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.


His daughter is singing to herself and swinging her feet in her stroller, in line next to me at the grocery store. He begs my indulgence for her, taking up a tiny bit of extra space, intruding. But she is completely charming, and I tell him so. Returning to our conversation this morning I am thinking, why doesn’t bacon have polka dots? And that sounds like the first line in a children’s book, but I haven’t thought of the next line, yet.

It’s back-to-school on the train. Half of everyone is cramming for their first class of the day, highlighters and fuzzy-edged paperbacks clutched close. The woman in front of me is reading Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth” and “The Iliad” has been making quite a showing recently. I think the guy over there with shaggy hair falling into his eyes is reading Robert Heinlein by choice, but the young man who looks like he’d be more at home with El Diario is spending quality time with the Wall Street Journal and b-boy is chewing through the New York Times for his current affairs assignment.

I hit the office and it hits me back, loosening a tooth and making me lose the words I had organized in my head, shuffled together as an offering. He said he was not hip, and I wanted to say it’s not about being hip, it’s about being curious, but I did not figure that out until later. The watercolor illustration of a bear juggling fruit open on my dining table. The insistent vines shooting over my window bars, greening the light at the back window. The stunted strawberry plant that I continued to water all spring, all summer, that finally has sent forth a single blossom now in the cooling fading days. I need more time, I need more time, even though I only allowed myself to sleep last night when it hurt to keep my eyes open.


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