ILLUSION: An instance of a wrong or misinterpreted perception of a sensory experience.
Barry GJ Quinn
For the Everything Is Everything Award
She looks in the mirror and sees somebody different staring back. She doesn’t recognise him.
His cheeks are rounded and his eyelashes are thin and short, framing emerald eyes. A faint shadow of stubble spreads like fire across his jawline. She wishes it was fire; that way it would burn away everything. A look of pain adorns his face, a perpetual look that only vanishes when he does.
So she starts her daily routine, all the while staring into his eyes. They are the only thing she cannot change. They’re his, and they always will be. She feels a stab of horror at this realisation and hastily spreads the blusher onto her pallid skin. She coats it on thick, anything to mask the man beneath. She paints her transformation, strengthening her illusion of herself. The stubble is thin and she wonders whether she can go another day without shaving. It could easily be hidden beneath the makeup. But she decides against it. She has to conceal him completely, so she shakes the bottle of foam and squirts a globule onto her recently manicured hands. She presses it to her face and a white beard forms instantly. She feels repulsed, and hastily draws the razor down her jowls.
Next comes the false eyelashes. She always struggles with these, but she has to apply them. His are too short. They aren’t feminine and she craves femininity. So she struggles. They fall into her gaping eyes more than once, and she has to blink them out. Her eyes water, but she continues unimpeded. It will all be worth it when he is gone.
Once the eyelashes are on she looks more like herself. She bats them; they flutter daintily like little butterflies and she can already feel her confidence growing, her femininity spreading. She puts a little eyeshadow on, but not too much – she doesn’t want to go completely overboard. This isn’t drag, nor an act. This isn’t illusion; it is real – to her, at least.
This isn’t him; it’s her.
She returns to his rounded cheeks and applies a powder highlighter to her cheekbones. She rubs it in and stops for a moment to take in her appearance. The highlighter causes her bones to pop slightly, making them look more profound. More feminine. She likes how it looks and repeats the procedure on her jawline, applying a darker tone to make it stand out more. That’s what this is for her; a procedure, a relentless but necessary procedure. Only then does she feel herself.
Last is her lips. She coats them in red, blood red which glistens beneath the bright bulb above. She smacks them, and only then does a faint smile spread across her thin lips. She is nearly there.
The skullcap presses painfully tight around her head but it is necessary. It hides everything beneath, and it helps when applying her wig. Its blonde and bushy and falls well past her shoulders. It sits on the mannequin head, awaiting her like a crown. It will coronate her a woman. For her that is the best bit, the most important element of her transformation – the application of her wig. She spent hundreds on it; it feels like real hair. It helps her feel like her. But she must prepare before.
She wipes around his hairline, not to protect his hair, but to protect her skin. The skin feels instantly refreshed, instantly dry. To this she applies the wig glue with a small makeup brush and waits a few moments for it to dry. She can feel her trepidation threading throughout her, empowering her almost. Its a warming sensation. She feels excited because her transformation is almost complete. He is almost gone. Finally she takes her crown.
She’s a dab hand at applying her wig now – she does it so often. It falls into place almost unnaturally, as though this was the hair she was always meant to have. Instantly she feels like herself. She presses the edges into place and pushes pins through the hair into his beneath to secure it in place. She shakes her head.
She looks in the mirror and sees somebody different staring back. She recognises her.
She stands and turns to her full-length mirror. The face she see’s is feminine and pretty, painted to perfection. It jars with the body beneath. Wide shoulders, a bulging Adam’s apple, a flat chest. Her eyes slowly move downwards but she refuses to release the tears that well. It’ll ruin her makeup. So she blinks them away as she stops at his crotch. She can bare to look upon his body just, just, but she cannot look upon his penis. She cannot bare to see it hanging and so she always wears underwear to hide it. It bulges though and she hates it. It shouldn’t be there, it doesn’t belong to her. It is his, all his, not a part of her. It shouldn’t be attached to her body. She doesn’t use it, not how it is meant to be used anyway. She’s never used it for that. She wouldn’t. She can’t. She finds no pleasure in it because the very thought of it repulses her.
She turns away. She cannot do anything about it just yet. She has tried to tuck it between her legs, or tape it to her stomach, but nothing works. It is a constant reminder of everything she hates about herself. Once she is in her dress everything will feel alright. The dress she has chosen for tonight floats around her waist and this will help conceal her bulge, she knows. She has shaven her legs and she wants to show them off. Why shouldn’t she? She isn’t harming anyone.
She steps into the dress and pulls it up, up past his penis, and hooks the straps over his wide shoulders. They don’t look so wide now that she is in the dress; it is as though the dress creates an illusion, at least to her. Other’s may still see her freakishly large shoulders, but she no longer does. And that’s all that matters – that she see’s herself how she wants to be seen. What other’s see does not matter.
Finally she takes in her full form. A woman stares back at her, a woman who appears slightly differently every time she manifests. One day her cheeks are rosier, the next her eyebrows are darker. It all depends on the makeup and the mood of the woman beneath, but today the woman is happy. And it shows.
She beams as she steps out into the night. She totters on her heels, heels which draw her up, and she stumbles more than once. Walking requires patience and practise but she knows she must master it one day. She has to live like this for a year; that is what they said. A year at least. So she continues stumbling, continues falling, continues hurting. It’ll all be worth it when she can transform for the final time.
No abuse is hurled. No expletives are calls. No punches are thrown.
The woman appears as she is: a woman. He is masked beneath the surface. He is transformed.