Untitled

by Mitchell Harding

written 9/11/99

She had a cruel face and was standing in the doorway of a dance club, or maybe a bar. I was walking down the sidewalk. In the few moments I observed her, she exhaled a small breath of smoke and said "No" to an unseen figure. Then she was behind me, out of my life, and I was left to wonder what she had experienced to earn such a cruel face. It seemed the perfect face for saying "No" to people. What was she denying? Had long years of rejecting others brought with it the cruelty she wore with such practiced ease? Seeing her under other circumstances, you would think her unremarkable. And perhaps she is. But the image of her in the doorway remains with me, and if I see her again, I will compliment her and see if her face will permit a smile. I cannot imagine her smiling, not a genuine smile. Her smile would be reserved, complicated, would not allow the viewer any chance to misinterpret it as warm. If I could make her smile, then I'd know that my life hadn't been wasted, and that happiness is never altogether lost, but merely misplaced or forgotten.

I write this a few hours after the event took place, and it still has a poignancy which surprises me. I am about to sleep. I know I'll never see her again. And if I did, I know things would not work out as they do in my head. Reality seldom concedes to my demands. But I hope to dream of her. I hope I can achieve the catharsis in sleep that I cannot when awake. I hope her smile is radiant.


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