Fountain of Youth

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Julie stands on the desolate sidewalk, staring at her feet. Even though it is midday, the sidewalk is barren, except for Julie who is pondering her life decisions while continuing to stare at her toes. The rattling sound of a trolley car on an abandoned track breaks her from her trance. The trolley cars are only dragged out for an overpaying resident or tourist, “who want the full effect of town,” making them a rare sight. She looks up and squints her eyes to see an old wooden trolley car, covered in cracking paints in various pastels. It clearly has been sitting in a city yard for a while, aging in silence. In the center of the trolley car’s paint job is a fresh sticker proclaiming, “You’re Next!” To Julie’s dismay, the second line says, “Forever Young.”

“Well that is a crock of shit if I’ve ever read one,” Julie mumbles to herself.

Julie realizes she is squinting and quickly relaxes her forehead. She massages her forehead gently, as if to rub away the two small fine lines, but they remain ingrained in her forehead. She checks her watch and sees it is 5:25 pm. Julie has five minutes to check in for her doctor’s appointment before she will be late. She pivots on her heels to turn and face the tall, grey doctor’s building. The sign reads, “Ray’s Fountain of Youth,” with the second line saying, “Gain back your appearance from aging!”
As she pushes open the door, Julie can’t believe she’s forcing herself to get Botox at the ripe age of 25. When she was a child, she imagined wrinkles didn’t appear until you were old and seventy. This dream was crushed one day when she looked into the mirror. She saw two thin fine lines running across her forehead where her face crinkled during deep thought. Julie tried the expensive serums and wrinkle creams, but the lines wouldn’t go away no matter how hard she tried. Julie decided to save herself some money on skincare and booked a Botox appointment at Ray’s Fountain of Youth.

Julie scratches her name down quickly on the patient sign-in sheet and takes her place in a beige pleather chair. The chair releases air in a hiss when she sits down, causing Julie to wrinkle her forehead again. This deepens the lines she hates with a passion. She scrubs her forehead with her hand and pushes air angrily out of her nose.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” Julie mutters.

The walls in the waiting room remind her of her ex-boyfriend’s apartment. Like the doctor's office, Paul’s walls were a cool green with a leaf motif scattered across it. Julie hated that wallpaper. It always reminded her of a retirement home.

“Are you sure you don't want to change this wallpaper,” Julie inquired as she adjusted a crooked piece of art.

“It’s a rental. How do you expect me to change it,” Paul said, pushing his annoyance down. He was trying to be patient.

“It just feels so old,” she whined.

“We became old when we passed twenty-one...”

Julie gasped and clutched her chest like a taken aback southern grandma.

“Get used to it,” Paul stated.

Julie frowns in the waiting room. She thought it was funny how Paul always said that after twenty-one they were old. It would explain why after they broke up he started dating a twenty-year-old. Apparently, he didn’t like his women aged.

Even though Paul seemed sure about his type, Julie was at a loss when it came dating. She had only been on one date since Paul broke up with her and it was horrendous. Julie didn’t know how to act on a date at twenty-five. It seemed so foreign to her. Was she expected to be a party girl who got a little too drunk, but still manage to make it to work in the morning? Or was she expected to be a respectable adult, ready to find her husband and father to her future children? Both options seemed to be too much to handle.

Julie readjusts herself in the pleather waiting room chair, taking a moment to massage her palm with her thumb. It was a motion that always felt good on her hands and helped calm her anxious brain for a moment when Julie got too deep in her what-if scenarios. She takes a few deep breathes with her eyes closed and finally begins to relax in the chair. For a single moment, the world pauses and allows Julie the comfort of a blank mind.

The door to the exam rooms slams shut. Julie stiffens to attention and stares at the round, black female nurse standing in front of the door. The nurse scans the manila file she holds in her hands, looking for the name Julie in the midst of the medical history paperwork.

“Julie,” the nurse said, beckoning Julie towards her.

Julie rises from the chair, not sorry to see it go. When she stands, the chair reinflates itself for the next victim of its hiss. Julie follows the nurse, trying to fight the urge to stare in exam rooms as she walks by. Most of them are closed, but there is one open right before hers that she looks into.

In the exam room sits a woman that Julie estimates is in her sixties. Everything about the woman is kempt and young. She is wearing the latest fashion taken from the misses section, rather than the grandma section of a department store. Her face is smooth without wrinkles. Julie thinks that she must have taken exquisite care of herself, or she is a regular patient at Dr. Ray’s practice. The only thing that gives her away is her hair. The patient's hair is starting to gray at the top peppering the light brown hair with silvery highlights. Julie wonders if this woman ever found Mr. Right before her hair began to grey, or if she was still believing there was someone out there for her.

“Do men like women with grey hair,” Julie murmurs, causing the nurse to peek over her shoulder with a puzzled look on her face.

The nurse realizes Julie is discussing the woman across the hall, so she ushers Julie into her room, motioning to the empty exam bed. The nurse dashes to the other exam room to shut the door, breaking Julie’s line of sight.

Julie takes her place on the exam bed. The same wallpaper from the waiting room wraps these walls also. She feels her heartbeat accelerate as she thinks about Paul and his new, young girlfriend. Julie bets that they have more invigorating conversations than discussing wallpaper. Julie crinkles her forehead in anger and then realizes, once again she is deepening her wrinkles. She rubs her forehead hard, trying to press the wrinkles out.

“Just please go away,” Julie pleads.

She tries the palm trick again, but it doesn’t work. Her heart keeps accelerating, making Julie wonder if it is possible for her heart to run out of her throat. Tears began to form in her eyes, when the door opens.

Dr. Ray walks through the door. He has a kind smile, but his eyes seem dead. Julie can feel that he puts this fake smile on for every patient he’s about to stab with a needle. Dr. Ray analyzes Julie’s face, looking for the issue until he settles on her forehead.

“Ah. I see now,” Dr Ray says, scribbling a few notes onto Julie’s file. “How are we today, Miss Julie?”

“I’m fine,” Julie’s voice cracks, “I just have these lines on my forehead.”

“I can see that.” Dr. Ray reaches out and grazes the lines on Julie’s forehead with his hand.

He presses down to feel how deep the wrinkles are. Dr. Ray presses his lips together and mumbles a few numbers that mean nothing to Julie. He scribbles down a few more notes and moves over to the kit of needles and medicine laid out for him on the counter by the nurse. Dr. Ray puts on some gloves, intentionally making a snapping sound that brings Julie to full attention.

“I believe ten units of Botox in the Frontalis muscle will take away your problem. If if it doesn’t smooth everything out as much as you would like, you can come back and get a few more units put in,” Dr. Ray says, prepping the syringe.

Julie nods and closes her eyes. She doesn’t want to see the needle come closer to her skin. She can feel Dr. Ray moving closer to her, but Julie wants to travel far away from Dr. Ray’s Fountain of Youth to her own youth.

She can see herself in the mirror at eighteen, combing her hair. There is no grey beginning to highlight Julie’s brown hair, only a few springs of blonde caused by the sunlight. Julie smiles at her smooth skin, perfected only by a small bit of concealer. Her phone buzzes on the bathroom counter with two guys asking Julie for her plans for the day.

“Just a little pinch,” Dr. Ray says, easing the small needle into Julie’s Frontalis muscle.

The liquid pushes through into Julie’s forehead, pulling her deeper into her reverie.

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