Vignettes of Ruin and...

Adoris Odious (the God Who Is More Than Just Vain)

In Pride on March 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm

“I am going to have to go home.”

“But you live so far away. You can’t stand for hours at a stop for a bus that never arrives. You can’t catch a tram that is full of junkies this time of night. You can’t catch a train because the stations are full of drunks. You can’t get a taxi because it will cost you a fortune!”

“No, no, I definitely can’t stay. Look, it’s…it’s because I forgot my make-up!”

This is what I tell friends who apparently like my company. They laugh like they think (or hope) I might be joking, and I smile to indulge them. But it is true.

I will not step outside without the illusion I can create with make up. I cannot leave without perfectly silken hair. And it is better to leave late at night where my now dishevelled clothing won’t have to face the unbearable exposure to a day full of sunlight tomorrow.

So I stand for fifty minutes at a bus stop in sub zero temperatures, refusing to give up and walk the half a kilometre back to the warm golden home of friends. I finally make it to the tram and I spend another fifty minutes on it, trundling into town, trying to be invisible to the prowling gang of rejects slithering down the aisle. But when I make it to my destination, the next train isn’t due for twenty seven minutes. I can hardly feel my fingers, they bluntly miss the appropriate keys on my phone when I try to text my friends to tell them I am alright. arjjoraldakjkdjoellsgfngo, I almost tell them before I give up and put it away. An old man lurches towards me. His skin is dark with dirt and he smells dreadful. He extends his greasy palm and his yellowed fingernails are long, cracked and full of crud.

“Have yeh got any money yeh can give t’me so I can…” He hesitates a moment and I see Intoxicatus rearing up behind him, pouring his fervour for alcohol into a mind that has already been devastated by him. The old man shudders and struggles and eventually splutters- “…and I can… spend the night in a hostel.”  Intoxicatus dissipates like smoke. His battle with his god over, he appears to relax a bit and briefly comes back to reality. His open palm falters and he looks around, like he doesn’t know how he got here. I lower my eyes and shake my head. I cannot help him. I cannot even help myself.

Finally, I am home, so happy to be home. I immediately check how I look in the mirror. Very acceptable! Because for the entire journey home, as the cold seeped into my bones, vapour stuck to my skin and the breeze knotted my hair, I felt ugly. Anyone who looked at me, I thought, they could see those spots I thought I covered up, why did that stranger have to sit so close to me, they could see my split ends and my tired red eyes, the tear in my coat, the sole peeling away from my shoe? But looking in the mirror now, I can’t see any of those things. So why would they? I am polished and unblemished. Pristine and pretty. It is a brief respite from trying to appear attractive.

Just as I pull away from my reflected image, some movement behind me paralyses me with fear. I should be alone, but clearly, something else is in here with me. I spin around to face it. But there is nothing. No one. As the hammering of my heart begins to calm, I wonder what fear looks like. I turn to the mirror and then I see her, standing right behind me.

Odious, the God of Self Loathing.

She is a fantasically horrible sight, her despair at herself manifested physically; though living, her body is fraught with decay. Her mottled skin sags and oozes, her bones are jutting through, her hair is sparse and straggled, encrusted sores score her scalp. Her nose has rotted away and as she smiles, a bitter expression of self-realisation, her receded gums expose unnaturally long stained teeth. She stares at me with deep twin recesses where her eyes once were. I know why she is here. To remind me that even when I feel alright, she is barely concealed beneath the surface.

My encounter with Odious changes how things look in the morning. I can hardly even bear to look at myself, I shrink back from the stark honesty of the mirror, I cower before its merciless truth. I cannot believe I ever thought I looked remotely acceptable…I am a travesty, unworthy of being considered or loved. I don’t think I will leave the house today.

Sitting at my dresser, it’s top covered in eyeshadows, gels, pencils and brushes, words materialise in my mind. You don’t have to feel this way. It is Adoris, the God of Compulsive Vanity. She gracefully sits down beside me. She looks exactly how I wish I looked! Creamy skin touched with rose, luscious richly coloured hair, she glows with health and vigour. But then she turns her gaze on me and I cannot believe it. Her eye sockets are dark and empty, but her stare is no less chilling. I recognise her instantly. She is Odious. Odious is Adoris. They are one and the same. She makes sure I never stop striving too look good or feel bad- that is the black power she feeds on, and oh, how she has feasted on me!

“You are an artist. And your face is a blank canvas you must paint.” She hands me a brush and a make-up palette. I cannot deny her. She is too tempting, even though I now know how hateful her true form is.

I raise my hand and begin to draw.

  1. Urgh. Adoris Odious might well be my dermatologist. He comforted me for weeks with various bottles and tubes, and under his gaze my skin softened, gaining a plumpness I hadn’t known for years. I’d find myself fondly touching my own face, several times a day, marvelling at the fact that I, personally, could be this soft and pretty.

    So at my last appointment, I thanked the dermatologist lavishly, believing that the cycle had been halted – believing myself cured and no longer in need of his guidance. Of course, I was punished for thinking so highly of my appearance, as my skin’s condition began to wane upon exiting that office. Now I want nothing more than to throw my money at him again, beg him to fix me. In the meantime, I wonder if I should costume myself in makeup again…

    Well, I hope you find a way to defeat your Adoris Odious. Though my time free of her was brief, it was gorgeous to feel the sun on my skin, and not just heating the layers of foundation I’d caked myself in to an uncomfortable greasy boil.

    • Wow your dermatologist really does sound a lot like Ado.
      Isn’t it funny how that happens! I was just marvelling at how smooth my skin was other day, within hours I had a spot on my chin. The ironic thing is, wearing make up over skin that isn’t clear does not look quite as good, but we desperately need the security of it’s coverage. It’s a bit like an ostrich sticking it’s head in a hole while it is being pursued by a great cat. Effing pointless.
      I hate when foundations melts greasily on your skin. bleh.

  2. Every woman’s desire: to be adored, to be beautiful. Because they are the pre-requisites to be loved…

    so we’ve been told.

  3. Oh my goodness … this had me gripped from the first line. Two scenes got to me: the first, the old man on the train – battling with his demons, the choice between lying (he’ll spend the money on booze) or being truthful (hostel) … you described this so well; second, the gut-wrenching fear (literally, I felt it in my stomach) when the girl is staring in the mirror and spots something moving behind her. I love the way you write. When time allows, I’ll be checking your previous posts. 🙂

  4. I always had a question: Do women get dressed and full of make up for men or for other women? Please don’t tell me it’s for your own selves…

  5. Sounds like you know the answer to your own question!
    I think we do it equally for men and other women…unfortunately in the silly quest foisted upon us by men to be the most desired, we like to make other women feel just as insecure as we already do. “I do it for myself” has got to be the biggest cop out reason- no one would put themselves through all that willingly considering the money and time it costs…

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