Hmmm, it’s time, I whispered to my reflection. Two hairy caterpillars stared back at me from the place where my eyebrows used to sit. They were so fat and juicy I figured they must have eaten my real ones. I furrowed my brow in confusion, and the little grubs plummeted forward, nearly head-butting each other. Yawning wide, I rubbed the crusty sleep out of my eyes. The caterpillars shot to the top of my forehead and dove backwards into two gloriously synchronised arcs. I squeezed hard at the spattering of blackheads near the corners of my nose, scrutinising my face. My blue-grey eyes were deep set, underlined by two dark crescent moons. The end of my nose hooked up like a downhill ski jump, which tugged on my top lip just enough to reveal two rat-like teeth. My jaw was boxy, the kind of shape one would associate with a dumb footballer, and looked like it had been haphazardly jammed on my otherwise petite face. A large freckle stood out just under my right eye that my mum had always told me was a beauty spot. My left ear was good, but running down the right one was a ridge of bumps that looked a bit like a miniature mountain-scape. My bright blonde hair was pulled back into a samurai bun on the top of my head, and my lips were still the tiniest bit pink from the night before. The face staring back at me was far from perfect, but the only things that had ever really bothered me about it were my eyebrows. From a disturbingly early age they had resembled my dad’s - a similar texture to straw, and so long they flicked up at the ends to make him look like a wise owl. But like his salt and pepper flecked hair, they had somehow always managed to look distinguished, alluding to cleverness and a patient nature.
I strode down the footpath in the springtime sun, narrowly missing a fresh caramel-coloured dog turd. It constantly surprised me how much Bushwick felt like Vietnam. The warmer weather had lured out a handful of street vendors. Mouth-watering barbeque smoke billowed off a stack of charred kebabs, whisking me away to Hanoi’s old quarter. Two hunched ladies chortled jollily as they deftly sliced fresh mango with a cleaver. There were about 40 beauty salons on Knickerbocker, so I walked into the fist one I saw. Eyebrows $6, the sign said. Inside were two Indian ladies. One had luscious waist-length hair, thin-rimmed square glasses and a plump made-up face. She was deep in concentration, hovering about an inch from the face of a young girl – who was wearing gold hoop earrings and kicking her ugg-booted feet around. It looked more like a lobotomy than a lash tint, but I found her professionalism comforting. The other had mousey brown tight curls, a grey hoodie and blue-denim jeans. She was thin and her olive skin was creased and clammy, like one of those used grease wipes you get at KFC. She looked to be the older of the two, but I’d say they were both around forty. The plump one glared up at me. Hi, just a wax and tint, I said. No wax, only thread, she said. You sit. She waved a henna’d hand towards her accomplice. Clearly neither of them spoke much English. The mousey one gave me a shy smile as I lay back on the operating table. I’d sort of like them thick if possible, I said. Just cleanup, she replied. Thread ok? She asked. I’d never had my eyebrows threaded before, but I’d heard it was great. Her voice was soft and warm. I nodded and closed my eyes, listening to the grainy Bollywood music blaring out of an old wireless on the counter nearby. Owch! I hissed. Sorry, she said, pulling away like a scared cat. It always hurt first times. It vill get better. It’s ok, I replied. Let’s just get it over with.
I was 16 before I realised the power of a well-manicured brow. One weekend my friend Hannah was having a house party few streets away from school. As usual my parents had ignored my pleas to attend. Once all our lights were out, I put on a shirt disguised as a dress and underlined my eyes with cheap makeup. I could hear my mum saying, Are you really wearing that? I can practically see what you had for breakfast. No mum, I’m trying to eat it. Well, at least let me iron it, she would’ve said. I stormed into my friend’s room, clutching a bottle of wine I’d nicked from a school event where all the boarders had to wait tables. You’re not sneaking out are you? She challenged. Yes, I am, and you are helping me. I’ll also need you to let me in in the morning. And can you fix my eyebrows? She sighed, before patting the pillow on her lap indicating I should lay down. She plucked and tweezed furiously before colouring them in with a dark pencil and slicking them down with a smear of hair gel. I was good to go. We crept into the bathroom. My heart was pounding somewhere under my tongue. There was only one way out of our dorm, which involved a brazen dash down about four flights of exposed stairs to the shelter of the pool fence. If it weren’t for the cat-piss flavoured wine, I doubt I would have done it. But I hoisted myself onto the washing machines and started removing the glass louvers from the bathroom window. I slipped out like an alley cat and dropped silently to the floor on the other side. I’m all good, I whispered. Breathing in a deep gulp of fresh night air, I raced to the bottom of the stairs. The security lights had come on behind me, but by that stage I was already breathing hard into the pool fence. I glanced quickly towards the house where our boarding mistress lived, but the windows were pitch black.
Gulping down a frozen piña colada to relax my nerves, I scanned the party for Declan. We’d made out twice and I’d reluctantly given him an awkward blowjob once in the boys’ toilets the weekend before. We were basically boyfriend girlfriend. He was a year younger than me and inter-grade dating was taboo. But he had Paul Walker’s eyes and Brad Pitt’s complexion, so I’d made an exception. I kept flipping open my tiny pink phone, but still nothing. How the fuck was I going to sneak back into the dorm in the morning? This was a bad idea. As I was making a solid dent on piña colada number two, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around kneading the brain freeze out of my forehead and grimaced up at Declan. Hey girl, he said. Owwwwwwwww, I replied.
Before I knew it, Declan was lying naked on top of my fully clothed body. I struggled to breathe under the weight of his torso. My eyes wandered around the room. About a million baby Hannah’s all stared back at me. We must have been in her parents’ room. I didn’t tell him I was a virgin. But how he hadn’t guessed from my dugong-like behaviour was beyond me. I was the only one of my friends who hadn’t done it yet. I didn’t even want to have sex. I just wanted to have had sex. But now that it was finally happening, I’d no idea how to make it stop. When I was little, I assumed sex was something that happened for the first time on your wedding night. And it scared the shit out of me to the point I’d vowed to never marry. How did anyone know what to do? It was the only time in my life I’d been grateful not to have a penis, because with it, I figured came the weight of sexual responsibility. I knew as girl I had periods and childbirth to look forward to, but seriously, I wanted no part of that sex game. Babe, we should probably stop hooking up, Declan said after he rolled off my mortified body. People will start to think we’re, like… together. So, this was the big shebang. The following day I read Harry Potter on my lunch break and played netball with my friends after school. I worked quietly through my homework. I called my parents that night and made hot milo before getting into bed. Everything happened as usual. But I knew the next time I hugged my parents, it wouldn’t feel quite the same.
All of a sudden I felt a slight breeze on my face and a shadow cross my eyelids. I opened them just in time to see the plump lady literally slapping away the hand of the mousey lady, who’d moved onto my tint. She shoved her aside and snarled at her in Indian. I didn’t need a translator to tell me it was something along the lines of, you’re doing it wrong, idiot! Why did I ever hire you? The mousey lady just stood there looking at her feet while the foreign tirade continued for a solid ten minutes – my forehead the battleground. Each second my eyebrows turned a darker shade of charcoal, I felt my anger growing. Why was she allowing herself to be treated this way? Was she that desperate to please her boss? I wanted so badly to tell the plump woman to fuck off and leave her alone, she was doing fine on her own. Finally she washed the dye off my brows, which by then resembled George Clooney’s. At the counter I gave the mousey woman a fat tip and patted her shoulder. Don’t worry, I said. It’ll get better.
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup coconut
- 1 cup of your favourite muesli (or oats)
- ½ cup chia seeds
- 1 cup pitted dates, soaked in water for an hour, then strained
- 1 teaspoon vanilla powder
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- ½ cup coconut milk
- Cottage cheese, honey and crumbled pistachios to serve
- In a food processor, combine coconut and oats into a coarse flour and place in a large bowl. Do the same for the date mix.
- Combine all ingredients. Add baking powder last.
- Grease a muffin tray with coconut oil. ¾ fill each hole before baking in a medium oven for about 25 minutes or springy to touch.
- Serve topped with cottage cheese, a drizzle of honey and crumbled pistachios.