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.


It is strange to watch someone's mouth for two hours. But that's what I did last Sunday. On her way to her first TV interview, Catherine Ndereba asks me if she can have something to drink. "I can't recommend that." Can she if I get her something? "I am not allowed to hand you anything." She tells me if she doesn't get some fluids, it will take her four hours to get her sample. We find her a sealed Gatorade.

It still takes two hours.

So while we are waiting for that Gatorade to make its way through her famous and finely tuned body, I have to maintain my vigil. I watch her hands. I watch the hands of everyone who touches her. Which is a lot of people, since she is the winner, tons of people shake her hand, hug her, clap her on the shoulder. I watch everything that goes into her mouth (one Gatorade, one half liter of water from a sealed container, and finally, tea with the mercifully diurectic caffeine in it).

I stay close, but try not to be too intrusive. But the very nature of what I am doing is intrusive. I cannot imagine having my body so much as public possession, to be so scrutinized, to have my most basic functions monitored.

And intrusive in other ways as well. In those two hours I watch her hug her daughter, tenderly take a piece of lint off her husband's chin before a photo op. I watch how she interacts with other runners, press, race officials. I am sure if I were watched for any two hours of any day, I would do something ungraceful, ungracious. But she didn't. She was poised, kind and so gentle with everyone who approached her I was simply awed.

When my job was finally done, I shook her husband's hand and thanked him for letting me get so close to their family. Then I walked to the subway. On the way, the final stragglers are coming over the line. These are the ones who are really struggling, who have gotten injured, where something has gone wrong, but they are still trying to make it. Their faces are pained, they are soaked in sweat and rain, and people on the sidelines are screaming their names, urging them on, and there they go, in their own grace, slogging towards the finish. My eyes tear up still at the memory.


Post a Comment

<< Home