Saturday, July 18, 2009

From beautiful to ugly, in just a few seconds...

I was traveling home on the train and it was an uneventful trip for most of the way. The warm weather made people quiet and we stared with restless boredom at the floor, at each other, or our hands.

I decided to open my new briefcase from Muji ( I bought it because of the minimalist Japanese styling and it's the right size for my portfolio. The only downside, which I discovered the hard way during my commute, is that you have to pay attention to how you open it. If you open the zippers on both sides, the briefcase playfully opens at an amazing rate of speed and dumps all of its contents on the floor.

And voila, this is what happened to me. Fortunately I did not have anything embarrassing inside the briefcase. But my portable phone hit the floor, some papers gently floated across the aisle of the train, and a pen rolled under some seats. A woman kindly came to my assistance, even though she had a baby in a stroller. I thanked her and she returned to talking with the friend next to her in a mixture of French and an African language.

What happened next is when beauty intersected ugliness. A tall, very slim young French woman stood in front of me, looking at her portable phone. Her understated but expensive style of clothing suggested to me that she would get off the train in a city two stops ahead of mine, a town known for its 'bourgeois' ambiance. There was not an ounce of fat nor a pimple or stray hair on her young proud body. This modern goddess tossed her long hair and gazed with disinterest at her audience.

Her cold yet undeniably spectacular physical perfection provided all of us on the train with a welcome visual distraction. It also conveniently blocked my view of an older man across the aisle, who coughed loudly and stared at every move I made. Perhaps my tumbling briefcase captured his imagination and he was eagerly waiting for an encore.

But back to happened in seconds. The train stopped at the station (I guessed correctly - it was indeed the town I thought of) and the lovely Ice Queen got ready to open the door. At the same time, the African women got up and pushed the baby stroller to the door, accidentally bumping Queenie's silver-sandaled foot. They immediately apologized, with shy smiles that showed no bad intent. But the young woman's face became distorted with emotion -- instant anger, an frown of disapproval and then a hard look. She said nothing but turned her back and walked off the train.

I watched her from the window as the train rolled out of the station. Her hair moved in the breeze, her long legs moved like a model on a runway, and her perfectly shaped face was set in an expressionless mask. Yet how ugly she suddenly seemed...and her soul walked heavily behind, casting a dark shadow over each step she took.