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.


My passport is on some kind of internal exile. I never use it, it was one of those “it’s good to have things” or possibly some ridiculous fantasy that I would ever be able to travel. And ten years and a couple of moves later, it is not in the file where I keep such documents. I don’t think I have lost it in the wider world, I think of it orbiting around the dark galaxies of my closets like Sputnik.

And now I need one. I know it will, and it does, take me several trips to the passport window at the post office to get the documentation right. It is one of those tired, charming old buildings, with slate stairs worn into grooves, yellowing lighting, people shouting in Chinese dialects through the thick glass, voices raised to get over the barriers and the grey-noise of shuffling feet and papers rising to the high ceiling. How fantastically New York, the name of the station is Knickerbocker, it is in Chinatown, there isn’t a native English speaker in front of or behind the service windows.

The last woman I deal with in this matter calls for my documents one by one, adding each one to papers of her own, with cross-checks, stamp, receipts, forms, until she has an untidy, sliding, vari-colored mountain in front of her. Somewhere along the way in her life, through aging and bad American food, she has lost her chin, sunk it away in a slide towards her neck. With that carelessness on my mind, I am not sure I trust her with every official piece of paper that documents my validity in this country.

What twinges me particularly to hand over is the official, notarized change of name order. I can’t even begin to say what that single sheet of fragile, embossed paper means, and I watch it float from my hands to her pile. It should return any day now, with the less-precious companion of my birth certificate, and a blue passport with gold letters on the front. I have had some underlying level of nervousness for the past few days, and the spike of exasperation I feel when I find the passport website down for servicing tells me where the locus is: I am waiting for my self to come home.


Blogger slickaphonic said...

I meant to ask about this...the name change mysterious.

5:25 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

there's not really a short story to this. I changed my name when I could no longer stand to the affiliation of my birth name. The original name was a fine, strong-sounding one, but the association was just too stinging. I could not stand to hear it every day.

That is a few words--but there are volumes there. I did get all my paperwork back...and the tiny circus and I are off to Holland, or Belgium, or somewhere in a couple of weeks.

6:29 PM  
Blogger slickaphonic said...

a ringmaster by any other name is still a ringmaster...

perhaps one day we'll sit on a porch together and you'll read aloud from Volumes I and II.

7:32 PM  

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