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.


If they don’t know where you belong when you call, the front desk transfers your call to me. External Relations sometimes means I am the patron saint for the needy and vulnerable. He first says he has a book we may be interested in. Sure, we could send it to the archives. Then photographs of orphans that passed through our doors a hundred years ago. Sure, that’s archival too. Then he wants to send a piece of his deceased father’s artwork. Um, ok. But he is not sure how to send it to us. He’s in Florida, see? He’s about to sell his house. He has cancer. He’s on oxygen. He is homebound. He’s on Medicare. He’s having a little trouble with money these days. I can’t tell if he wants empathy or money. Officially, I have only one of those to give, and not even so much of it.

I am called into the Director’s office. A surprise project, it’s time to renew the certification for the battered women’s shelter. We just did it three years ago, it’s supposed to last for five, but here we go. We have less than a month to push a mountain of paperwork through, but that is not the hardest part. What stuns me is that each piece of paper, each exacting description of policies and procedures, how we do, what we do, carries the crushing weight of necessity. We do this because he held the child out the window and threatened to drop him unless she promised to never leave him. She woke up with her wrists and mouth taped, his knife hacking off her hair. He doused her with lighter fluid, held the book of matches up for her to see.

Today I come to the office, and sit in my chair. I turn on my computer and unpack my bag. The only defense I have is to make sure I am taken care of in the most basic sense, and I have planned for this. I line up an apple, a container of salad, a container of yoghurt, a baggie of cherries, one of blueberries, one of apricots and almonds, one of carrots. I mark my day here this way, and wait for the phone to ring.


Blogger slickaphonic said...

i would want to write about the commute rather than the job most days, too...


6:11 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

thank god most days are not like this. but it does keep me looking for balance and beauty and some concept of grace as some kind of ballast.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Dr. S said...

You are doing astonishingly necessary work, and the rest of us thank you for it.

1:34 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

p'shaw Dr. S. I couldn't do anything else, and neither could you! but thank you, and thank you too.

5:32 PM  

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