Haul and Review | New Drugstore Makeup


Is it just me, or has this new year brought an OVERLOAD of new makeup products to the drugstore!? Every brand seems to have a ridiculous amount of new makeup out, and sadly for my wallet I was not immune to the hype.


Probably one of the most exciting products to come out were CoverGirl’s new TruNaked Eyeshadow Palettes. The one that I tried was the TruNaked Nudes, and even though this claims to be a dupe for the Urban Decay Naked palettes…it definitely doesn’t hold a candle to those eyeshadows.


The shimmery colors are okay, but when it comes down to it, the whole palette is extremely powdery and cheap, especially the matte shades. Even the shimmers – which look pretty good in the swatch – begin to disappear as they are blended out on the eyelid. At $12, I personally wouldn’t recommend it, especially if you have other neutral eyeshadows that are at all similar.


The product I was MOST excited to try were the new Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid lip colors. The two colors that spoke the most to me were Berry Burst (left) and Rebel Red (right). When I first tried them on, I liked the colors, especially Berry Burst, and I was hoping they would dry down from their very shiny, mousse-y texture. But they didn’t dry down, and they didn’t even start looking matte until after eating and removing a lot of the product. I wore Berry Burst on a long work day and it was just too messy. I’m so sad these didn’t work out, because even though I love the colors, the formula is not what I wanted or expected.


Two products I did love from the drugstore: the L’Oreal Brow Stylist Definer in blonde and the L’Oreal Voluminous Superstar Eye Liner. More drugstore brands are trying to emulate the Anastasia Brow Wiz formula, and though I don’t quite love it as much as my NYX Micro Brow Pencil in taupe, the L’Oreal pencil is cool-toned, soft, and really good quality for the drugstore. The pencil is so soft I’m not sure how long it will last, but I’m really enjoying it so far. I picked up the liquid liner on a whim since my other eyeliner was running out, and I really like it so far! It’s wet enough to draw an easy, dark line, but not so wet that it runs off the eyes.

And that’s all for now! But with all the new drugstore products coming out (I’m looking at you, Wet ‘n’ Wild and NYX) there will surely be a new haul and review in my future.


Weekly Vignettes

I came across the beautiful blog Lark & Linen the other day and fell in love with her mini photography posts that showed little snapshots of her week. I love taking photos and thought I would try something similar to document the small moments throughout the week.


Views from the backseat – en route to my cousin’s blessing.


My morning view, the Morristown train station at dawn.


Celebrating the third night of Hanukkah with my cousins.


This dog LOVES to hang out in my room (even if his face doesn’t show it).


The display on the Macy’s store in Herald Square, taken from my walk to Penn Station.


I wake up at 5:30 a.m. for work every morning and there’s nothing I want to do more on Saturday than stay in bed.


An eggnog latte from my favorite coffee shop in New Jersey – Drip in Madison.

5 Red Lipsticks for the Holidays


There are few things I enjoy more in this more than a good, classic red lip, and there’s no denying it’s the go-to lip look for the holiday season. I probably own more red lipsticks than any other color in my lip collection, but each is a bit different and suited for different types of lip looks, so I figured I’d share my favorites for future Christmas parties galore!

A true, brick red: Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella is currently my favorite red lipstick and what I wore to my office holiday party this weekend! It’s the only high-end lipstick I’ve included and completely worth the splurge if you want to indulge in a truly gorgeous matte red lip. This is on the slightly darker side but will suit all skin tones and go with basically anything you pair it with.

A classic, blue-toned red: This is my most-loved, most-worn red lipstick of all time. CoverGirl Colorlicious Lipstick in Hot is the longest-wearing red lipstick I own – this sh*t does. not. move. It’s bold and beautiful, and at only $6 there’s no reason not to add this lipstick to your red lip collection.

A magenta red: This lipstick definitely falls between the dark pink and red  color spectrum, but the Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow is soooo gorgeous and a different take on the classic Christmas red lip. Plus the blue tones will make your lips look super white!

A dark, raspberry red: Another bit of a different take on the red lip, Rimmel Lasting Finish by Kate Moss in #107 is a darker, berry-toned red that is a great middle ground between a red lip and a more vampy option. I find this color to be more wearable on the everyday, and think it’s worth looking into for another holiday option.

A bright, orange red: Orange-toned reds aren’t what I usually think of when it comes to Christmas, but Wet ‘n’ Wild MegaLast Purty Persimmon is a pretty and opaque lipstick for those who want something on the orange/coral side. These lipsticks are only $3 (!!!) and if you’ve been craving after MAC’s Lady Danger, I’ve heard this is a worthy dupe for 1/5th of the price.


From left to right: Nars Cruella, CoverGirl Hot, Revlon Cherries in the Snow, Rimmel Kate Moss #107, Wet ‘n’ Wild Purty Persimmon.

The Best of 2015


2015 is almost over and I’m sad to see this great year go. It was an amazing year for change and growth for me, but that’s a blog post yet to come. Today I’m here to round up some of the best stuff I loved this year, from beauty, pop culture, and more!

Best Makeup of 2015


This wasn’t a huge year of trying new makeup for me, but there were definitely some standout new products and products that were just new to me that became my staples throughout the year. Although it’s hard for me to justify spending money on yet another neutral eyeshadow palette, the Lorac Mega Pro 2 was an amazing investment and I don’t think I’ve used another eyeshadow palette since buying it. Another product I’ve used exclusively throughout the year since discovering the e.l.f. store near NYU is the e.l.f. Contour Palette. With 2015 being the year of sculpting and strobing, this contour palette is a steal among all the other high-end palettes out there. I’ve used up all of the yellow setting powder for under my eyes, and I’ve used this bronzer to contour every day. The highlight in this palette isn’t the best, but luckily for my birthday my sister got me the Becca x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Perfector  in Champagne Pop. I know I’m the millionth person on the Internet to talk about this product, but it truly is a gorgeous highlighter, and the best way to get a highlight on fleek. I also decided to splurge and get the Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation, and honestly I don’t think I can go back to drugstore foundation after this – it’s just that good. My other drugstore staples this year were the new CoverGirl Super Sizer mascara, the Maybelline Color Sensational Creamy Matte Lipstick in Touch of Spice, and the new NYX Micro Brow Pencil. I love CoverGirl mascaras, and this is the best drugstore mascara to come out this year, and the Maybelline lipstick was the perfect everyday color to get that Kylie Jenner lip look. As for the brow pencil, this is an exact dupe of the Anastasia Brow Wiz, but half the price, which is great for someone like me who has no eyebrows.

Best Pop Culture of 2015

2015 – for me – was undeniably the year for TV. Moreso than the movies that came out this year, so many TV shows left a lasting impression on me, and I’m dying to see them come back next year.

p10774004_b_v7_abUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was by far my favorite new comedy this year. I don’t what to say about it other than it’s pure delight, Peeno Noir is an iconic piece of American musical history, and I’ve sang the autotuned theme song more times than I can count (“It’s a miracle!”). The only thing I didn’t like about this show is how quickly it went by – as a Netflix original series there were 13 episodes, but at less than 30 minutes per episode I finished the first season more quickly than I’d like to admit…


Speaking of Netflix original series, I was struggling to pick between the two Marvel shows that premiered this year, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but in terms of my emotional attachment to the show I have to go with Daredevil. I love Matt Murdock and Daredevil as a superhero, and every time I walked near Hell’s Kitchen in NYC this summer I couldn’t help but to think of my darling Matt Murdock. I’m so excited for this show to come back, and I hope he gets some screentime with my other favorite Marvel babes.

The_Jinx_(miniseries)_POSTERHas any nonfiction TV show had a more satisfying finale than The Jinx? This HBO series was incredible and kept me on my post-Serial high throughout the beginning of the year. The Jinx is a pop culture phenomenon that only comes around once, and I cannot shout its praises enough (you can read a more in-depth review of it here!). Seriously, anyone who is interested in true crime/documentary, this show is a must-see.

Oh, and even though this show is not new from this year, I have to say it: Game of Thrones. I don’t think any other form of media captivated me so much this year as that damn show.

Mad_Max_Fury_Road-429261909-largeI have to say that none of the movies I saw this year would make any sort of “top 10” list for me. Out of all that I saw, Trainwreck was my favorite comedy, but the movie that stuck with me the most was Mad Max: Fury Road. I went into Mad Max with low expectations, which were completely exceeded in this post-apocalyptic thriller. It’s full of badass female characters, harrowing action scenes, and it kept my heart racing throughout the entire thing. That being said, I anticipate seeing a bunch of year-end movies around the holidays, so my true favorite movie of 2015 may be yet to come.

Podcasts became a new love of mine in 2015, but since Serial Season 2’s premiere date is TBA (grrrr!), I’ve found many  other podcasts to listen to my commute and during my work day. One of my favorites is Radiolab, which very much satisfies my inner science nerd, and along the same lines is Love + Radio, which posted one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to called “The Living Room” (seriously, check it out). I also love Coffee With Chrachel, made by one of my favorite YouTubers and her boyfriend who just shoot the shit and talk to you like you’ve been friends your whole life. I would also recommend Lena Dunham and BuzzFeed’s podcast Women of the Hour, which I’ve discovered is just the right amount of Lena Dunham I want in my life.

My favorite book I read this year was S. by J.J. Abrams (full review here), but like the movies I read this year, I don’t think I read anything that really made one of my all-time favorites. Honorable mentions are The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

And that’s all, folks! I tried to think of another category, but this pretty much sums up everything that was the best of the best this year.

Book Review | S. by J.J. Abrams

A story within a story. I remember many a professor in college telling me this was called a “microcosm” as I scribbled into my notebook about some 19th-century poet or Shakespeare. As a post-grad I don’t normally miss being in a classroom, writing papers, and studying, but reading S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst made me nostalgic for those undergrad, English-major days.

Jen and Eric meet for the first time in the pages of a book at their school’s library named Ship of Theseus by infamous author V.M. Straka. Writing notes to each other in the margins, their interactions with the text and with themselves start out as you might expect – one undergrad (Jen) and one grad student (Eric) conversing about the merits and mysterious of the book. In their fictional universe, Straka’s true identity is unknown to the world, leaving Jen and Eric even more invested in uncovering who this author is. They have clues: they know Straka was part of a radical group in the 1930s and ’40s that opposed the dangerous “Bouchard,” a tyrannical figure akin to some real-life leaders in World War II, and that the book’s editor – Filomela or FXC – was also involved in the group.

The book gives equal weight to the concrete text and the written correspondence, but without Jen and Eric’s words within the margins, this book would not be nearly as magical and powerful. I found myself more drawn to Jen and Eric’s storyline than the actual Ship of Theseus story, because even without the traditional prose, their relationship is so intimate and complexand the fact that the characters are writing their own “dialogue” makes their voices that much more distinct and lovely. That’s not to say that Ship of Theseus wasn’t great, as well, but Dorst succeeded in matching a mid-century style that manages to both be rich and ambiguous. SoT (as Jen and Eric call it) tells the story of S., a man with amnesia who finds himself a savior figure in a global conflict that traverses time and place. His vehicle from place to place is a miserable pirate ship where time stands still as chaos ensues on land. His only clue to his past? A woman, of course, who is no less mysterious than S’s mission and the rest of the book’s conflict.

I loved this book, but it is a beast to get through. At 400+ pages it’s long, but including the written notes between Eric and Jen, there’s much more volume to read. The book also includes lots of additional notes in between the pages – longer letters from Eric and Jen, postcards, maps, even a a faux university newspaper. For me it took a while to get a rhythm between reading the margin notes and reading the actual text, but it was so worth it in the end.

I can’t recommend this book enough for any serious book worm. It combines a modern story with classic lit, young adult romance with fantasy, and so many mysteries that your head will spin in the best way possible.

Five out of five stars 


Photo Diary | Autumn Walk


I’ve lived in Arizona my entire life until this fall, and living in the desert doesn’t really accommodate the changing seasons. But ever since I’ve been living in New Jersey with my cousins, I’ve experienced my first real fall season, from the changing leaves to the crisper mornings and the perpetual crunching under your feet. It’s just absolutely beautiful, maybe even more so because my family lives in a more woodsy area with farms and forests.

We went for a walk at a famous Morristown spot called Jockey Hollow, and of course I had to bring my camera to capture the fleeting beauty of fall as the weather gets colder.

IMG_9158 IMG_9159 IMG_9163  IMG_9170 IMG_9220 IMG_9227

October Beauty Favorites


For the first time in forever (*cue “Frozen” music*) I was able to try out some new beauty products! Finally having a part-time job and now full-time job (!!!) after being unemployed since graduation definitely meant I had to treat myself to some new goodies, and what I did buy did not disappoint.

My first fall lipstick purchase was the Rimmel Lasting Finish by Kate Moss Lipstick in #107, which was definitely inspired by uber-blogger/vlogger Zoella who has raved about it for ages. It’s the perfect mid-tone mix of red and berry that is a great “beginner shade” to transition into fall. It’s a satin finish, and not the longest wearing, but it feels extremely comfortable on the lips and you aren’t worried it’s going to move around throughout the day.

I wandered in to an Ulta store at the beginning of the month, and fortunately for me – but unfortunately for my wallet – I found and bought the Lorac Mega Pro Palette 2, and it’s all I’ve used since I bought it.  It has the perfect mix of matte and shimmer shades, my favorite of which are Forest, Goji, Prosecco, Soft Plum, and Olivine. The shades are super blendable and there’s enough variety for tons of different looks. This is the only Lorac Pro palette that I own, so I can’t say if this is better than the others, but I definitely recommend it for anyone who has been craving the well-deserved hype of the Lorac Pro formulas.

My favorite blush for the past several years has been the Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Exposed, but sadly I hit major pan and the rest of the compact crumbled and began to fall apart. I looked to the drugstore for a similar replacement, and have been using the Milani Romantic Rose Blush nearly every day since. I wouldn’t say they’re exact dupes, but the color gives a similar natural flush to the cheeks with its dusty pink shade and matte finish. If a $28 Tarte blush isn’t in your budget, I definitely recommend picking up one of these Milani blushes instead.

I’ve been wanting to try Lush skincare for a while now but honestly I’ve always been overwhelmed at the options and not sure how natural skincare would work for me. The Mask of Magnaminty is a cult favorite, and now I know why! It smells like mint chocolate chip and leaves your skin feeling tingly, soft, and best of all clean. I have definitely noticed a difference in this mask reducing the severity of small acne spots I’ve had, and overall I think it’s a nice treat for your skin a few times a week.

Last but not least is my new body wash, the Bath and Body Works Sensual Amber Shower Gel. The scent of this is divine, a mixture of sweet and musky and perfect for the fall and winter, or as B&BW describes it, the Sensual Amber line has “The scent of lotus petals & golden amber surrounded by creamy sandalwood.” It’s amazing, and a must-have for those who want a cold-weather fragrance that isn’t too sickly sweet.

What have you been loving throughout October?

Recent Reads | Dumplin’ and The Handmaid’s Tale

I’ve been trying to get more variety in the books I read by changing up the different genres with each book I read. Most recently I finished Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, both of which couldn’t be more different from each other but both were great reads that I definitely recommend.

Dumplin’ is a young adult novel that came out this September, and it’s a refreshing take on the awkward high school years everyone experiences. The main character, Willowdean, is a self-proclaimed and proud “fat girl” and Dolly Parton fan who is just trying to get through small-town life with her best friend Ellen and working after school at the local fast food joint with prep school-hottie/red lollipop enthusiast Bo. Willow’s head is a fun and familiar place to be, as the emotional battles and body issues that we all feel at one point or another are expanded upon through her eyes. The main struggle within the story is not only Willow accepting her figure and image at school with potential romantic partners added to the picture, but also the annual teen beauty pageant run by former winner, Willow’s mom. Throughout the book Willow must cope with the recent death of her obese aunt and her decision to enter the pageant with a fellow band of misfits, and it makes for a funny, messy, irreverent, and often disheartening read for fans of modern YA.

4 out of 5 stars

For something completely different, The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic dystopian novel that feels like a mix between 1984 and The Hunger Games. The basic setting of the story is that for some reason unknown to the reader, the U.S. – or at least the northeast – is in chaos and at war, and children are few and far between. The richer couples are comprised of the male Commander and his Wife who use a Handmaid to try and conceive a child. Offred, the novel’s narrator, is one of those Handmaids who remembers her life before her entire livelihood was based around becoming impregnated by her Commander. The novel switches between the dangerous, dry, and controlled life post-“apocalypse,” and the memories of her life before, a normal life that she took for granted until it was too late. As I was reading, I honestly wondered why they hadn’t made a movie out this book yet, and I highly recommend it as a staple for anyone who wants a mature, frightening dystopian read. I also recommend it to anyone who enjoys beautiful prose like this:

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

4.5 out of 5 stars

“The Girl with Scales for Skin”

An original piece of short fiction written by me, loosely based on the fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen.

When her scales grew in at age twelve, Mishell took to them with her mother’s razor. They had grown in overnight, appearing on her legs as suddenly as dew to the morning grass. The scales were rough and raised at the edges, appearing in green patches on her shins and knees. As soon as Mishell discovered them that morning after pulling down her flannel pajamas to use the bathroom, she hated them. She traced her fingers along the cluster of four on her knee, the geometric bumps hard and glassy as if they had always been there, like they had always been a permanent fixture on her skin. Her mother had warned her that the scales would begin to grow in soon, but Mishell had ignored her, slamming the door to her bedroom as much as the rickety white wood could slam. Mishell had grown up wanting to believe that she had not also inherited her mother’s second skin. She was wrong.

Other girls in her class had already started shaving their legs, so Mishell didn’t really see the problem with taking her mother’s razor from the dingy medicine cabinet and doing it herself. She’d seen it in plenty of commercials, the women with smooth, skinny legs that were bare from toe to torso, always ending in a bikini or some athletic wear. Mishell knew she needed shaving cream, but her mother didn’t buy it, so she had to use the all-but-dissolved bar of soap on the ledge of the bathtub. She positioned the razor at the bottom of the smallest patch of scales on her right leg. She hesitated, remembering the drawings in her puberty book that showed girls shaving in upward strokes. Then she pressed down, pulled up, and screamed.

The broken skin flooded the bathtub with blooms of blood like red rose petals. But despite the pulsing pain that erupted from her leg, the green scale remained intact, slightly elevated against her raw skin. Mishell cursed loudly, a dreadful word she had heard in the school hallways spilling off her tongue, and regretted it as soon as her mother burst through the doorway.

“Shelly, what happened?!” Nerissa asked. Her tired brown eyes grew wide at the sight of her daughter, bleeding.

“Go away, Mama,” Mishell choked out without looking at her. She wasn’t so much in pain as she was in shock, the sting soothed as she stuck her bleeding leg under the faucet as if to wash away the constant blood. The tub turned pink with it.

Nerissa sat on the toilet and put a hand on Mishell’s back.

“You got your scales,” Nerissa said with her honey-warm voice warm, trying to coax a smile out of her daughter. Mishell clenched her eyes shut and stuck her head into her knees.

“I said, go away!” The muffled plea plucked at a chord in Nerissa’s heart, and it was as though she folded in on herself, pulling her hand away from her daughter’s back as if burned.

“Okay,” she said quietly. She took a long, lingering look at her daughter before walking towards the doorway. “You don’t have to go to school today, if you don’t want to.” She shut the door behind her.

The blood began to slow its drain from the clipped edge of the scale, the raw meat of her skin peeking out from underneath. Under the running water Mishell thought the scales looked almost pretty, but she tried to ignore the thought. The bottom of the tub was filled with scarlet flowers, a garden of Mishell’s pain. Hot tears bubbled up in the corners of her dark blue eyes.

From her own bedroom, Nerissa winced as she heard her daughter slam her own bedroom door shut.

Everyone was going to see her legs and think she was a freak. Mishell didn’t care how many times her mother said they were “beautiful” or “a gift,” because she knew she didn’t understand. Her mother grew up near the sea. She lived across from the beach and wore swimsuits even in the winter, and she had a dozen faded pictures of her and her friends, and they all had scales, just like her mother. And Mishell knew that these girls did not exist in their town, miles away from even the scent of salt water carried in by a migrating bird, because she had seen them. She had seen their naked legs on the swim team and in the locker room, and not even some of the girls who had gone to school somewhere else and before coming here (like Mishell) had a hint of anything resembling the hideous, awful scales Mishell and her family were cursed with.

The next day at school, Mishell went to her swim coach to quit. The coach – a kind, middle-aged teacher who always had her hair slicked back in a tight ponytail – refused.

“You’re too good to quit,” she said, “and we haven’t even started competition season.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t.” Mishell kept her eyes to the ground. She focused on the slight rip in the hem of her jeans, and worried if it could expose her leg at all.

Her coach crouched down, close enough that Mishell could smell the gum in her mouth.

“If this is about a woman problem, a couple of the girls have to deal with that, too,” she said. “It’s not anything to quit over.”

Mishell shook her head.

“I just want to focus on art instead of swimming,” she said out of the corner of her mouth. The final lunch bell rang and Mishell retreated before she could be interrogated again.

And it wasn’t a lie, not really.

She had gotten good marks in art class from her teacher, Ms. O’Brien, who perpetually wore a paint-splattered smock even outside of class. Ms. O’Brien was a notoriously hard grader, but since it was art most of the other students scoffed at the high grades Mishell or others might get. When the chance to sign up for more art electives came the next semester, Mishell took it. She felt welcome at the high-top table with charcoal on her hands as she sketched a still life of something easy like fruit. She felt reassured watching Ms. O’Brien watching the students from the corner of her eye as she drew in a sketchbook, like they were working together on something secret and separate from everyone else. At the end of class she could wash away the black tracks on her palms and scrub out the bits that had gotten under her fingernails. She left class feeling clean, knowing that even when she got her hands dirty, her work was a step above the rest.

When Mishell graduated from junior high the following year, Ms. O’Brien came up to Mishell and her mother, and said Mishell showed real promise.

“And I don’t say that lightly,” Ms. O’Brien said in her deep, scratchy voice. Mishell blushed; she didn’t know how to respond.

“Thank you,” she said. Ms. O’Brien smiled and put a hand on Mishell’s cheek. Her hand was rough and chalky, like she had just come from the pottery studio.

“Any time, my dear.”

As Mishell and her mother left school for summer break, her blue graduation cap sitting in her lap, Mishell thought how beautiful Ms. O’Brien was up close. She was old and sometimes mean, but when she had smiled at her, it was like all the lines on Ms. O’Brien’s face had a story to tell, and Mishell wanted to listen to each and every one.

In high school, Mishell comfortably slid into the clique of art freaks, a term her and her friends came to revere amongst sneers from do-gooder band kids and prim and polished cheerleaders. She could handle the quips thrown her way at the courtyard during lunch, where her friends sat in the grass rather than a picnic table like the rest of the school, because they were being hurled at everyone, not just her. When they muttered “art freaks” as they walked by, Mishell drawing a fake tattoo with a ballpoint pen on the forearm of her friend, it was just noise. Mishell didn’t care what they said; none of them had seen her legs, not even her friends. By now the scales had formed a shiny emerald exoskeleton from her ankles to her thighs, but Mishell knew how to cover them – with thick tights in different colors, boots to hide her ankles from pants that were a smidge too short, long, flowy skirts that dragged across the floor.

When Nerissa asked her daughter why she only wore floor-length pieces, Mishell rolled her eyes.

“It’s just my style, Mama,” she said, adjusting her tightly-wound curls around her face to sit just right. “It’s called eclectic.”

The only exception to Mishell’s freedom in high school was gym.

She had avoided it until her last semester of high school, trying to get a doctor’s note to dismiss her like she had in junior high. But the school – specifically, the grumpy, beer-bellied gym teacher, Coach Grey – wouldn’t buy it. Mishell begrudgingly complied and worked out a system of changing before and after class. She would wear her gym clothes to school, since it was first period, and change in one of the shower stalls with the water running so nobody would disturb her.

It was nearing the end of the semester, Mishell had received a scholarship for a private art school, and she only had a few weeks left of dreaded gym class. Even in gym she felt good – despite her legs, too long and gangly and useless for team sports – she was happy the end was almost near, and she would graduate almost unscathed.

Almost, but not quite.

For the first few weeks of class, Mishell had anticipated the flimsy yellow curtain separating her and the rest of the girls in the locker room getting pulled and unleashing her embarrassment to the world. But she didn’t anticipate it on a random Tuesday during the last month of school, pulling her shirt over her head with only her underwear on, with Coach Grey and an audience of already dressed girls staring, giggling, and whispering.

“You can’t use the shower stalls if you aren’t going to shower,” Coach Grey spat at her. He made a fake attempt to close the curtain as he walked away. The cacophony of laughter and voices that followed wrapped around Mishell like an eel, suffocating her and gnawing at her flesh until the noise stopped and Mishell was just a pile of tears on the dirty and cold tile floor.

It was the first and last time Mishell allowed herself to sob into her mother’s arms since her scales grew in. Her mother had been a constant reminder of it, a facet of her life she wanted to avoid, as though she could avoid her own family as much as her own body. Nerissa stroked her daughter’s hair, and for that night Mishell let her sing to her the songs of the sea that her grandmother had once sang, and for a moment acceptance flowed over her like a wave.

When she walked at graduation, she knew the hundreds of eyes staring up at her were just spectators in a crowd, but Mishell couldn’t help but to keep one hand firmly pressed against her gown to avoid any breeze. She sat down with her diploma and saw Coach Grey looking at her from where he sat in his regalia robes near the stage. The warmth drained from her face and she pulled the gown down around her feet.

Mishell had never seen a naked man before drawing class in college. Sure, she had seen diagrams in textbooks and had creeped behind the couch to see the risqué movies her mother insisted were too adult for her at the time, but seeing an actual, completely naked man mere steps away from her was new.

The only way Mishell could think to describe him was beautiful.

She had heard rumors that naughty boys from the junior college volunteered to be nude models for art class, but Mishell couldn’t see this man being the type. His skin was smooth and white like marble, his handsome face framed by golden-blonde hair. He sat poised on his stool as still as a statue, and Mishell thought it was okay to stare so long as it was for her art.

His name was Phillip, she discovered after class. When he put his robe on as Mishell and the other students were packing up their supplies, Mishell looked up from her bag to find him standing by her easel, looking at her sketch.

“How did I do?” he asked, his voice dusky and low from having not spoken for several hours.

“How did you do what?” Mishell asked. Her cheeks flushed as he looked at her drawing of him, as though he was intruding on some inner thought she would never say out loud.

“I’ve never modeled before,” he said. “Well, never modeled naked and had to sit still for three hours straight.”

“I think you did fine,” Mishell offered. She hesitated, then said, “You’re the first naked model I’ve ever drawn, so I’m not the best to ask.”

“Nonsense! From the looks of this drawing, I’d say you’d drawn thousands of naked men before.” He smiled with his entire face, the corners of his mouth reaching the amber of his eyes. “I don’t believe you when you tell me you’re an amateur, Miss…?”

“Mishell,” she said as he reached for her name. She pulled it out as though from the folds of her heart, tucked away until someone had asked for it out of pure curiosity.

Phillip was the first man Mishell has ever seen naked. He was also the first man to kiss her on the mouth, to tell her he loved her, to take her into his arms as though their world began and ended in that small space between them. He became her muse and she became his home, her open arms waiting for him after he came back from rounds. He was going to become a doctor and help the less fortunate, he told her. He’d help babies born with curled lips and people with burns on their faces, so he could make everyone feel more beautiful.

Mishell had seen Phillip naked only that once in art class. She avoided anything too intimate, to which Phillip understood.

When he graduated in the spring, a full-fledged plastic surgeon, he came home to Mishell naked on his bed, her green-encased legs hanging still in front of her.

“Can you make me more beautiful, too?” she asked, trying in spite of herself to not cover her breasts or her legs. Phillip’s eyes narrowed and darkened, as though he had found the one thing he had been searching for.


The operation couldn’t happen for several months, Phillip said, maybe even a year. He had to grow skin to place on the raw flesh, and since he had her whole legs to cover, it would take longer than usual.  At night after they made love he would count the scales one by one, admiring each like they were actual gems he could pick off and put into a necklace or a ring.

“It’ll all be over soon,” he said sweetly, one hand on her jeweled thigh and another on her cheek to plant a kiss on her lips.

When the big day arrived, Mishell was beaming with excitement. Phillip and the other surgeons had warned her of the complications, but she didn’t care – any outcome was better than her current situation. As she waited in her hospital gown, Phillip drawing lines in black marker to indicate incision points, she tried to imagine her bare legs, tan and smooth like the rest of her body, just as when she was a child, before her scales had ruined her like weeds. As the anesthesia began to trickle in, Mishell pictured her and Phillip on the beach, two normal-legged humans in love like everyone else.

Mishell awoke in a haze of morphine. Her sight was clouded like a pool of water, the voices she could make out like ripples.

“The surgery was a success,” she heard Phillip say, his voice like syrup, slow but sweet. “They look beautiful. Perfect.”

Mishell allowed the cloud to evaporate from her drugged state. Phillip had other patients to tend to, but told her he’d be back right away. Mishell couldn’t wait – she lifted the thin, scratchy blanket to reveal her legs, wrapped like a sprain from her feet all the way up through her gown. She sat up, grimacing at the slight sting in her leg as she pulled it up to her chest, and began unwrapping from her right foot.

If the heart monitor taped to her chest wasn’t beeping rapidly, Mishell would’ve thought her heart had stopped.

Her skin was stitched together with thousands of tiny wires, the blood in between the seams of skin scabbing up in some places and gelatinous in others. The wires poked out like tiny hooks, and just touching one of them sent a shooting pain up Mishell’s leg. The patches of skin were geometric in some places and circular in others, like the amorphous oval stitched around her knee. It was hideous, patchwork that wouldn’t even be fit for a rag doll or a circus freak. It wasn’t until someone came into the hospital room that she realized her gown was soaked in tears.

“Go away!” she screamed, and in her haste to identify the intruder she spotted a jar on the table beside her bed. Inside were her individual scales, bloody, with flesh still hanging off some of them. Her cries turned into wails as her heart broke for each and every one of them. The door opened again.

“Mishell, sweetie, what’s wrong?”

The voice belonged to Phillip, but when Mishell looked up through her tear-stained red eyelids, she was on the floor of the locker room and Coach Grey was looking down at her in disgust, a burning look in his puffy eyes.

Her voice left her; there was nothing else she could say that didn’t take the form of tears. Before long there were more voices, more haze, and soon she woke up, alone.

Mishell reached for the phone and punched in a number she hadn’t dialed in years.

“Mama,” she said into the line at the sound of her mother’s greeting, “can you sing me that song that Nana taught you?”

And her mother sang her the song of the sea, and it washed over Mishell like a wave, and she longed to be back in her mother’s arms with her hands cradling her hair, but she could only let the song spill over her as she dissolved into foam.

Photo Diary | Northern Arizona


I went with three of my closest friends from college on one last hurrah in our home state of Arizona before we all went our separate ways at the end of summer. Even though all of us have lived in Arizona for most of our lives, it had been over 10 years since I saw the Grand Canyon, several years for Marissa and Rose, and just a few months for Maddie who lived in Northern Arizona last year. It may be hard to believe that with a natural wonder in our backyard we haven’t seen it that often, but not every day gives us the chance to make the trek up to the Grand Canyon.

We stayed in a village about an hour out from the Grand Canyon called Williams. The only way I can describe this little town is by saying the first thing I saw when I got out of the car to get dinner was a man wearing a cowboy hat unironically. It was the cutest, quaintest town that boasted its location on Route 66 at every possible gift shop and road sign. All we did there was sleep and eat, but what we saw was worth our stay at the Quality Inn.

The last time I was at the Grand Canyon it was covered in snow, and it definitely felt more like a postcard seeing the red rocks without any white dusting on them. Even though I didn’t get to see very much of the canyon – and my photos don’t do it any justice – I still want to go back and hike it, and eventually go to places such as Havasupai Falls and go white water rafting on the Colorado River. As far as Northern Arizona goes, there’s still so much that I want to see.

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