That's my face, in the mirror. Greasy hair, obscene freckles, bleary eyes. I move the lamp a little, adjusting the shadows. A second ago, I looked like I'd just gotten out of bed. Now I look like the kind of girl you'd like to take back there. A trick of the light. Except, as we both know, light never plays tricks.
I brush my hair and powder my face. Make it up. Do I hide or reveal?
What about my dress? It's doing a revealing job of hiding my chest.
My heart beats fast. That, at least, is no lie. I clear my throat. I say a few words, listening to the sound of my voice. Deciding whether to work out the nervous quaver I hear, or to embrace it. I'll keep it. It'll be my grain of truth.
My handbag closes with a snap. I've styled my hair, dusted my cheeks, darkened my eyes and hung tiny ornaments from my ears and neck. I smell like flowers. My legs are free of both fabric and hair. My feet are painfully arched.
I'm ready. For a dinner-date with a man who lies for a living.
The restaurant has chandeliers and the type of staff that melt smoothly into the background. The clink of cutlery blends into the murmur of conversation. I'm exactly on time but my date is already here, standing behind our table, smiling and pulling out my chair.
"You look gorgeous," he breathes, when we're both seated.
I try to blush prettily. Does he mean me or the woman I see reflected in his eyes?
"Thank you," I say. "You look quite dashing yourself." He does, in his shiny dinner jacket.
He grins and I feel like I'm in one of his movies. If only real life were like this! Heartfelt words, beautiful actors and delicious food. A fancy drink always within reach.
My life could be like this. All I need to do is play a part. Like I already do, every single day, but this time out of choice.
"To acting," I say, raising my glass.
"To acting," he repeats, raising his own. "Although my job isn't as fun as you think, I assure you."
"Really?" I ask, tilting my head to one side.
"Oh yes. They say you forget the camera after a while. Not me. I get more and more aware of it. The lens is so big and so dark. Always watching, always there. Forever in the corner of my eye. It makes me sweat."
"You don't enjoy your work, then?" I ask, soft concern in my voice.
"Oh I wouldn't go that far. After a few takes, when I'm warmed up, feeling the body-language and thinking my lines, it's magic. Everything disappears but the scene. The other actors become their characters and the script becomes our fate. Like a collective dream. On the rare occasion that happens, I feel proud to have been a part of it."
"Wow. Sounds like such a high." I lean forward a little and my hand creeps toward his.
"It is intense," he admits. "Makes me appreciate those moments when my life feels a bit like a movie. Like when I get to have dinner with a heavenly creature such as yourself."
I don't know how he expects me to respond. I just put my hand over his. Our touch is electric. Is this what it feels like when two dreams brush against each other?
There's a familiar need in his eyes. Later, when I'm on my back and he's before me, filling me, I see a different need. His mask slips a little with every thrust. I think mine does too.
But by the time we're staring at the ceiling, nestled against each other, our masks are right back in place.