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.


For months I watched the dog-faced lesbian at my station. Her hair was always wet and roughly pushed back, showcasing her heavy cheeks, the jowling of a hound. She was always alone, and I wondered who loved her, shambling wide onto the train. One morning she is riding with a woman wearing scrubs, and now I know, she has love, but it is on an opposing shift. Today I have just missed a train and I sit next to her to wait. She is reading a manual on structural engineering, an architect’s primer, so now I know her profession, or at least what interests her.

This time, every month, I have to be careful. The world inside my body does its shift change and tries to insist that my emotional life go along with it. It wants to pull everything apart, look for seams, lick nuances to see what they taste like, mate words and actions, discard mismatches, draw pictures of alligators and set them to bouts of crinkly paper wrestling. I am restless and impatient, looking for some kind of truth that may be found in ideas, but more likely found only in how they play out in the brickyard of building a life.

Up early, I am cleaning out my handbag. I have carried a scrap of paper around for months. It has a phone number on it, a 646 prefix of the newly wireless, the reluctant adopter of new technology. I can understand why, for the name on this folded dusty shred I found on the sidewalk says “Justice.” I like the idea that justice has finally gotten around to being accessible, is only a phone call away. I wonder how many messages have been left for justice, how long it takes justice to get back to you. Less literally, and more realistically, I wonder about the parents who named their child for this mighty, elusive, cauterizing blade of an idea, what their hopes were, how they thought this child should bring love into the world.


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