The Wisdom of Others
Concerning the Beauty

"What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon also be beautiful."

~~ Sappho

"The beauty of the world has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder."

~~ Virginia Woolf

"That and the word beautiful"

She says, “You are beautiful.” It is the first Thursday in May. It is not the first time someone has said this to me. We see the same psychiatrist. That is the only connection we have to one another. It should end there, yet I feel the need to pursue her. She is unlocking her car door when I shout over the blare of traffic that her hair is lovely. I ask who cuts it. She seems content to acknowledge the compliment with only a thank you, then thinks better of it.

She comes near enough to confide the hair is a wig, there is nothing underneath but the baldness of her head. “He’s helping me through it,” she says with a glance toward our therapist’s office. “The cancer.” It might be the first time she has spoken that word aloud to a stranger.

I could take her hand. I could embrace her. I could request her name. What I do is ask if I might touch the wig. She lowers her chin, tilts her head toward me. I hold a silken tress between thumb and forefinger, then slide my hand down until I am nestling her cheek. She raises her eyes to mine. “You are beautiful,” she says. For the first time, I feel it in the curve of my palm.

© 2003 MJM


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