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Contemporary Fiction

Catching sight of himself in the bathroom mirror, Ian couldn't help thinking that he ought to cover it up during the daytime. As usual, he's tempted to look away but instead, he stares back at his miserable reflection, scrutinizing the balding head, the murky eyes, and the pasty skin. It's not that he was a bad-looking bloke – just somewhat ordinary. Unremarkable. It’s not so much the way that he looks that he detests; it’s what it represents: Ian. Ian is quiet and reserved. Ian is boring and in no way spectacular. Ian is not comfortable in his own skin. Ian paces around the house with quiet resentment, waiting for five o’clock.

He glances at his watch as he makes his way back into the living room. 3 pm – still 2 hours to go. He never knows what to do with himself at this time of day.  As he tries to relax and watch mind-numbing daytime TV, his mobile rings. He is pleased to see that it’s his mother, as their catch-ups make him feel less lonely during the daytime, and helps him to pass the hours.

‘Hi, Mum’ he says, putting the phone to his ear.

‘Hi love, how are you doing today?’ she asks.

‘Yeah, alright’ he responds, unenthusiastically.

‘Are you still bartending nights at that club?’

‘Sure am’ Ian lies – he had never been a bartender.

'Gosh, I don't know how you do it – working from 8 pm until 4 in the morning’. Ian sighs. He hates not being honest with her, but he couldn’t explain why he actually loves working the nights. She would never understand.

They chat away about the usual topics – news, the weather, and what other relatives have been up to, until she eventually hangs up, promising to call him again next week. Ian considers going for a walk to get some fresh air and pass the time, but he can’t bring himself to do it. He prefers not to go out in public, out into the world. Not like this. Instead, he settles down with a cup of tea and gazes in the vague direction of the television.

He’s watching the time as 5 pm approaches, counting the seconds. As soon as the clock strikes 5, he's up off the couch and making his way to the bathroom, jumping into the shower with a huge grin stretching across his face. 5 pm is the time he looks forward to every day. That's when he can begin the transformation.

After shaving and washing off his fake tan in the shower, he wraps himself up in a robe and gets started on his face. He paints on a bold palette of shimmery tones – copper and gold around the eyes, complemented by thick, dark eyebrows and long, overexaggerated lashes. Bronzer to cover his pale complexion, and his favourite brown lipstick complete his face. Next, he picks up his favourite long, brunette wig, adding some extra loose curls with his tongs before fitting it to his head.

Now for his favourite part – his wardrobe. Ian’s wardrobe is split into two sections. He bypasses the left-hand side filled with boring daytime clothes – cheap shirts and ripped jeans. Ian’s side. He throws open the door to the right-hand side, brimming with chiffon and lace, embellished with gemstones and drowning in glitter. He selects a white dress with gold embellishments – an old reliable that’s always a hit.  

He goes to the bathroom and catches sight of himself once again in the mirror. This time he beams a genuine smile to himself. This time he is happy with what he sees, because he is no longer Ian – he has transformed into Destiny.

Destiny is confident, cheeky, and seductive. She is a joy to be around. People are drawn to her, yet she doesn’t care what people think. Destiny is beautiful, and she knows it. She spritzes on too much perfume, throws her essentials into a sparkling bronze clutch bag, and selects a pair of glittering golden six-inch heels, before calling her taxi.

‘Destiny, looking fabulous as usual’ the friendly cab driver greets her. ‘Thank you sir’ she smiles as she slides elegantly into the back seat. ‘Off to work?’ asks the driver. ‘Please’ she replies. They don’t chat much on the 10-minute drive to the club. Instead, Destiny enjoys the view out of the window as the city comes to life with an array of dazzling lights and an atmosphere of debauchery. She adores this time of day.

As the taxi pulls up outside the club, Destiny gathers herself, excited for another night on the job. ‘Thank you!’ she calls out to the driver, handing him a $20 bill before placing one glittering golden heel onto the pavement, followed by the other. With her head held high, she sashays through the front door, tossing her hair over her shoulder as she makes her entrance. The bouncers greet her with a friendly ‘hello’ and a smile, and the bartender already has a gin and tonic ready for her when she arrives at the bar. ‘Looking beautiful Destiny’ he winks, handing her the drink. She winks back and makes her way to the dressing room.

'Hello, gorgeous!' coos her coworker Amethyst, air-kissing her on both cheeks as she enters. 'Hello my darling, how are you this fine evening?' Destiny coos back. The dressing room, as usual, is a buzz of excitement as the drag queens fuss over their hair and reapply their lipstick, a heady mix of various perfumes blending in the air creating a unique and somewhat overwhelming aroma. ‘You’re on at 9:30 tonight my love, ok? Then have a mix and a mingle and I’ll see if I can get you in for a second slot later, alright?’ drawls the drag queen manager, Amber. ‘Sound perfect’ Destiny grins, sitting back to relax and sip her drink at one of the dressing tables while she waits for her turn.

She watches from the wings as Amber goes out first to warm up the crowd. 'You look stunning!' she calls out encouragingly, and Amber turns and gives her a confident grin before stepping out onto the stage. Destiny can hear the cheers already, and she’s eager for her turn. She chats with the others until she hears Amber call out: ‘Please welcome to the stage… Destiny!’ ‘Good luck honey!’ her colleagues call out to her as she makes her way towards the curtain. The music is pumping and she knows it's busy, but she's not nervous. Destiny is never nervous. In fact, she is never happier than when she is performing.

Stepping out onto the stage, Destiny hears the crowd go wild. The club is busy with customers dancing, drinking, talking, and cheering her on. She struts out into the spotlight, a wry smile on her face, and begins to prance around, throwing herself into her dance routine, responding to the gleeful calls of the crowd. She loves to hear how much they love her, and she can’t help showing off, getting caught up in the moment. Inevitably, she sees Amber beckoning to her from the side of the stage. She knows that she had overstayed her turn, but she has no regrets. ‘Goodbye my lovelies!’ she yells to the crowd, as she makes her way back to the dressing room.

She passes Amethyst as she walks back in. ‘Break a leg’ she whispers, and Amethyst throws her a cheeky smile. Destiny slips into one of the dressing table seats and admires her flawless reflection. She touches up her lipstick and adjusts her hair. Time to get my drink on, she thinks to herself, before standing up and sweeping into the main room of the club.

‘Fancy a shot?’ asks the bartender as she approaches. ‘Why not?’ she beams, and he pours out two shots of tequila. They clink glasses and swallow it down, then he makes her gin and tonic. Destiny never has to order her drink, nor does she have to wait to be served. She rests an elbow on the bar and looks around, surveying the club. When she’s not on stage, her job is to socialize with the crowd, party with them and make sure everyone is having fun. She gets paid to be herself and she loves it.

‘Thank you!’ she calls out as she takes her drink and steps into the crowd. It’s not long before a girl in her early 20s approaches her. ‘Excuse me!’ Destiny turns to the skinny blonde girl, dolled up in a tiny dress and a bridesmaid sash, and smiles. 'Do you mind if we get a picture with you? It's my friend's hens night!' 'Of course!' replies Destiny, and the girl leads her to a booth filled with about 15 other girls all dressed to the nines. They shuffle excitedly to make space for her to sit beside them.

‘I just love your outfit!’ grins one of the girls. ‘You look so fierce’ adds another. A third girl leans across the table, unaware that she’s spilling her vodka soda, to call out ‘your makeup is sensational!’. The bride-to-be holds out her camera, and Destiny takes it and hands it to the busboy. He's used to this being a regular part of his job. 'Smile ladies!' whoops Destiny 'Everybody say GLITTER!'.

Destiny chats away to the hen's party girls for a while before excusing herself to go and mingle some more. Spending too much time with one group is frowned upon, and Destiny is nothing if not a social butterfly anyway. She makes her way through the crowd of dancers, pausing to take photos and soak up the compliments of the clientele.

When it’s time for her next turn on the stage, she goes up with Amethyst for a two-person dance routine that they had finally convinced Amber to let them do – usually they go on stage alone. The crowd loves it, which only spurs them on more. Once it’s over, they hurry back into the dressing room. ‘That was awesome!’ squeals Amethyst, enveloping her in a hug. Destiny hugs her back, the huge grin on her face saying more than her words could. Instead, she simply says: ‘let’s get a drink!’.

Finally, closing time comes and Destiny bids her coworkers goodbye. She begins to feel her fatigue during the taxi ride home, but the adrenaline of another perfect night keeps her awake. She wishes the taxi driver goodnight as she hands him her fare, and he watches her to her door. She walks inside and heads to the bathroom, tugging off her heels on the way.

She reaches around and unfastens her dress, letting drop to the floor. She stares into the mirror as she wipes away her makeup with her right hand, reaching up with her left hand to remove her wig. The adrenaline and excitement of the night falls away, replaced with a quiet, understated sadness as she stops being destiny, and goes back to being Ian once more. 

August 20, 2021 08:58

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