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 only thing separating her from the street is the very short distance from there to her seat behind the reception desk. It’s enough to have garnered her a shiny motorcycle, but she is still missing three teeth. Her t-shirt is cut into a deep V in the front, into strips in the back so she can tie it tightly across her mingy chest.

Today there are no croissants, so it’s a slab of corn bread instead and the man behind the counter smiles at me, shows me the charming gap between his teeth, and says it’s been a long time. A woman shoulders in next to me, brays for Sammy to get her something to wipe her carton of orange juice with so she doesn’t have to touch the condensation. So now I know his name.

I have not seen Knobs, in his white guayabera, leaning on his broom, for a couple of days. He’s at an age when a sudden absence could mean that he has finally gone back to his village in Puerto Rico, or his daughter has finally convinced him to come live with her in Hackettsville, or, that thing I don’t want to think about. Because I love to say good morning to him as much as I hope he loves to be smiled at, for us to bask in a flash of regard, to be present and gifted. I am missing that today.


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