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.


Her nose is a knobby fingerling potato, and her face is a repetition of that form, in the cheekbones, the chin, the browbone angling from her forehead. It’s a little repellant, but also fascinating, and I have to keep looking. The features outline hard or soften as she moves her head under the harsh subway fluorescents, each bone looks impossibly dimensional, 3 ½ D. I think she is beautiful, perhaps barely a little more beautiful than ugly, no, perhaps slightly more ugly than beautiful, as she turns her face and it is different by increments.

I wonder what it would be like to wake up with that face, to have it on the pillow beside you, to examine it in the early morning with the only movement her breathing. She is talking to her companion, and when she laughs, she throws her hand to her face. There is one tiny diamond set into a band on her finger, someone has already thought about what she is like.

I look at my own hand. The cuticle bitten to blood in absent-minded irritation, the ring I wear on my right hand. The ring has a name, given to it in a dream where someone pointed to it, asked “what is it called?” like it was important enough, precious enough, to have its own appellation like the Koh-i-noor or the Hope. I said, “Disappointment.”


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