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.


The man on the platform reminds me of a high school crush. I was 14, too young to understand why I wanted, only to know that I did. How could I have helped it, he had a red mouth and curls the color of the beach, sand and driftwood tumbled together and bent over a list of French verb conjugations.

I’m standing on a crowded train, looking at the woman seated next to me, looking down into the threads of grey cross-hatching the start of a nest in her hair. She is slumped, her chest a sallow sink, her belly rounded. I wonder if she is pregnant and I watch her hands for confirmation, for her to slide one over her swell protectively. She is pawing through the bag perched on her knees, digging with reddened knuckles. She finds her Blackberry, cradles it in the knot of her fingers.

In the reception area Mr. Businessman is all business. Good shined shoes, American flag pin in his lapel, he is filling out medical forms with a burning intensity I imagine him using to bulldog a deal. He has a David Spade bag to say he is not old yet but his harsh haircut is fading into a thickening neck.

My earphones say “It’s not having what you want/it’s wanting what you’ve got” and I think that’s about half right.


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