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.


Today on the subway platform is the guy who looks just like the Christopher Reeves’ Clark Kent. Impossibly square jaw, thick curly hair with that fetching forelock, even the “don’t look at me, I’m not really gorgeous” dork glasses. We have side-eyed each other before. Now he is stretching leisurely, pulling off his sweatshirt. Superman is getting rather a pot belly.

At work, they ask me “what was your favorite thing?” about my vacation, and what flashes immediately is the first split of the man’s smile, the boy bounding like a spaniel through an exhibit on space travel, the girl taking my hand as we streamed through traffic.

I say “the Van Gogh Museum.” Because I don’t think they want to hear about where my real life is. Or perhaps it’s that I don’t want to tell it. I wonder how hard a person that makes me seem, how ferociously I protect what is precious, how many of my streams I keep underground.

How much I am hiding even in that sanitized answer. I did not say how many times there were tears running down my face, how many times I had to walk away from a painting only to circle back, how my legs shook, how my knees gave way.

I am not at all ashamed of how I feel. I just don’t know how to translate that into the public sphere, how to transverse casual conversation with the Grand Central station of thought tracks I have going on at any one time.


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