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.


She is the ugliest queen I have ever seen. She is huge, raw-boned, and in an attempt to starve herself into feminine delicacy she has made cheekbones you could hang hockey sticks on, skin cleaving tight over ropy arm muscles. It’s not clear what makes up her small breasts. It’s not the drugs, she’s got a 36-hour shadow going on, and where she has shaved her thighs and throat rough burrs of hair are corkscrewing through, a regular and obvious black dapple on brown skin. There is still glitter on her collarbones from last night’s, or this morning’s, party and in the tired matty weave she is trying to untangle with her hands. Her black nylons are torn, a long vertical finger pointing to the dark band of the control-top sticking out from the bottom of her hot pants. She has no belly to be flattened, it must be other parts she wants smoothed away.

I hope she got whatever she was looking for, pleasure or money or both, when she went out last night. This is a most epic walk of shame, here, in the harsh subway glare rush hour. I’ll get off at my station now, walk past my neighborhood guys, enter my secure home. I wonder what her walk home will be, what the street corner men say to her, what waits for her behind the metal fire door of her apartment. I leave her on a Bed-Stuy bound train, hoping she walks in grace. Her courage to be has already attained her beauty, in a sense.

So there. I have written what I needed to for today, filled my quota, scratched my itch of words. But I have not told you about looking up from my book to see the hand clutching the subway pole. The hand with an attenuated subway map tattooed on the back of it. Each finger is labeled a borough: Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn; Staten Island is the thumb. It is right and fitting that Brooklyn is the index finger, pointing, accusing, exclaiming, aggressive promontory. I am not sure why Manhattan is the pinky, the weakling, and Staten Island is the one that sets us apart from all other animals with its critical utility. For a moment I ponder that maybe the existence of the entire city is mapped to his hand. If he were to get a cut on Queens, the power might go out. A blister on Manhattan could cause a heat inversion. If the Bronx got severed, it might disappear completely. Poof.

I also have not told you about a quiet Saturday morning in a hotel hallway, waiting for the elevator. My experience of Europe overall is that it is so much quieter than where I live. It is so quiet in this hallway now, I can hear the shower running in my room. It is so quiet, I can hear him singing. The hotel is waking up, it is a long wait for the elevator, and I have the time to just listen, to the rush of water, to the song I know now. Over the course of the day, that song will float up time and again, background to the hours of traveling that take me back to Brooklyn. When I arrive, he is not there, only in the song in my head.


Blogger slickaphonic said...

i hope you had a wonderful time, babe!

3:32 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

wondrous, I think is the better term. It is not so important where, it's the who, really, for me. And the chance to be with, and observe, and fail, and try to learn, is most precious.

(NB: YMMV when jet-lagged and hormone-riddled)

6:40 PM  

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