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"Beauty: An Episode"

[written February 16, 2003]

...and fortunately for his frail confidence and for his finery, it'd stopped raining just minutes before he emerged from the Tube. Clouds still enveloped what London sky managed to flitter past gaps in the view of tall apartment houses above him, the nimbi's presence perhaps symbolic of the arrival of a deity, he mused.

The young boy had arrived prior to the set time of his engagement, to a house whose countenance must have been shaped from its masters, its official and refined white facade resembling the successful former diplomat's family who customarily lived inside. The young boy felt out of place rushing along this street of well-to-do aristocrats, himself being from a state so exotic to Londoners in days past that often it was mentioned in the same sentences with witchcraft, Indian tigers, and eastern Europe folklore.

He was nervous because of the unknown, embarrassed because of the unfamiliarity of his surroundings, excited because of the wonder in his spirit, flush because of the love in his heart, and determined because of the certainness he now felt as he approached the front door and reached to knock it. His instinct told him that he was doing the right thing, and he didn't waver from proceeding.

An older woman he'd never met before answered the door. She didn't speak his language very well, and spoke more comfortably in a language he had no familiarity with. His eyes flickered in and out of focus, sometimes seeing his host, sometimes shifting behind her, seeing a foyer with marble tiles and a mirror on the wall, and past that, a staircase and an entryway into a backroom whose patio doors were open, revealing a garden and an inquisitive squirrel perched right inside the door, collecting nuts left as a gift.

He stuttered and stammered, not really sure if he was at the right place, and completely clueless as to what course of action to proceed with next. The woman seemed to understand his dilemma, despite the language difference, and treated him with kindness that one could tell was without limits. She ushered him outside onto the back patio and pointed at the squirrel, her foreign words lost on him but her smile revealing her adoration of the animal. He got the impression that he was to wait, because the reason for his travels had gone to the store and would return in a moment.

She went inside to the kitchen to get him a Coke, the result of a silly process of trying to figure out what was being asked.

At this point, he was alone and took a moment to compose himself and settle down.

How did he manage to get in this situation, inside an upscale London house with a person he didn't recognize or understand? What compelled him to fly thousands of miles to come here for less than two weeks? He'd never really been on his own before like this, and he'd never been in love before. Only months before, he'd laugh at the possibility of this situation. Wait: not laugh -- pine for. He felt outside himself, like this wasn't happening to him. After all, he was only nineteen, and had experienced so little up to that point.

His reflexive self-doubting was interrupted by a break in the clouds above. Sun glowed all over the healthy green lawn, which was glittered with kaleidoscopic raindrops whose sisters joined them on the ground after pitters and patters down the leaves of the trees lining the fences.

Sounds of activity came from within the house. He straightened his shirt and peered inside the house through the patio window.

Inside, he saw, right by the staircase, a tall, mysterious, ethereal creature. The sun, which effulgently flowed into the sitting room next to the patio, could not quite reach far enough into the house to expose her, but the starkness between light and dark accentuated her white, delicate clothing, as well as her long, light brown hair. Her livery radiated with whiteness, hanging off her like petals of an iris ready to bloom, appearing so delicate like icing flakes off a wedding cake, a trousseau for gorgeousness and sophistication. In the affected lighting, she looked ghostly, lithe, and, to his surprise, familiar. He KNEW her, without ever seeing her before.

Before he could attempt to say hello, the older woman came outside with his Coke, along with a man much taller and stronger than he, a man who looked powerful, courageous, and intimidating, his facial features exactly that of what you would expect a Norse warrior viking king to look like. He shook the boy's hand purposefully and firmly, while the boy was still trying to reconcile his feelings about the girl of beauty he'd just gotten an intoxicating glance at inside.

The man invited the boy to take a seat at the table set outside. The boy followed and sat down. The man spoke good English, although with an accent, which the boy didn't mind at all, but instead relished in. The man, as the boy might have guessed, was the proud father of the girl within, and the husband of the woman who'd greeted the boy at the door. They had just started to enter a conversation about world politics when the girl joined them outside, her attire changed into tight-fitting yet comfortable black clothes, a European fashion, sitting across from the boy and giving him very peculiar, inquisitive glances.

The boy found it quite difficult to talk to her father, not because of language differences, but because his attention was drawn to her. He saw her as the most perfect, beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Her mannerisms were graceful and her composure was mature while she listened to the two talk. She didn't say much during the whole time, except to interject, flawlessly, English words that her father couldn't remember. Other times, she would stare at the helpless boy or sip from her glass of Diet Coke. The boy was feverishly embarrassed at being looked at by her.

He knew quite well she was examining him, daresay even admiring him. He had talked to her extensively the last few months on the phone or through text, but at this greeting table, she didn't have to say anything to him in order for him to understand. She wore a wry smile, apparently aware of her effect on him. The sun and the character she exuded competed for brilliance. Her beauty strategically flanked the sun and sent it retreating into the clouds every once in a while. While the boy probably distractedly and goofily prattled something to her father about "Chinese imperialist monkeys and the capitalist Coke bottles that ensnare them", he heard her eyes seducing him with a soft susurrus, "I love you, I respect you, and I KNOW you." One would probably suspect the father knew what was going on, as well...

...for, after some more conversation, he chose to dismiss himself and leave the boy and the girl alone for the time being, so that they could say hello to each other.

And the boy desperately remembered every detail of that day, for fear of forgetting it, or perhaps one day not being able to discern the verity of these memories he cherished so much anymore...


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