FAKE REAL WOMAN
Diane smashed the portrait she'd painted of Tim and herself against her knee. She pulled drawers, swept the night stand, got rid of every memento and gift that reminded her of him. The anger still boiled. I'm just not attracted to you anymore.
She yanked clothes he bought for her from her closet, ripped each into rags. No loss on those; he still bought her clothes from two sizes ago. For when you get back to yourself, he'd said. She slid the wedding gown from the back, but stopped herself in the nick of time. Mom's wedding gown. Diane's first fitting was supposed to be Saturday. I'm just not attracted to you anymore.
He had yet to promise for better or for worse. He had opted out. Her finger throbbed from tugging off the engagement ring. He'd slid that on her finger two sizes ago.
Just when she thought it couldn't get any worse. I'm just not attracted to you anymore.
Tim got her through mom's funeral. So what if she spiraled a bit after that. Missed classes, lost her art students, lost the downtown studio. Lost her figure. She caught her reflection above the bureau.
Frizzy auburn curls framed her splotchy pale skin, lids swollen over hazel eyes, mascara sliming down puffy cheeks—and two chins, neck folds, the beginning of a matronly uni-boob. She couldn't erase his expression from her mind. There was no remorse. Only pity. I'm sorry, I'm just not attracted to you anymore.
She could handle not being pretty to him anymore (though it hurt). She could handle him not loving her anymore (she'd try). But she could not handle him believing her insignificant (a non-person). If she bumped into him on the street, he wouldn't say hello. Only people who thought themselves superior doled out pity. To him, she would be invisible.
She could show him. She mattered. She could be thin again. Pretty again. Diane raced to her attic studio, slammed a blank canvas on the easel. She slipped on her apron, tied her hair into a ponytail. She'd show him the real her, the perfect Diane.
She mixed paints, brushed bold lines across the blank white. First the hair, blue-black and flowing. She added dots of white then blurred them to give shampoo-commercial shine. She outlined a heart-shaped face, widow's peak a point on the smooth forehead.
Her arm tingled as she shaped eyebrows, arched and haughty. Not something she'd felt before, but yes, if she could feel haughty, she could get over the hurt. Cerulean irises under luxurious lashes, only the faintest hint of laugh lines.
Diane watched her hand fly across the canvas. The collar bone, sleek, visible, not cushioned by fat. Sculpted arms, graceful wrists, elegant fingers all appeared. She hadn't felt such inspiration since her mother started chemo. Painting felt good again. She added flesh tones, filled in shadows, gave the Diane in the picture dimension. A warmth spread from her fingertips to her hands, from there to her entire body, exciting her, arousing her, spurring her to give life to the woman on the canvas. Show a part of herself that Tim....
Diane lowered the brush. In her artistic frenzy, she had forgotten. He had dumped her. Pitied her. Deemed her insignificant.
She stared at her self-portrait, the portrait of the better self she wanted to be. The one Tim wanted her to be. One that Tim could be attracted to.
The woman was not Diane.
From the eye color to the erect nipples on melon-shaped breasts, to the perfect cheerios navel dotting the pilates-structured stomach, to the curly black triangle between full hips, to the muscular legs....
Diane could never be the goddess on the canvas. The nude woman looked too real. The woman was taller, shapelier, bolder—Diane realized she had painted a nude Wonder Woman. Diane reached for more blue pigment to cover the nudity. She couldn't believe she had painted every hot-blooded teenaged boy's fantasy woman. Her fantasy.
How could lines and paint be more attractive than flesh and blood? Diane stared at the statuesque image. Her fantasy, his fantasy—regardless, not real. Not Diane.
She put down her palette. This hurt too much. What was she doing to herself? Before she could become jealous of this non-person, Diane turned around to look for the gesso. Start fresh, begin again, all that happy horseshit—as long as she didn't have to stare at someone she could never be. Gesso—artist's white-out.
Something yanked her ponytail.
Diane screeched and slapped the arm holding her hair. It did not let go. She slammed into the canvas. Another arm reached over her shoulder, snatched the gesso. She recognized the hand. She had just painted it.
"You're not real" she shouted. Diane twisted and pulled, tried to free herself. In a flash, Wonder Woman's leg grew in dimension until it kicked Diane.
She crumpled to the floor. The canvas ripped as Wonder Woman pulled free. Diane crawled toward the door, but the comic heroine was bigger, stronger. She pinned Diane as she coated a spatula with gesso.
Diane balled her fist but before her punch made contact, it disappeared in a smear of white. Two more swipes and Diane's body was gone. The thick white goo touch Diane's cheek. Then she felt nothing at all.