80 Years and One Word

I have pondered that word ever since I was a curious child acting the charlatan in my mother’s evening gowns. The fascination of that ideal continued long past my moments of teenage blossoming, spilling over into the days legally recognized as adulthood. Just when I thought I’d settled on a carefully crystallized definition, the concept would twist back on me to hide behind my eyelids. I would pause in passing my bedroom mirror to see if the answer had yet slipped into my reflection.
My girlish romanticisms sought out many who might provide me the answer I yearned for, and a good number made commendable efforts. Still, I felt the explanation was still just inches from my fingertips, just brushing against my lips. My closest moment to revelation came from a typical source: it was a man. His name was Jackson. He was not my first love, nor my first lover. He was merely my first surprise. The sunrise was just barely seeping through the curtains. He stirred and glanced over at me lying at his side beneath his thin sheets. We could barely see one another’s faces, but I could hear the upward curve of his smile as he sleepily murmured, “Nothing can ever be beautiful in perfect sight.” That was it. He rolled over, fell back asleep, and forgot he had even woken. At the time, I had thought the statement profound. I relished in the knowledge that I alone acted as audience to such a delicate sentiment. I felt certain that Beauty would be revealed to me before the sun could give her clarity to the blurry air.
I slept, I woke, and my reflection stared at me as it always had. There were no flashes of insight, no glorious discoveries of truth. All that glittered in my eyes was a pretty memory of a pretty saying.
I am old now, and my reflection seems to share little with the one I studied so rapturously in those days. Jackson is gone, searching for his own conception of Beauty, I suppose. The lines of my face have deepened through my every attempt at experience in my search. My hands and lips feel the old ghosts of those who had a part in my quest. However, the saying still twinkles in my eye. It is the only hint I have, the only road sign. All I have are words and, some nights when the fingers of dawn tap at my window glass, I whisper them to my reflection. And she smiles.


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