She goes to a salon on 47th street where she gets her hair done in a pretty but natural style, and buys products there which are made by a Japanese brand. Her shampoo smells a bit like honeydew melons. She has a great wardrobe, partly freebies from her PR job, and partly her own purchases. Her outfits always match, and are always creative. She has recently bought a selection of silk Liberty print dresses, and knitwear from Rodarte. She has a facial every two weeks with a woman named Ling, who comes to her apartment. She got into laser hair removal while it was still unheard of, and has manicures and pedicures once a week. She goes to the gym every other day, and drinks lots of water. She has a small closet of cosmetics, which she organises by colour and type. Nude lipsticks, rouge lipsticks, blushers, creams, brown mascaras, black mascaras. She works with a couple of shoe brands, who pay her to wear their pumps around town.
Lina got really sick with a summer cold, and spent a few days slobbing around her apartment. I brought her muffins and fresh coffee one Saturday morning. “Ling will be here in a bit to do my facial,” she said, showing me in, “maybe she could do you as well.”
I felt like I was being initiated into a secret society. I would be touched by the hands of the celebrated Ling, facialist to the great and the beautiful.
I could hear the heavy sound of a man thumping around the apartment. “Paul’s come over to collect his Charles Mingus LP,” she said.
He emerged through an archway and acknowledged me with a nod. “You look a mess babe,” he said to Lina. She was wearing yoga kit and no make up. Her hair scraped back into a messy bun. Her skin was a bit peaky, but other than that she looked cute. She shrugged and let Paul kiss her on the cheek as he left.
“I can’t win with him, he teases me if I spend so much as a minute or a dime on my appearance, but then if I have a duvet day, suddenly I’m queen of the slobs,” she said.
Ling arrived, a sassy petite Chinese-American woman, with the most beautiful skin I have ever seen. She carried a huge Louis Vuitton leather bag full of her lotions, and bade us both lie down on the recliners in the lounge. “I met your friend the other day,” she said, as she cleansed my city-worn face. “English girl called Katy, said she knew you-two.”
Ling’s hands felt amazing, “I’m glad Katy is ok,” I murmured, “…I should drink more water.” My skin was like a parchment stretched over the bones, tired and telling.
“This is like religion,” said Lina, from behind a ginger scented face mask. “I can feel my skin finally coming back to life.”
“That’s why people like facials,” Ling said. “It’s the only excuse for stillness in the city.” She laughed, “I don’t really buy into that woo-woo crap that some beauticians do, but I know that in the non-dualist sects of ancient India, anything can be your religion. Sleeping is holy, brushing your hair is holy, eating is holy. All atoms are part of God. Everything we do is part of God.”
I don’t know if I was really taking in what she was saying. Or just listening to the rhythm of her voice.