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.


On the platform and at first I am irritated at her attempts to be attractive. She is trying so hard, and is falling so short, it’s artless, painful. She has tried to tease her hair into a rock-n-roll bedhead of tumbled curls, but she’s got a thin ghostly penumbra instead. The spaghetti strapped Empire waisted dress just makes her look wide, the exposed flesh of her back a vast canvas. She is trying to get his attention, her mouth is moving, she touches his hip with a finger, but he stares over her head. She turns and walks out of his sight, to look down the track for the train, and his eyes don’t move, don’t follow her at all. I wish the train would come and take her away.

On another train a woman is traveling some kind of personal destruction cycle. She is biting an already well-bitten thumbnail. Then she moves on to each finger in turn, index, middle, ring, pinky, testing each with her teeth, probing, snipping, gnawing. Then the other hand. Then they both rest in her lap for a minute. Then she scratches her ear, or rubs her browbone with the back of her hand, or tucks a loose hair back, and the proximity of hands and face magnetically draw her into another round. I wonder what circle of hell this is and what is must feel like to be so gripped.

It’s Sunday morning all over, but this Sunday is the marathon. I can hear it three blocks away, a blasting live gospel group with a deep groove, devil bass line, glory, celebration, imminent downfall. Everybody is getting church today, and I am getting mine too, standing on a folding chair at the edge of the intersection. When they let the runners’ floodgates open, when they let the sluice of humanity flow down the street, I will wipe my eyes over and over again. All I can think is how beautiful, how flawed, how perfect they all are.


Blogger VelVerb said...

God, that first bit made me sad.

2:27 AM  
Blogger VelVerb said...

by the way, I've been regularly blogging again.

2:28 AM  
Blogger ttractor said...

Yay! Good for you! I'll put you back on my list! And...I'm sorry to make you sad. You are awfully brave to allow yourself to feel so much, and, as ever, I am grateful to have touched you. That doesn't sound pervy, does it?

8:41 PM  
Blogger VelVerb said...

Hehe. You said pervy.

1:12 PM  

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