They go tip-tapping along the sidewalk, formidable in their elegance, with tailored skirts hitting the backs of their knees exactly, silk blouses that stay neatly tucked, and heels that might be, strictly speaking, too tall for the office but no one would dare tell them so.
They are taller than all of the women and almost all of the men. They are clear-skinned and radiant – literally; they light up their surroundings in soft blues and greens. They are soft-spoken, except when they laugh, which is loud and clear as bells, or when they are angry, which is infrequent but destructively cacophonous.
They are impossible.
I should know better.
But there really isn’t that much difference between us – not after all the work I’ve done.
My hair matches their light-defying black, but it isn’t yet long enough. My heels are as tall as theirs, and I walk in them with almost as much ineffable grace as they do. I practice for an hour a day. I have two million followers on my makeup tutorial account; the most popular one of them only has 1.9 million. I am mistaken for one of them frequently; we take pictures together. They don’t photograph as well as I do – it’s the light they emit.
The man in the back of the nail salon has brought what he promised. The bottle glows like candlelight. I pay him in cash, as he requested, and he tells me to leave before I drink. He won’t be responsible for anything that happens after.
I go to the bar where I’m meeting my date. I’m early, but that was planned. He might not recognize me without the filters I apply to my profile; I may photograph better without their glow, but he expects it, so I use the filters. He’ll be all the more impressed when we’ve had a few more dates and he can adjust his expectations to me and I can stop drinking the solution and reveal my true self: nothing more or less than the most beautiful human woman in the country.
He’ll be pleased, when the time is right.
The bottle uncaps with a sound like windchimes. The fumes smell like a wedding day, like surprise flowers, like a perfect afternoon in a hammock under branch-filtered sunlight. The astringent bottom notes are irrelevant.
The first time I drank this, I experienced all of the side effects: blurred vision, vertigo, nausea. With long-term use, the effects will worsen into vomiting, loss of coordination, and blindness, but I won’t need to drink for that long. Only for a couple of months.
I drink it, all of it, as quickly as I can, so it hits my system all at once. It’s warm in my throat, in my stomach, and then it’s warm on my stomach, on my chest, on my arms. When it reaches my face, it feels like blushing, but I can see it now: my own glow. I am a covetable mint green.
I can’t quite see myself in the mirror. It’s my glow, surely, obscuring my beauty even from myself.
I tip-tap away, finally radiant.