Eyebrow Pencil

I found it in her drawer. I entered her vacant bedroom, opened the top wooden drawer, where her makeup used to be, and a small brown pencil rolled out from the back. The sound reminded me of a bowling alley as the ball comes rolling down the rail beneath the floor. The ball would appear out from the dark and strike the other balls. So did the pencil against the front wooden panel. I picked it up, pulled open the clear plastic cap and then I remembered. Even in her old age she liked to wear makeup. On this one special occasion when I had come to visit her, she had asked me to draw in her eyebrows. I remember being a bit nervous, hesitating to apply the dark creamy pencil to her thin translucent skin. I remember the slightest pressure appeared far too dark and harsh. She looked at herself in the mirror, and without changing her expression said, “Det dah.” (“That’s fine.”) I’m sure it wasn’t how she would normally draw it herself, and was perhaps a bit surprised about it. She did not say. Instead she grabbed her keys and bible and lead me out the front door.

That day at church she would tell all her elder friends that I had done her eyebrows. They would “Ooh” and “Ahh” and compliment how much younger it had made her look. And she would chortle in that soft high pitch chuckle that always made her shoulders bob up and down. I watched as her brows would wrinkle and move into an incline as she sang her hymns, her voice always audible over the small congregation- A church she had been loyal to since I was a little girl. The elderly women spoke of my sister and I when we were small children and how fast time had passed. This is all the adults ever talked about. My grandmother would hold my hand proudly and look up at me in search for the little girl she once knew.

Her gaze never lasted for more than a few seconds and always with a tinge of hurt and sadness that I didn’t understand. They often met my own with a certain kind of distance and now I know that she saw something I couldn’t hide. The years between us had brought change, and while she remained more or less the same, I had been the one growing and changing. I was no longer the 9 year old girl she so loved and cherished. And each year I went to visit, more time had passed, and more growth had thickened the wall between us. Within the furrow of her brow, deep within her gaze she knew that she no longer knew me. The dark lines that I had drawn on her brows were as strange on her face as I had become a stranger to her.

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