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The room smelled like wet earth. Mud, maybe clay, waited for us on the other side of the thick velvet curtain. It was a rich purple, like most of the decorations in the Spa. What wasn’t purple was either blue, blue-gray, or gold. They say those four colors represent the perfection we all should aspire for. They’re supposed to bring out our inner beauty and competitiveness. They say it’s all healthy. They want us to be jealous of each other so we can better identify our flaws and fix them.

Those that harbor no envy or jealous are looked at as deviants. They don’t go outside once people know who they are. People hate them for going against the Capital’s mission but I think they’re jealous of them. Nobody is perfect therefore how can one person be comfortable with mediocrity when they have such a title waiting for them? It’s a goal we are given the moment our feet touch the ground. I can’t remember a time when I felt okay with the way I looked. I always wanted to be better, have better, look better, impress people, especially my family, better. I didn’t know there was another way till I watched a girl on my street get attacked.

She was twelve, I was eight. It was innocent at first. The older kids on the block encircled her and began their taunting. It escalated when the adults came out. I watched as they told the kids what to do. They pushed her around, hit her, ripped her clothing, marred her skins with cuts and burns from a cigarette butt, and chopped her hair. She limped home silently as her pride lay on the sidewalk.

I thought she was pitiful back then. How could one person be so arrogant to think they were beautiful already? Trees were more appealing than her but now, as I sit waiting for my complimentary pre-surgery treatment, I only feel jealousy. She found beauty in her lankiness, her long, dull hair, and her pudgy face. Even now, though she has scars on her face and hands, she holds her head proudly.

She’s an outcast of Lux who lives as part of the Exime. They’re the ugly of our society, inside and out. They have free reign of town but most don’t venture past the security of their homes. Only those like that girl ever ventures out among the rest of us.

“Can I sit next to you?” asked a small girl.

I nodded. There was no reason to make friends. She was six, maybe eight, and already on her way to perfection. I’m ten years the girl’s senior and her competition.

Her mother stood off to the side. I could hear her going over her daughter’s schedule. After the surgery was a nail appointment then a new wardrobe and make-up. I turned my eyes to my own nails. They were immaculate as always but they were three days old. The manicure lost its shine. Maybe after the surgery I’d follow a similar schedule and freshen myself up. Maybe get my hair redone too. More curls and life this time. Then I can walk by those Exime and show them the error of their ways.

My name was called but I lingered to read the sign hanging on either side of the curtains.

Mediocrity is nothing to settle for. Beauty is life. Perfection is the goal. Reach out and grab it!

It made me smile. Perhaps I’d buy one and bring it to that girl. Maybe then she’d see she needed help. Being normal was nothing to be proud about.

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