I dot the foundation on the uneven areas of my skin, like I’ve seen my sister Rose do. Figuring out the uneven areas isn’t hard, since my cappuccino birthmark is not the same pecan tan tone as my skin. I cringe at the cement smell of the makeup.The creamy foundation feels like I am wearing a mask that hides the real me
People say I wouldn’t be Tenesie without it. They say it defines me, but I despise that. My personality is supposed to define me, right? I want people to see the real me, not just the girl with the mark on her face.
“Tenesie, how come you were born with chocolate on your face and I wasn’t?” asks my six-year-old neighbor Anne.
“I’m just one of the lucky ones, I guess.”
Orlando, my friend’s older brother teases, “Hey shit stain, do you ever wonder how you would look without it?”
“I’m not picture perfect, but I’m worth the picture still.” I don’t mind his name calling, nor do I care about what he thinks about my face.
“Okay, then why don’t you tell Anne that it’s a birthmark and not chocolate?”
I don’t believe telling Anne would benefit her much. My birthmark is the only spot on my face that doesn’t get acne. I like to pretend it’s a chocolate version of the map of Africa, my birthplace. It makes walking around with it more exciting.
I smooth the foundation over my cheeks with my eyes closed. I refuse to see how I look until I’m done. The slam of the front door interrupts my flow. Uh oh. My mom’s home. I panic hurrying to lock the bathroom door because if she sees what I’m doing she will think I hate myself. I doubt she will be sympathetic to my explanation that it’s just an experiment, equivalent to straightening my hair or painting flowers on my toe nails.
I glance in the mirror. The mark has disappeared and this stranger staring back at me looks completely fake. She doesn’t seem to understand her birthmark is a beauty mark. She forgot it protected her, because babies without distinct markings were more likely to get kidnapped at the Ghanaian hospital where she was born.
I wipe the makeup off, eager to see my birthmark again. Wiping turns into scrubbing so hard it hurts, but I ignore the pain because all I want to see is my beautiful, natural face again. All this time I have been wanting people to see the real me, but I wasn’t seeing myself fully. Chocolate Africa is as much a part of me as my imaginative mind, exuberant spirit, and faithful love. There’s no need to fix what God already put his paint brush on.