Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Always Something Beautiful"

This poem is spillover from the June 2, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "nurture self-worth" square in my 5-20-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: References to past mayhem, body image issues, and offscreen intolerance.  Current environment is safe.

"Always Something Beautiful"

On Friday evening, Valentina went
to Laguardia Residence Hall.

A dance was scheduled for later
that night, for any veterans who
wished to participate along with
volunteers from student clubs.

The soup club Gumbo Ya-Ya
had sent Valentina -- also known
as Neon Girl -- to provide
assistance with makeup.

Housemother Edna Beauregard
met her in the lobby. "I've posted a notice
on the door of the first floor quiet room,
so you can work in there," she said.

The quiet room was furnished in
warm earth tones of brown and gold,
with fabric padding the walls and
an area rug over most of the floor.

A couch stretched along the right wall,
facing a viewscreen that showed a jungle,
with a low coffee table between them.

At the back of the room, near a window
overlooking the courtyard, stood a table
bracketed by two chairs that would be
perfect for Valentina's work tonight.

There were only two women waiting in
the quiet room, though; Laguardia
had only been open for a month
and few of the residents really
felt like socializing yet.

A slim Hispanic woman with
light brown skin and black hair
wore an olive t-shirt that read,
Believe in Heroes and also had
a fluffy cat draped across her lap.

Beside her, a sturdy black woman
with short brown curls shuffled
through a sheaf of paperwork.
She wore a gray t-shirt that said,
ARMY in hot pink letters, and
diamond studs in her earlobes
glinted against milk-chocolate skin.

"I'm Valentina," the makeup artist said.
"Who wants to look beautiful tonight?"

"I never look beautiful," said the black woman.
Then she sighed. "But I'm trying to fix that."

"That's the thing, though," said Valentina.
"I believe that there's always something beautiful
in every person. You just have to look for it."

"You see beauty in this?" Brown hands
pulled up her shirt, revealing a belly
webbed with shiny pink burn scars.

"I see beauty," said Valentina,
"and bravery, that you must have
survived something awful.
My grandfather says that
scars are a badge of courage."

"Wise man," the black woman said.
"I'm Timone, by the way."

"I can go first, Timone, if you
want to wait and see how it goes,"
said the Hispanic woman.
"My name is Paulina, and this is
Flopsy, my therapy cat for PTSD."

The cat gave a lazy flick of her tail
but otherwise made no comment.

"Okay, come on over to the table,"
Valentina said as she led the way.
"I can basically mimic things like
nail polish, mascara, or lipstick
that last for a few hours."

"It sounds like fun," Paulina said
as she set her cat aside briefly.

"Colors?" Valentina asked.

"My dress for tonight is kind of
a bright olive with antique gold trim,"
said Paulina. "So maybe avocado
nail polish, or go lighter with yellow?
I'm not really sure what would work.
I do want bronze lipstick with
a bit of golden shimmer in it."

"How about a deeper olive, but
the tips done in gold?" Valentina said.
"I can make the gold really sparkle.
The lip color is no problem."

"Sure, that sounds great," said Paulina.

Valentina took her hands one at a time
and concentrated on manifesting
the colors they had agreed on.
The gold glistened with its own light.

"It's so shiny," Paulina said,
turning her hands to admire them.

"I'm glad you like it," said Valentina.
"I know it's a little silly to use superpowers
for something as frivolous as makeup,
but I can make effects that you
just can't get from a bottle."

"I wonder," Paulina said thoughtfully.
"Can you make more light than that?"

Valentina raised her right hand and
made a spray of multicolored neon sparks,
vivid in the dim quiet room. "Like this?"

"Yes, exactly," said Paulina. "You
could do amazing things with that in
search and rescue. I did a few missions
of that, and it would have been great
to make flares or markers without
having to carry supplies for them."

"Wow," said Valentina. "I never
thought my talent could turn practical.
I just like volunteering, and Poindexter
said that helping people feel pretty
can be really beneficial."

"I'm studying search and rescue here
at Loyola University, one class at a time,"
said Paulina. "You could give it a try."

"I'm not exactly soldier material,"
Valentina pointed out.

"I've long since ditched the idea
of ground support being buff, armed,
and camo-y," said Paulina. "SAR
can use anyone with applicable skills.
At least think about whether it's
something that interests you."

"That's a good idea," said Valentina.
"I'll definitely consider it. Ready for lips?"

Paulina leaned toward her, and
a careful swipe of Valentina's fingers
applied the metallic lip color.

"Thank you," said Paulina,
returning to the couch and her cat.

"You're welcome," said Valentina.
"Timone, it's your turn if you want."

"I'm wearing a burgundy dress,
almost bright enough to be red-violet,
so I want my nails hot pink," said Timone
as she traded places with Paulina.
"The sign said you can do eyelashes too.
I'd like those to match if you can."

"I can do that," Valentina said.
She focused on tinting Timone's
fingernails and eyelashes, and
then added one more flourish.
"Do you feel pretty now?"

"The nail polish looks nice,"
Timone said.

"Pull up your shirt again,"
Valentina suggested.

When Timone did, she saw that
the scars had been covered up with
brown that matched her skin tone,
overlain with scintillant gold.

A few moments later, the effect faded,
and the shiny pink color returned.

"What -- what was that?" Timone said.

"Fairy dust," said Valentina. "I wasn't
sure if you'd like it, so I didn't put any
real power into making it last,
just a quick demo."

"Could you do it again?"
Timone said wistfully, looking
down at her mottled midriff.

Valentina waved her hand, and colors
spilled over Timone's skin.

"Thanks," Timone whispered.
"That's really something."

"Maybe you should switch to
a skirt and blouse for tonight,
so you can show that off,"
Paulina suggested.

"Maybe another time," said Timone,
tugging her shirt back down.

Then the door opened, and in came
a young black man wearing an eye patch
and led by a golden retriever. "Hi, my name
is Jaimeson and this is my guide dog Buttercup.
I'm trying to find Valentina's makeup workshop."

"I'm at the table in the back of the room,"
said Valentina. "Do you want to come here,
or shall I come to you instead?"

"We can make it," Jaimeson assured her.
"Buttercup, forward." Soon he sat down.

"What brings you here?" Valentina asked.

"This morning some idiots were
making fun of my gay friends, so I
want pink triangles on my fingernails
for solidarity," said Jaimeson.

"Well, I can try," Valentina said.
"I'm still new to fine details, though."

"Besides, I had to get out of there --
my roomies are arguing over how
to tie a tie and whether guys in
wheelchairs still need dress shoes,"
Jaimeson said, shaking his head.

"I haven't worked much with men before,"
Valentina warned him. "You may wind up
looking kind of girly tonight."

Jaimeson laughed. "Well, if you goof,
it's not like I have to look at it!"
Beside him, Buttercup thumped her tail
in a doggie laugh, cheered by his mood.

Valentina took his right hand and began
very carefully shaping the first triangle.

"Hey, Jaimeson, thanks for sticking up
for us, even though you bat for
the other team," said Timone.

"This we'll defend," he replied.

"Okay, you're all done," said Valentina,
letting go of Jaimeson's hand.

"Do I look pretty?" he asked.

"Tolerance is always beautiful," she said.

"I kind of wish I'd known you back when
I was a sniper," said Jaimeson. "I bet
you could make amazing targets."

"I suggested SAR," said Paulina.

"First aid too," Timone added.
"You could use your superpower
to mark on someone's clothes or skin,
like the paramedics do with stickers."

"Thanks," said Valentina. "I had
no idea that there were so many
possible applications for what I do.
I thought it was just, you know,
idle decoration like makeup."

"It's like what you said earlier,"
Timone pointed out. "You have
a beautiful gift. You just
need to look for it."

* * *


Neon Girl (Valentina Boyd) -- She has light brown skin, green eyes, and straight black hair. She can make neon colors on or near herself, or put them on other people where they last for a few minutes to a few hours. Valentina attends Loyola University in Easy City. There she studies to become a makeup artist, and already hires herself out to decorate people for Mardi Gras and other parties. She also belongs to the Gumbo Ya-Ya club for soups and their allies.
Origin: In junior high, she was playing with homemade makeup along with several other girls. One of them turned out to be a budding Super-Gizmologist, and the makeup left Valentina with superpowers.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) College Student, Good (+2) Charisma, Good (+2) Creativity, Good (+2) Volunteer
Poor (-2) Picky Eater
Powers: Good (+2) Illusion Powers
Motivation: To feel pretty.

Housemother Edna Beauregard -- She has ruddy skin, short blonde hair, and blue eyes. She served in the Army for eight years, with two tours of duty, before retiring to raise a family. Now she works as the housemother at the Laguardia Residence Hall for veterans in Easy City. Edna collects army memorabilia and has a whole display case of toy soldiers.
Qualities: Master (+6) Organization, Expert (+4) Combat Veteran, Good (+2) Collector of Army Memorabilia, Good (+2) Mediation, Good (+2) Nurturing
Poor (-2) Nearsighted

Paulina Contreras -- She has light brown skin, brown eyes, and straight black hair to her shoulders. Her favorite color is olive green, such as her "Believe in Heroes" t-shirt from the Wounded Warriors Project. She excels at spotting patterns and imagining how things will turn out. Paulina has PTSD from her service as Airman First Class in Afghanistan, primarily from heavy gunfire and explosives. She does not deal well with loud sudden noises anymore. To cope with this, she has a therapy cat named Flopsy. As long as she's holding the cat, she feels relatively okay. Paulina is working hard to overcome the trauma and hopes to go into civilian search and rescue eventually. She is currently taking classes one at a time at Loyola University.
Qualities: Good (+2) Agility, Good (+2) Air Force Veteran, Good (+2) Cat Lover, Good (+2) Civic Duty, Good (+2) Extrapolation
Poor (-2) PTSD

Flopsy -- She is a Ragdoll cat, primarily light brown with white face, underbelly, and feet. She weighs 15 pounds. Flopsy is gentle, compassionate, and wise. She loves people and enjoys lying in someone's lap or draping over shoulders. She is smart enough to walk on a leash. As a therapy cat, Flopsy belongs to Paulina Contreras and helps soothe her PTSD.
Qualities: Master (+6) Therapy Cat, Expert (+4) Cats Are Liquids, Good (+2) Leash Walking
Poor (-2) Sense of Self-Preservation

Timone Evans -- She has medium brown skin, brown eyes, and curly brown hair. She is homosexual but bisensual. Her favorite color is pink, especially the deep hot pinks that look good with her bold coloring. Timone served as a Staff Sergeant. She has extensive burn scars across her chest and belly, with a few others scattered beyond that, from an incendiary device. They impair her flexibility a little, although she does exercises to minimize those effects. This scarring has wrecked her body image, and she has trouble feeling beautiful now. She keeps trying different ways to fix that problem, such as buying herself a pair of diamond stud earrings.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Army Veteran, Good (+2) Conversationalist, Good (+2) Logical/Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Body Image

Jaimeson Tate -- He has brown skin, one brown eye, and nappy dark brown hair worn short on top and shaved at the sides. He is fully blind, his left eye missing and his right nonfunctional. He navigates with a guide dog, Buttercup, and wants to learn how to pinpoint people with his other senses. Buttercup is a golden retriever, and she shares her owner's bubbly personality. Prior to his injury, he served as an Army sniper, but it wasn't even a year before he was sent home with a medical discharge. Now he lives in Suite 107a of the Laguardia Residence Hall in Easy City. Jaimeson prefers playing dice to cards, and particularly excels at Pirate Dice.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dice Games, Good (+2) Keen Senses, Good (+2) Making Friends, Good (+2) Sense of Humor, Good (+2) Veteran Sniper
Poor (-2) Fully Blind

* * *

"We all have life storms, and when we get the rough times and we recover from them, we should celebrate that we got through it. No matter how bad it may seem, there's always something beautiful that you can find."
-- Mattie Stepanek

The quiet room looks like this.

This is Paulina's t-shirt.

Women wear makeup for a variety of reasons. There are programs to help female veterans through makeovers.

Self-image is a complex view of your body, mind, and life. Veterans are particularly prone to problems with self-image. So are people with disabilities. There are ways to improve your self-image.

Paulina's dress looks something like this.

Fingernail patterns may include such things as color blocking, French tips, and triangles (point toward base, or point toward tips).

Search and Rescue is a type of first-responder work.

See Timone's dress.

Body glitter comes in various sizes and product types. One of its less-advertised uses is to dress up unusual or marred body parts. It can be like a temporary version of framing or covering scars in tattoos, or in Terramagne, a way to accent super features such as horns. If ya got it, flaunt it! Here are some tips for using shimmery makeup.

Straight men can make good allies for gay men. This is especially true when straight people stick up for their gay friends, although it can be risky. Jaimeson has already been blown up, so gay bashers just don't scare him. Learn how to be an effective ally.

“This We’ll Defend”
-- U.S. Army official motto
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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