"Sometimes I wish I were the beautiful one", she wrote. There, with her coat still on, zipped right to her collarbone, coffee going lukewarm in a paper cup. If she wrote it out on paper, took the time to write each letter, maybe, she thought, it would turn into the truth. The way other girls bodies curved in soft lines as if etched and smudged on paper, the way other people let their gazes wander and follow the trail they left behind, unaware of what exactly they were drawn to, she wanted that too. There was nothing wrong with being the strong one, the intelligent one, but there were days she wished someone would call her beautiful and when the words caught in the air, she wouldn’t have to look into every reflection and wonder if it were true.
But then, sometimes, on cold days so sharp in the morning hours, there would be that face in the glass and the red along the peripheries of her cheekbones and that brief glow beneath the first layer of flesh..when she really saw and believed and knew what beauty meant for her.
Crossing the bridge back into Manhattan, I watch the whips of clouds, gray against that black backdrop of endless sky, wrap themselves around the tops of buildings like spiderwebs, the lights flickering there as if they were water droplets caught on the fibers. These are nights where I forget I am very much a part of this city, and not just a visitor. After two years here I am in a down coat, my hair longer and darker, my body crafted out of muscle and pale skin folded and smoothed over bone and tendon. Sometimes my fingers still won’t work when I’m trying to type the right words to say to you. And I watch through windows as other bodies move about in this vast yet compact space, where I can think all kinds of people are beautiful and I have to stop myself from touching a stranger on the street just to feel what their skin feels like. All of these things add up into this idea that I finally belong to a part of something greater.