The Girl with the Red Lipstick

Joaquin Fernandez


Of course, she will be from Florida. She will be older than you, not terribly, but old enough to know better, like she’s arrived at a party just before you, shaking hands and batting eyelashes, scanning a strangers house for dark corners and empty bedrooms. She thrives in quiet, hidden places where she can be loud and open and utterly seen.

She’s going to leave you clues, divine and imperceptible. Love letters in a language you don’t yet speak. Phantom kisses on bathroom mirrors, lovely and ominous, in her signature heart-racing red. Swamp water footsteps you’re going to ache to follow.

When you learn to walk, you’re going to start looking for her. You’re going to crawl to her as a child, running towards her through mangroves as a boy, gravitating to her in that thoughtful drifter way that people are going to mistake for depth and, for a long time, you’re going to let them.

For a long time, you’re not going to know it’s her you’re looking for. For a long time, just a part of her will be enough. Any part. Her freckles on someone else’s cheek. Her strength in someone that lacks her kindness. Her intellect without her imagination. You’re going to wipe lipstick off the face of a hundred strangers before you realize that it’s the wrong shade.

Unfortunately, you will have dreams. Fevered, lingering, sweat-soaked fugues, following you into the morning with bites and scratches, the memory of her kiss trailing you throughout the day. Some days the memory won’t leave. Some days you’ll wake up with her lipstick still on you. The body can be cruel in what it remembers.

You won’t find her.

You’re going to follow her. The trail of beach sand, red lipstick and half-tasted kisses will take you through beautiful graveyards and rock-bottom bars, starry-eyed and crawling through the back alleys of cathedrals. You won’t stop until you’ve crossed the deserts and all the seas that bind them, until you kiss the lowest parts of heaven, dredged upside down on the highest mountain top.

She’s going to find you when you stop looking for her.


She’s going to find you when you’ve almost forgotten, almost given up, almost stopped chasing the red streaks of her lipstick down empty highways. She’s going to find you when you’re a real person, fully formed with well-healed scars and a hunger for her that you’ve almost got under control. It’s the almost that’s going to make you hers. She’s going to reach inside of you and twist the parts of you that have almost stopped believing she was real, pulling you home from a thousand miles away.


And when you get there? You’re going to find yourself in a foreign city where everything feels too familiar. You’re going to walk into a stranger’s house with your heart half broken and skeptical, delirious with fever. You’re going to be late and you’re going to apologize to the carved marble of her naked back while she fixes her lipstick in the mirror. She’s going to take a long moment to turn around. She’s going to make you wait half your life, and when she turns around, you’re going to thank her.


When she turns around, you’re going to realize that you’ve been holding your breath this entire time. When she turns around, you’re going to realize that you’ve always been hers. Despite those headlong years, scattered, lost, and searching, you’re going to realize that she was inevitable. You’re going to realize that the imperfect spiral of your life has been drawing you closer with every fortunate misstep. When she turns around, she’s going to envelope you in the impossible beauty of her scars and stretch marks, devouring you fully as you feel your whole world eclipsed under the bright red sky of her endless, laughing kiss.


You’re not going to feel the bed beneath you. You’re going to smile while she eviscerates you, spreads you open past skin and bone to your open, racing heart. You’re going to shudder when she dips her head and wets her lips, dripping, red, immaculate, and swallows your every fear and grief, anxious worry, doubt unkind. You’re going to beg her not to stop as she stitches you whole with a lick of her lips, messed up bangs and bedroom eyes, warm and fierce. You’re going to beg her not to stop when she nests her delicate weight on you and you’re finally strong enough to carry it. You’re going to beg her when your mouth finally finds hers, marking you red, and hers and ruined for anything else.



Joaquin Fernandez is a recovering filmmaker and Miami native perpetually tinkering with his first novel. His work has appeared in Okay Donkey, Cotton Xenomorph, and Pidgeonholes among others. He can be found on Twitter @Joaqertxranger and on his website