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.


In owning this house for the past year it has started to become like a living extension of myself. Short on brains, but with doors like eyelids, people moving through it as buzzing nerve endings, the circulatory system of water in the pipes. I pay attention to small noises, the clues of our inner workings. The scuff of a visitor’s foot on the steps, a pooling of light in the backyard from an uncurtained window, the muffled underwater murk of a radio playing.

It is 3.30 in the morning and a noise has woken me up. Ting! Ting! Ting! I tune my ears in the dark, play an aural 20 questions.
Is it coming from inside my apartment? No.
Is it coming from inside the building? No.
It is a metallic noise. Is it coming from the grocery store behind the house? No.
Is it coming from the neighbor’s? No, it’s closer than that.
Is it, maybe, the steady beat of rain, falling on a drainpipe? No, because now the sound is becoming more complex, there is the steady metallic ting, but also richer noise, more depth, different rhythms.

The noise is coming from the back of my house. The noise is coming from my own fire escape. Someone is playing my house like a drum, they are playing my fire escape like a percussive instrument, some solo instrumentalist, in the middle of the night, is on my fire escape, beating his music out against the flats, the spindles, the handrails. I am too awed to be pissed.


Blogger cherrydragonut said...

They brought their lunch trays to the back tables in the cafeteria. The woman asked him if he wanted the “good seat,” the one that looked out into the room. He clearly would have been subordinate to her had he accepted the chair. He didn’t.

I felt she wanted to set him up, that perhaps she had rank in title or just wanted to test his manners. I disliked her instantly and even more when I heard the man saying that he was “grateful to do something even menial,” grateful for work. I thought he might be putting her in her place. He got up for dessert and when he returned, did not resume his place opposite her, but had slid down one seat so they were now seated on a diagonal.

I ate my arugula with a stinky tahini that I concocted, my vegan equivalent to blue cheese, with tamari and kim chi mixed in. I stirred some water into the jar with my plastic fork so it would be easier to pour careful not to break off any teeth.

I was emotionally hung-over, the brooding artist that I am, and would have gladly stayed home and spent half the day crying except it was so damn cold that I slept in my clothes, minus the bra, and wore the entire ensemble to work again telling myself that I would have been late had I taken my usual shower. It felt too cozy to change. I put back on the bra without pulling off the shirt, sweater and vest. However phoney it felt, not wearing it could have been too risky for me in an office like mine, clearly worse than any Victoria Secrets lunch pail that I could muster. And muster I did. I carried one that my aunt gave me in spite of my grandmother’s protests. She knew its Barbie doll effect would agitate some of the women I worked for. But my aunt, like my mother before her thought the bag was fun, that it would pick me up. I changed my underpants too. I may be messy but I am vain.

Once outside I felt like a three year old in a snowsuit, bundled up and perspiring. I was so padded that had I fell on my face I wouldn’t even have noticed. Perhaps I would have remained there teetering on the foam of my coat, or maybe I would have bounced up off of the pavement and back onto my feet like a giant soft ball.

2:15 PM  

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