dry off someday, when you get around to it, ‘cause Honey, you and Mr. Right own this place.
You pop a squat on the toilet and click the button to ON.
You flush your wool down the bowl, and the rest is easy, like a game of Limbo.
Start right in along the bikini line (smear, rip), just like old times (smear, rip), showing Mr. Right (smear, rip), how to lay down the wax with the hair (smear, rip), how to smooth the muslin strip nice and flat (smear, rip), how to tuck your fingertips under the corner of the cloth.
You smear-rip from the outside in until your muff puff is gone and all that’s left is the undercarriage.
Then it’s down to the floor. Splay those legs like some kind of crime scene chalk outline and give Mr. Right the nod.
Mr. Right has got this (smear).
Mr. Right is the new Olga or Helga or Whoever (smear), and he’s got a good set of hands (smear), he’s a drummer actually (smear), which, oh yeah, that reminds you, you totally forgot to pull it! Pull the skin taut, like a—
Did I say sting?
What I meant was burn.
Like a paper cut smothered in ghost-pepper sauce.
You look up at Mr. Right and his mouth is an O and his eyes are Daffy Duck with egg yolks dripping into the whites, and when you reach down to press four firm fingers on your freshly de-furred burger, he grabs the inside of your wrist and says, Don’t.
You ask for the vanity mirror, the handheld jobby with glass on both sides, and Mr. Right shakes his head, No.
Give me the mirror, you tell him.
You spin the spinner to zoom.
You spin the spinner to normal.
And then you hand it back.
Because suddenly, with the soft tissue protruding like a boiled lobster claw, with the pink stuff oozing like butter from the flapping flesh where your lips, once twins, have adopted a sister (triplets…), seafood doesn’t sound so good.
With a washcloth folded against your fileted fish, you hover above the seat while Mr. Right floors it to the ER.
In the waiting room, you spell out your name onto a stack of forms. Underline, circle, and initial below the paragraph with the patient confidentiality clause.
And then you tell them: A female nurse please.
Because over your dead body are you gonna let another dude see why you’re the girl they’re calling SPLIT LIP.
A.K.A. My First Entry in Chuck Palahniuk’s Story Night Contest!! With the winner being the person with the most likes on their Video; winners announced in May.
Special thanks to Kerri Rickards and the gang at Cedars West End for creating and hosting this event. The Midwest really, really needed this, especially in January. Thanks for taking the winter blahs away. Oh yeah—thanks also to Chuck Palahniuk! Big thanks! For creating opportunities for writers!!
Youngstown ROCKS! Cedars West End ROCKS! Can’t wait to see you again on February 15th.