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.


February was when I first left my parents’ house. My only plan was to escape the beatings. There was no plan of where to stay, no plan to deal with the winter chill. I turned 16 under the hard lights of a late night greasy spoon, spending my last two dollars on a hamburger and getting out of the cold. Old enough to fuck, to work, to drop out of school. I knew that was what was expected of a girl alone, unprotected, unclaimed.

The ice of that winter, of those damaged ambitions, of so many nights in a thin coat and no bed is still conjurable. I am realizing just now, what a shock, it is nearly exactly 25 years later. Something in me must know the anniversary, because standing this morning on the stoop of the house that I own, buttoning my warm coat, I am squint-grinning into the brilliant morning sky.

At the corner there are spatters of blood rusting in the sun. Someone had a bad night, but I did not hear it, tucked into my bed in the room with red walls. I bob my head in greeting to Mr. K with his kufi on underneath his hoodie, sweeping in front of the mosque. The train is coming, I can feel the vibrations in my boots, hear the rumbling through the subway grates. A girl farther up the sidewalk does not want to miss it, she starts to run to the station. She is wearing a red coat and an orange skirt, and as she runs the white skin above her boot tops flashes in the light. I don’t want to run, I don’t need to, I just watch her go with her urgency, with her strong legs, with her bright colors, with how she makes herself beautiful.


Blogger fortycalibernap said...

deep christmas eve shouldering the interstate, elevated, in jacksonville, he sees you past the last possible impaired second and the car locks up on all four reflex wheels and skids sideways across three lanes and one hundred meters. it is your personal holiday light show. you get in once he finally stops and the door swings open.

a night later there's a thunderstorm in the middle of some palmetto swamp near fort meyers, and you end up squeezed between the ice machine and the wall because that's where the exhaust from the condensor motor puddles warm, and no one's around in a wet late holiday swamp so there is peace on earth, briefly alongside the convenience store.

in key west his name is patrick rafters and you forget her name the moment you see her naked in your shower; you get calls at the cuban guest house on south beach and they want you to meet them in old town at some one-off bar you'll never see again, finally he blacks her eye and throws her down the stairs and when you see that moulé plaster you know you are done with florida and christmas, forever.

9:03 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

holy smokes. I hope you post this over by you. It should get a bigger throw up than this tiny space.

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More amazing writing here, ttractor. It's like you're letting this painful story unwind slowly from around your throat, like thread off a spool. And then you use that thread to stitch together the coat you wear out into the world. Lovely.

But who's fortycalibernap? This anonymous reader would love a link to follow.

8:21 AM  
Blogger ttractor said...

Thank you, as ever.

40Cal is also OracleMonkey, overon my links.

I have problems with telling this story. Not that I don't know how, but rather, I don't want to be seen as doing something cheap and manipulative. Also, a back-channel communique on this yesterday showed me, while I may be ashamed of the fact that my family did not love me, I may be ashamed of the things they did, I am most deeply ashamed that they can still cause pain in other people. I feel like I need to beg forgiveness for the heart break for which I become an agent when I tell these stories.

9:47 AM  

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