by Amy Clarkin

I leave smudges of red wherever I go. Crimson kisses on the rims of coffee cups, berry stains on forks and spoons.

Pale skin, dark hair, brown eyes lined with shadows; my family joke that with my carefully shaded lips I could have stepped out of a fairytale.

I do not need a prince to bring me back to life.

All I need is a small tube of paste, meticulously applied. My collection has grown over time – varying shades from brightest crimson to blood red; from forest fruits to deepest scarlet. Smooth matte creams and luscious glosses that shimmer enticingly in the light. These are not mere cosmetics. They are a spell, a glamour that infuses me with confidence.

Lipstick is my armour, my battle cry, a defiant ‘fuck you’ to an illness that leaves my body constantly drained of energy, an exhausted husk of flesh and bone. On days where my illness flares, lipstick weaves a web of smoke and mirrors, the vivid curve of my lips deflecting attention from dull, tired eyes and greasy hair concealed under a hat.

On good days, it is an added burst of vitality. It unleashes a siren call for adventure. I walk taller, imbued with the confidence that oozes into me from ruby lips.

Passion. Courage. Lust. Strength. Energy. Action.

Red is a colour of life. A reminder of opportunities still available, a life left to live, even when illness gets in the way. When energy is a precious commodity, a resource that rapidly depletes each day, perhaps it is no surprise that red lipstick has become my touchstone, both weapon and shield.

“Yet in a few deft movements I can inject colour back into my life. Delicately drawn lines filled with shades of red become a ritual.”

I am a watery soul: a water sign, often losing myself in deep depths of emotion. I could use more fire, to rouse me from stillness. To pull me from vast pools of emotion and inject some warmth into my bones, releasing tendrils of flame that heat up the cold. Perhaps my lips are a summoning. A cry for assistance. A call to arms.

Illness makes me feel like I cannot. It reminds me of my limitations, the ‘what-ifs’, the fears and the crashes. The hours spent alone in darkness.

Yet in a few deft movements I can inject colour back into my life. Delicately drawn lines filled with shades of red become a ritual. A reminder. An invitation. A challenge: to hope, to dream, to dare.

To live.

Every time I look in the mirror I see my armour shining brightly, creating an illusion that projects the image I wish to present to the world. As time goes on, the lines between wishes and reality begin to blur.

A spell, not just for the world that sees me, but for myself.

Igniting boldness. A spark in the night.

Amy Clarkin | @amyclarkin | Instagram: @amyclarkin

Amy is a 28-year-old writer from Dublin. She can generally be found drinking coffee and reading, writing or watching stories.

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