They Say Beauty is Fleeting
The bartender rang the bell and announced last call. A tattooed mob rushed the tired service workers in a desperate bid to enjoy one final libation before retiring for the night.
Amanda was a striking young woman with fair skin and blue hair was sitting alone at a table covered in empty bottles and shot glasses. She wore a small white t-shirt that hung from her tattooed shoulders. The tattered cloth stretched down from her slender neck giving an ample view of her chest where from just the right angle you might catch a pleasing glimpse of her cleavage encased in a black laced bra. Her long legs were also decorated with ink and only barely covered by tattered denim shorts. She ignored the alcohol-fueled chaos and continued swiping at her phone. She pretended to be oblivious to the lustful male glances coming at her from all directions. She had numerous notifications from the several social media platforms in which she spent much of her time. Like a dutiful PR manager, she thought carefully about her replies to the compliments left by adoring mostly male acquaintances on her digital library of photos and mediocre poetry.
She decided now was as good a time as any to add another. She held her phone at an angle where it was sure to capture where her strategically ripped clothes revealed the most of her youthful flesh. Mere seconds after taping the upload button her phone was once again delivering the compliments of countless admirers across the web.
“I got you this,” Kyle, her “sort of boyfriend,” said as he placed a shot of whiskey in front of her.
She glanced up from the glow of her screen and wrinkled her nose at the foul smelling brown liquid.
“I’m not sure if I can take that,” she said.
Kyle grinned at her. “C’mon,” he said holding his shot glass up. “Same time.”
“Ok,” she sighed, and playfully rolled her eyes.
She set her phone down and picked up the drink.
“Ready?” asked Kyle
“One, two, three!”
She threw back the shot. The liquor smeared itself across her tongue and burned her throat. She pursed her lips and choked down the remaining liquid until she could feel it burning in her stomach.
“Ready to go?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she replied.
“I’ll call an Uber,” he said with a self-satisfied smile.
Kyle was a good six inches taller than Amanda but with a similar build and a similar wardrobe. He wore tight jeans that clung to his long stick like legs and a v neck t-shirt that showed the top part of a hairless chest. Amanda had been seeing him for the better part of the month although this was the part of her life she spent the least time documenting. It was important to her that she appeared accessible less she lose followers.
Amanda and Kyle stumbled out to the car he summoned. They walked through circles of people chatting under clouds of smoke who were also waiting for their chariots to return them to their lofts. Many eyes drifted over to Amanda and were disappointed to see her hanging from Kyle’s arm. They silently cursed him before rushing back to find their own partners for the night before they might have to accept returning home drunk, horny, and alone.
The rest of the night was just fragmented memories circling into coming darkness that for what seemed like only an instant swallowed the drunken lover's consciousness before being dissipated by the morning sun shining through the bedroom window.
As soon as Amanda’s eyes opened the pain of her hangover set in. A tremendous pressure in her head made her skull feel like it might split at any moment, her skin felt grimy, and her stomach churned with nausea threatening to explode. She groaned and looked over at Kyle who was still fast asleep temporarily safe from the painful ramifications of the night before. Amanda heard could hear her phone. The digital tones elicited a much-needed endorphin rush in her brain. She rolled over and reached down to pick the device up off the floor. She strained for a moment and stretched her short arm as far out as it could go. She tried closing her fingers around the thin frame of the phone like a human claw machine.
She finally managed to retrieve her handheld window to the world and began her morning routine of reading her notifications and giving her legions of admirers and borderline stalkers their eagerly anticipated daily update.
As she tapped away on her phone, her hazy eyes started to become keenly aware of dark brownish spots on her hands, oval blemishes that stood out against her flesh which was now noticeable dusky. Her slender fingers seemed stubby, and the taught smooth skin was covered in minor wrinkles.
She felt her heart stop and her chest filled with a cold heaviness. “What the fuck,” she muttered.
She looked over at Kyle whose eyes were fluttering back into consciousness. He looked up from his pillow and stared at her a second before abruptly rolling out of bed.
“Woah who the fuck are you?!” He shouted. “How the fuck did you get in here?!”
“Kyle it’s me,” Amanda pleaded in a voice she barely recognized.
“Get the fuck out of here right now! Kyle barked. “I fuckin mean it get the fuck out of here right now!”
“Kyle please,” Amanda said on the verge of tears.
“I’m not kidding!” Kyle shouted grabbing a lamp from his nightstand and holding it threating into the air. “Get out of here!”
Her brain’s sudden switch into flight or fight mode released a flood of adrenaline that temporarily relieved her of the worse symptoms of her hangover. She rolled jumped from the bed and ran from the apartment with Kyle trailing closely behind holding the metal lamp above his head.
Amanda ran from Kyle’s apartment in tears. The people she ran past offered not help but glares of disgust and confusion.
When she finally stopped, she was out of breath and on the verge of vomiting. She leaned against the wall of an apartment building and sobbed while periodically looking over her shoulder for her lamp wielding lover. A group of young men walking by glanced at her and she begged for help.
“Please, please help me!” she pleaded fresh tears welling in her puffy eyes, but they didn’t offer her any acknowledgment besides derisive sneers.
She still had her phone in her hand. She used her trembling finger to swipe across the screen, the first application that opened up was the camera. The lens was fixed on her, and she could see herself on the screen. The image in the living mirror made her nausea instantly return. Her slender symmetrical face now had a layer of fat underneath the chin. Her perfectly oval eyes were blemished with crows feet, and the same wrinkles and spots on her hands now covered her face. Her tattoos had melted into an unrecognizable mush of dull colors, and unsightly pudge hung from the tears in her grungy chic clothing which now looked more like the outfit of a broken down drug addict than a hip young urbanite.
“Oh my god what’s happening to me?” she sobbed.
“I gotta get outta here. I gotta get home,” she panted.
She opened her Uber app, and as expected in such a neighborhood there were plenty of drivers cruising the streets less than a minutes drive away. She ordered the car, and in about three seconds the car appeared. She stepped out to the curb and waved the driver down. He pulled up and gave her a bewildered look.
She reached for the door handle, but he hit the automatic lock before she could open it.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I’m Amanda,” she explained choking back her tears.
“You’re not the girl in the picture,” the driver said visibly annoyed.
“I swear...that’s...me,” Amanda said in between deep breaths.
“I don’t have time for your nasty ass,” the driver spat before pulling away.
“Wait!” screamed Amanda flailing her arms. She ran after the car for a few seconds before giving up.
“Asshole!” She screeched.
She got back on her phone and took to social media to issue a call for help.
“Need a ride ASAP!”
After a few moments, there were dozens of replies from men all over the city eager to come to her rescue. She scrolled through the avalanche of responses until she found a name that was at lease vaguely familiar. She had known Josh for a few years now and had actually met him in person on more than one occasion. Out of the whole bunch, he seemed like the safest. She hastily messaged him an account of what happened with Kyle, and he assured her he'd be there in just a few minutes.
Physically exhausted and emotionally drained she sat on the concrete sidewalk with her back against the building and finally took a moment to rest. Her eyes were red and puffy and had completely dried up. She was incapable of crying any more than she already had. She looked down at her outstretched legs. Her slender stems were now like pudgy logs crisscrossed by dark blue veins. Her tattoos like the ones on her arms and shoulders had been deformed by the wrinkles they were printed on.
She looked down the street and could see Jame’s car approaching she stood up and brushed herself off. She walked to the curb and waved at the car which came to a slow stop. The passenger's side window rolled down.
“Hey James,” Amanda said softly.
“Can I help you?” James asked suspiciously.
“It’s me, Amanda,” she replied. “I know I don’t look normal. I think I might be sick, but I swear to you it’s me.”
James sighed. “Wow pretty great lengths to go just to fuck with someone,” he muttered.
“I swear it's me!” pleaded Amanda. “Look see the tattoos?” she said as she showed him the barely recognizable images.
“I knew she was kinda full of herself, but I didn’t think she was the type to do stuff like this to people,” James said with a tone of disappointment.
“James I swear it's me. Text me, and I’ll get it right here,”
“Amanda never gave me her number,” James muttered.
“Oh pm me then!” Amanda suggested.
“Look I don’t know what’s going on here, but I'm out,” James said rolling up his window.
Amanda who had aged 20 years overnight was now deprived of her greatest personal resource, her youthful beauty. Age had ravaged her not over the course of years, just hours. She’d have to find her own way home, and on her journey, she was going to have to adapt to a new reality where she would be forced to face the world alone. Only now she had to experience life as most people do who weren't blessed with the genetics to predetermine years of physical beauty. In a single night of drunken bliss, she was transformed from a modern urban princess into an over the hill hag. It was an existence where no one would care about her or be inclined to help her.