The wigs scratched their heads. They got them at the Five Below across the street from Nishka’s dad’s, $4.50 each—now they knew why they were cheap.
Morgan sprinkled baby powder on her head, underneath the wig. “It’ll help the itching,” she said, holding the powder out to Nishka.
“No thanks, I think I’ll just try to ignore it.”
Morgan pushed the powder back under the sink, knocking over several bottles of calamine and body lotion, and a flat iron Nishka hadn’t used since freshman year of high school. Nishka leaned into the magnified mirror on the counter, squeezing a pimple on her right cheek between her fingertips. “I know this is gross, it’s just got to go.”
Morgan shrugged, plucking stray hairs on her chin.
Nishka popped the pimple, then pressed toilet paper onto the small spurt of blood. “Wait, you’re not supposed to pluck your hair,” she said. “My mom always tells me it’ll grow back thicker.”
“Really? I’ve always done it this way.”
“I shave it,” Nishka said, holding up a tiny razor like one Morgan saw her dad using on his nose hairs. She laughed. “Whatever,” Nishka said, “I’ll still love you when your whole face is hairy, Frida.”
I’ll still love you when your whole face is hairy, Frida.
They chatted about the newest edition of Ms. Marvel while carefully applying eyeliner. Nishka thought superheroine Kamala Khan and her friend Bruno had to end up together. In the last issue, Bruno blabbered on and on about Kamala’s great qualities. She told him he could continue, but he blushed and stopped.
Morgan argued it was clear that Kamala and her best friend from school, Nakia, were in love. Kamala saved her first from the weird goopy prisons for captured millennials.
“That’s ridiculous,” Nishka said. “They’re Muslim and go to mosque. They can’t see each other!”
Morgan shrugged, pushing the pencil a few centimeters further for cat eyes. Nishka watched her, then sat still on the toilet seat as Morgan held her chin and traced her eyelids.
They squeezed into red and blue spandex jumpsuits, Nishka’s with a glitter-glued lightning bolt down the front and Morgan’s a star. They’d found them in Gene’s Costumes a year ago, back when they didn’t tell anyone what they were doing, back when dressing up wasn’t terrifying, months looming ahead of them.
...back when they didn’t tell anyone what they were doing, back when dressing up wasn’t terrifying, months looming ahead of them.
Nishka’s boobs looked fuller in her jumpsuit, and her belly was more noticeable. She didn’t complain to Morgan. Morgan turned around and slid her hand down her ass, which Nishka thought looked great in her spandex suit. “No wrinkles,” Morgan said.
They pinned capes on each other, safety pins sticking out of their mouths.
Nishka passed a tube of red lipstick to Morgan. She slowly spread the lipstick on her lower lip, then her top. She kept reapplying until Nishka thought she’d use it all up. “I’m going to take this with, you know, in case we need a touchup,” Morgan said. She slid the lipstick under the thigh of her skin-tight skirt.
They didn’t linger in the mirror, because then they’d never go. They grabbed the passes hanging on Nishka’s bedpost and got into Morgan’s car. When they pulled into the Glenmont parking lot, Morgan turned to Nishka.
“Ready for this, Nish?”
She nodded, and they pushed through the doors. Nishka’s red cape brushed her ankles as they walked to the Metro. She hoped she wouldn’t trip over it. That would just be great. Fool in Costume Falls onto Tracks, she thought, imagining a newspaper headline. Costumed Crazy Creates Chaos.
Fool in Costume Falls onto Tracks, she thought, imagining a newspaper headline. Costumed Crazy Creates Chaos.
They waited for the Red Line. It was packed for a baseball game, so they pushed through the Red Sea of fans and held onto a pole in the center.
A little girl sitting nearby kept staring at Morgan. She tugged on her mom’s sleeve and pointed. “They’re playing dress-up,” the girl said. Her mom nodded. Morgan felt her cheeks blush.
The train lurched forward and pushed Morgan into a nearby passenger’s back. “Watch it!” he shrieked through his scruffy brown beard. Morgan apologized quickly and inched closer to Nishka. She leaned against the pole, squeezing her feet around its base for balance. They transferred at Fort Totten and got on a Green Line train.
Morgan and Nishka swayed as the train made its way downtown. Morgan tried to get the Scooby Doo porn she watched last night out of her head. The one where Velma and Daphne undressed in a scary old house, took turns kissing each other’s clits. There was a full scene of the gang running naked from the bad guy, in and out of doorways, just like the old cartoons. She tried to ignore how turned on she got, how much she wanted to taste Nishka.
“It’s our stop,” Nishka said, tapping Morgan’s shoulder. She looked out the window and saw a sign for Mount Vernon Square on the tunnel wall. She was glad Nishka paid attention to each station as they stopped. She rarely rode the Green Line, but could fall asleep on either end of the Red Line and know when to jolt herself awake.
As they rose from the tunnels of D.C. on the escalator, the city felt slightly different. People still stared at them, still whistled as the girls walked along—but somehow it mattered less now.
People still stared at them, still whistled as the girls walked along—but somehow it mattered less now.
A few blocks out of the Metro, Morgan sucked in a breath and took Nishka’s hand. Nishka hid her widening eyes under her wig. Stop biting your lips. Stop it, she thought.
Nishka’s hand was clammy, so Morgan let go. Morgan’s heartbeat was in her throat. She saw another person in a masked costume—with webs wrapped around his palms. She pointed and Nishka smiled.
“What if we’re the only ones with handmade costumes?” Nishka asked.
“We won’t be,” Morgan said. “Even if we are, there’s some pretty shitty store-bought ones.” She nudged her shoulder. “Nish, hold up, I have to tie my boots.”
She lifted her cape and put her right foot on a bench. Leaning over, she laced her red-heeled boots that she’d found a few weeks ago on sale in the back of DSW.
Nishka heard a group of guys passing them. They were telling stories about a bar crawl they’d gone on last night. A few of them pointed out the costumed weirdos up ahead, “Look, there’s more of them,” she heard one say. Another was blatantly staring at Morgan’s ass while she bent to reach her boots. The guy fished in his pocket and held up his phone like he was checking a text. He walked slower.
Nishka narrowed her eyes. “Hey,” she found herself shouting, “go take a picture of your own ass!”
Morgan looked up and threw her cape over herself with such force that Nishka’s bangs fluttered. The guy raised his eyebrows but kept his phone up. Cocking her head, Morgan flipped him off. The guys scoffed and left.
“Sorry,” Nishka said. “I should’ve known they would do something stupid.”
“It’s okay, you said something,” Morgan said. “Was he really trying to take a picture of my ass?” Nishka nodded and rolled her eyes. “Typical,” Morgan said, patting her ass. They laughed and walked on to the convention center. Morgan glanced at Nishka’s hand again, but she didn’t hold it.
“You’re officially my ass-savior.”
“What a title,” Nishka said. “I’m honored.”
When they reached the festival entrance, they left themselves outside and walked in as Wonder Women.
Marlena Chertock's first collection of poetry, On that one-way trip to Mars, is available from Bottlecap Press. She is the Poetry Editor for District Lit. Her poems and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Fat, The Deaf Poets Society, The Fem, The Little Patuxent Review, and Wordgathering. Find her at marlenachertock.com or @mchertock.
Illustrated by Meghan Murphy.