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.


Her face is bunched into worry in the middle, riffled and downcast. She has a fake Chanel bag on her lap, her t-shirt says "You are not the boss of me." I can hardly see her because there is someone in between us, a man standing aggressively close, given how empty the train is. He is close enough I can clearly see the tag on the back of his Levi's, W36 L32. I wonder what it is like to have your waist exceed the length of your leg. I have never experienced this myself. Or wait, I have.

In 9th grade and in recovery from dislocating my hip I was ordered out of my schools' organized sports and into an alternate hell of P.E. Mixed among the regular school population they weren't so obvious, but clustered together these girls were a shameful clump of the hopelessly physically inept and horribly afflicted, girls whose bodies were so alien to them they couldn't do the simplest things, like run, and then girls like the one who had blown out her knees skiing, the wheezing asthmatic, the girl with scoliosis, and the fat girl, Alison Moore.

There were other girls just as fat or even more so, but Alison was the school's Fat Girl. Maybe it her rough complexion or her dirty hair or her cheap glasses, but there was something about her that was so ashamed, so degraded, that she was roundly shunned. When it came time to do our Fitness Test, no one would hold her ankles while she did sit ups.

So I did. I held her ankles while she grunted and heaved every sit up. And when she came forward, her knees would drop open, and I saw, starting at mid-thigh and going all the way up, bruises. Bruises on bruises, from her thighs slamming into each other as she moved through her day.

I don't think I gasped. I surely didn't say anything. It is not often that someone shows their secret shame to you, never mind demonstrates it in a way so horrible, so unmistakable, but also unknowingly, silently, like the accidental reveal of a dark card in the hand. That sidelong glimpse into her misery was a searing one, and now I can't wait to get off of this train, immerse myself in a hard run, make this memory go away.


Blogger Dr. S said...

This is terrifying, and beautifully written.

2:57 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

oh, my, thank you. May I ask what terrfies you about this? And can I also say, selfishly, I am bummed your sabbatical takes you not to Brooklyn? There, I said it. Now, I hope you have an awesome time!

5:40 PM  

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