Monday, August 10, 2015

The Woman with the Yellow Hair

She was three rows in front of me at a public lecture on something architectural that I was attending because a friend was one of the panellists; three rows, and six seats along that row, so that I mostly only saw the back of her head, the deeply blonde hair that might have been natural, but probably wasn't. In front of us was a table for the four panellists, so inevitably her head was turning all the time, as speakers alternated the answering of the forum's questions. A quarter turned, with the arc lights catching the edges of her profile like sunlight, and she could have passed for nineteen; half turned, and now the arc lights cast shadows, of hair and nose and that very precise placement of her hand against her face, but with only a single finger making contact, and then only brushing the upper lip, she could not have been a day under thirty, with a clear sense of what she would look like at forty-five. At the end of the event she got up, as we all did, and my friend introduced her to me, her older sister, and I knew that my friend had celebrated fifty not a month before, and I remembered that she had told me that her sister was dying of some obscure lymphatic cancer, and had only months to live. How to capture all of those ages that were concurrent and simultaneous in her, in a picture that had to fix one particular profile, one particular set of light and shadows? How to convey the monumental sadness of so much beauty being on the verge of disappearing from the world?

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