Her hands were blackened with ink. Not the splatter of broken pens lulling in liquid concentrate. Not the inky oil of glass bottle spills. But a litmus-test smearing of grey, darkest on her fingertips. The ink her skin soaked from the hours she spent rubbing away the words that sold for a few rupees on a daily basis.
Rubbing into dark the very same sentences she has composed. Trying to erase all that she had written. Trying to blur the insufficiency clouding her sense of self. The truth was never quite as simple as the black and white it was printed in.
An adult with child’s hands dirtied in finger paint. She brushed the hair out of her face and left a smudge of grey on skin that was only just beginning to show her true age. The mark only visible when reflected to her as she stood in front of the bathroom sink. She held her hand to the faucet but before turning the water on to wash away the darkness her hands wore, she tried to look into her eyes that looked into the mirror that, even then, failed to look directly at her. The smudge proved to be a welcomed distraction.
With an index finger she touched the spot of grey, from the indentation the smudge grew deeper. In a swift circular motion, her high cheekbone was shaded. She thought it only fair to do to the same to the cheek that remained bare. From there, it seemed natural to let her fingers follow the contour of her face. Her eyes too were outlined in smoky hues of bruises. Her now pigmented lips, ashen.
“What are you doing?”
She hasn’t heard him enter. His voice wasn’t startling.
“I don’t know.”
“You look like a clown with all color drained from the make up.”
For all her years of writing, not even she could have come up with a more accurate description.