jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


A busy street corner Saturday night. This skell is taking advantage of the warm weather, the teeming revelers, by standing at the door of the ATM lobby. He holds the door open, and gosh, I really hate this. For his courtesy, for a mealy mouthed “God bless you” I am supposed to be guilted into giving him money. I did not sign this social contract, and I won’t, either.

I go through the door, but tell him thank you. He importunes me on my way out and I hold my face neutral. It occurs to me that he has probably never used an ATM, knows only that now I have money in my pockets, does not know that I only have $20s, one of which I am most certainly not going to give him. When he gets nothing from me as I exit, the humble, cheerful guise drops away and he snarls “Fuck you!” at my back.

I walk a few doors down, buy flowers for my friend’s birthday. It is that act of grace that I am choosing to spend my resources on, not some random street case. I walk back past him and he has forgotten me already, I am nothing but a mark for his hustle existence, clear enough when he sees the bouquet and says “Hey, are those for me?”

A few steps past him, it registers. I turn back, pluck a flower from the bunch and hand it to him. No words, and I am on my way.


Blogger slickaphonic said...

You know what cracks me up? My face was apparently so helpless and poor-looking throughout college, that the men who routinely hit my friends up for money would actually offer me their change when I was trying to buy gas a few times.

7:15 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

That's impressive. All I ever got was men offering me their Jesus.

6:51 AM  

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