It was as if Loredana were the only one floating in the bowl of Endless Shrimp, waiting for returns. In the warmer months especially, she worked hard on her buoyancy. But it was not as if she did not know how her body felt, dangling between fingertips, or surveying familiar landscapes, as she ran her pincers through her hair. She collected her forms’ chatter—You’ll always be the best, you’ll never be my friend. Or, Stop it... I’m not crying. It’s the glitter’s unbearability in the sun that makes me tear up, I am merely gathering. She often mumbled to herself, seeking inspiration as she wandered through her laminated watergardens, edens of sheen and seafoam: Why won’t you listen to me. Let there be power here, amongst the kin of bubbles, the bffs, and the polyps.
Loredana tasked herself with making her body legible, beach ready. This summer, she needed to know her origin stories, how her world could sing to her. And thus the harvesting of friends as witnesses, “the girls,” the nematodes, anchored in assholes, or simply passing through. Susy! Kimberly! Katie! Jacky! Vicky! Isa! Even Bea... especially Bea. All were gathered around Loredana, clapping their hands and claws for her. She reveled in her ability to survive through doing her makeup on the Internet, relaxing in the folds of her webcam, her curtain, her vanity. She nodded at her grainy image, thinking of her friends, who were silently watching from outside the frame. They could never know—it was her moment, and she was a professional. She liked being nervous in its quiet.
Loredana considered herself a true Artist, despite the haters. Only, she herself was her canvas of choice. She primed her face and body for her ‘Fun in the Sun’ tutorial—a look that says, I’ve come so far, but also, I’m ready to go anywhere; I’m ready to go there. With her palette, Loredana feverishly painted herself into an image reaching towards her most serene likeness, taking inspiration from the Masters who first showed her that even while a world is disappearing, one can suspend and hold it in pigment. Beauty is somewhere, and my hands are capable of it, Loredana mused. She had thought her final product would become immortalized as a classic despite its seasonal flavor, but she appeared melted, subsumed by and beyond her reference images, disappearing into looks she didn’t even know she was capable of. It was a disaster, and she felt like an anxious teen once more. The minutes passed slowly. Still, only 26 likes, all by accounts that will heart just about anything. Frustrated, Loredana abandoned the screen, deciding it might be better to socialize or let the others try to do her makeup for her. But her friends had grown bored and left, tired of her aspirations, seeking an audience of their own. They wanted more consideration— even a comments section would do.
Whose approval did Loredana really need anyway? Despite her anger, the egoic fallout didn’t really sink in.
With resolve, she turned back to the vanity and contoured a bluish bruise on her cheekbone. Bruises appear any time of year. It would become the prototype for her most widely-viewed livestreamed tutorial. It would bring her fame, an international fanbase, and more beauty samples than she knew what to do with. But right now, it didn’t mean shit. Nothing felt real enough.
Text by Gabrielle Jensen