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 express train is streaming fast, a mercury bubble containing a thousand souls. Everyone is blurred together, indistinct and screaming off into the tunnel. When the local arrives it’s a tumbling parade of coffee cups, briefcases, baseball hats, newspapers, a guy with a wadded up tissue stuck up one nostril.

The man standing in front of me could pass for a paunching soccer dad with his cargo shorts and Rockport sandals. Except for the tattoos on his neck. On one side a red cratered crescent moon ridden by some female stereotype, on the other, a crowned skull and bongo drum ensemble. The knuckles on his right hand spell V I S E and wonder if he didn’t mean “vice” or maybe, given the prosperous spread of his belly, “Visa.”

It’s finally been glorious spring, cool air, bright sun. I smile at the old man sweeping in front of the bodega, not a little upturn, but the full bore, all the way back to the molars transformation. It’s the smile that made Brad Hunt tell me I looked like a mule, back in middle school. I figured that meant he liked me, and I tested the theory at 8th grade graduation, daring him out underneath the trees after sunset for my first kiss.


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