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.


She has a violin strapped to her back and an oval face that shows the ancestry of Renaissance Madonna paintings. Her nose is long and elegant, the bones of her cheeks and chin fine, clean, feminine. Her loopy rush of hair is pulled back and browned out in the muzzy light of the subway. I wonder if, loosed on her pillow in the morning, I wonder, if it shines yellow or red.

There is some discontent on her face, and I see in the disappointed set of her mouth, the beginning of lines radiating, that discontent has dug in and found a home. We have ridden several stations together and now, even though she is ten or even fifteen years younger then me, I wave her through the high turnstile before me. She has the violin, a cup of coffee, two huge bags she is balancing, and I motion that I’ll push the toothed gate for her.

She accepts the offer of help by putting her head down and going forward. Now I see where her dissatisfaction comes from, a tiny flicker of ugly self-absorption. I walk up the stairs behind her and into the gorgeous streaming light of this morning. If she turned around then, if I existed for her at all, she would not have to wonder if my hair turns to fire or gold on my pillow. But I am not to be noticed, and now I will let myself be blessed by this wash of sun and I will walk perfectly alone at this start of my day.


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