• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 08
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What They See

Did you know how they would see me? The day you picked up your brush, smeared paint across the canvas, let the harsh drag of the bristles bring forth form and shadow and life? I’m not pretty. You didn’t make me pretty. But you gave me something—a certain je ne sais quoi, I would say, if I was French or sophisticated, and thankfully I’m neither. The toad-eyed stare which turns startled, knowing, then smirking finally, as if I reward the viewer with more of myself for looking longer. The incongruous hat, pink and green like a girl’s Easter bonnet, too small and silly for my head, which soon fades away into the background like the inconsequence it is. The shapeless, colorless sack of a dress, carefully chosen to advertise just how much I don’t care anymore. The lobe of an ear, fleshy and shriveled like the paradox that is a dried mushroom. The hair, long and trailing and glinting in the light, coarse whenever I don’t take it in hand and give it a hundred strokes before bed, the rough silk of it caressing my skin like a lover. The arched, sparse brows, like a pitiful imitation of Marilyn Monroe or Bette Davis—signs, they sneer, of an aging woman longing to recover the glamor of her youth. Not that I’ve ever been glamorous. Just look at my nose—large, arrogant, red. I’m proud of that nose. It dominates my face, parades its existence, and that has a beauty to it all in itself. Then there’s the hanging pouch of my cheeks, the babyish delicacy of my chin, the absurd loveliness of my lips, prim and sensuous at once, full of secrets that wouldn’t you just like to know. You make it look as if I’ve lived that most elusive of things, a life, full of adventure and banality, full of the thrashing forever-green of the sea and the yielding crack of apple-skin beneath teeth. I’m a goddess. I’m a crone. I’m a woman you could meet any day on the street. Maybe that’s what fascinates them the most, this universality and this specificity of me. Maybe that’s what they see.