by REYoung

Beauty by REYoung

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

She walks in squalor, like the queen of night’s hidden horrors exposed to daylight. Like something vile and monstrous arisen from a fetid swamp wherein are born the worst abominations of the sickest minds. To describe her is to name the unnamable, to speak the unspeakable, to mention the unmentionable, yay, to eff the ineffable. Her presence is like placing in the middle of a dinner table set for the politest of society a silver tray, a salver, upon which sits a steaming pile of turds garnished with wads of excrement-befouled toilet paper. She is to all eyes that look upon her and immediately wish they hadn’t a gorgon, the Medusa. Her hair is a filthy fright wig, an outrageous Rastaman “do” that sticks out everywhere like paralytic snakes. At first glance she might be mistaken for a Taong Putik celebrant. Her face is a hideous plaster mask, a palimpsest of ancient applications of pancake, powder and rouge on top of naturally accruing sedimentary layers of city grime that do little to cover, disguise, indeed, that only serve to make more hideous the lumpkin potato nose, the tuberous and tumorous bumps and warts, the itinerant chin and mustache whiskers bristling like bergamot thorns. She is cocooned like some repugnant insect larva in filthy, archaeological layers of pants, skirts, sweaters, jackets, coats, socks, stockings, undergarments. And yet, before one actually sees her, is repulsed by, disgusted, ugh, what made me turn, look, stare at her, this thing, there is an underlying contradiction, a pheramonal force, a strange strong attractor, something like the place in the flower where the pollen resides for the honeybee, sweet nectar for the hummingbird, a sudden, intoxicating delirium that overwhelms one’s senses, creates an immediate and insatiable desire, lust, craving in all, male, female and every variation on the gender spectrum regardless of age, young, old, infirm, barely sentient, or even religious vocation (priest, rabbi, imam, blushing novitiate). They all feel it, that urgent pull, like a fish tugging on the line or a divining rod diving down or in this case—up. Other animal species (because we too are—animals) respond to her, lift their noses, snouts, beaks, muzzles to the air, nod and bob and crane their necks in search of the source of this power, force, this energy. Even plants, flowers, vegetation, stamen and pistil, tender young twig and sprig strain toward her. She feels their eyes, their souls, their yearning petals fix upon her like heat-seeking missiles, and then the explosion in their brains, she feels it herself, ka-boom—like that, familiar by now, the shockwave of incomprehension, the disconnect between what they expect to see (a garden of earthly delights? a consortium of heavenly angels?) and what they actually see, and still that profound need to stare at, to confirm, pinpoint exactly what it is that they do see, this grotesque, this leprous, vile, repugnant, besmirched and befouled old hag, bag lady, crone, ogress, beldam no doubt escaped from bedlam. But, too late, already far, far too late to ever forget, to erase this image from their mind, to save themselves from the gorgon’s lapidarian gaze, they avert their eyes in disgust, revulsion, utter, even as the first whiff sniff? tickles the ol’ nasal factories, and then the deluge washes over them, floods, inundates the subterranean and cartilaginous catacombs of their sinus cavities, smothers, drowns, overwhelms their organs of smell, penetrates their brains like the distillation of an entire garbage truck-load of filth. For she smells even worse than she looks. She walks in a cloud of pestilence, noisome and foul, markets her own unique brand, curated, call it fragrance, perfume, shalimar, eau de toilet (no extra “t” and silent “e”), better said, eau d’ morte, the stench of rot, decay, of hospital bedpans, of feces, urine, suppurating wounds, necrotic flesh, of old ladies’ bloomerish underwear stained with runny diarrhea, the stale ale of dried urine, sweat, vaginal infections, dirty unwashed cunt, asshole. Foul beyond all understanding or knowledge of the word foul. The fetor of carcasses decomposing in the hot midday sun (don’t ask what they’re doing there), of rotten eggs, spoiled milk, rancid potatoes, pizza, broccoli quiche. She reeks like an outhouse in summer, like an open latrine stewing with unimaginable abominations of the alimentary process. No matter how you say it, yesterday, today and—it’s a good bet—tomorrow, she stank, stinks, will have stunk. The stench slams into you, staggers you backward, clutching at your mouth, nose, throat like you’ve been blasted with poisonous gas. A young medical student (still can’t get out of his mind that slip-up during the interview, why the fuck did he say hypocritical when he meant Hippocratic?) spots her and thinks of the wreckage of human flesh he had on the dissection table this morning, shouldn’t have had that big country-style breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries, grits and buttermilk biscuits before urp. The young beat cop and the young EMS driver are reminded of the street people they’ve attended to, digging their way through the folds of filth to give CPR, to plug hemorrhaging wounds, to spray or inject Naloxone, adrenaline, vital fluids. Move along, lady! the cop (Joey Malone, yeah, Nick’s kid, nice boy, having a bad day) barks German shepherd? at her, disgusted, wincing, ooooh, that smell, even as he feels a conflicting urge WTF? stiffening in his pants and thinks, practically shouts at himself in his head, You sick fucking pervert! The CEO talking on his cellphone doesn’t see her, a chronic blind spot his ophthalmologist can never identify (poverty), but he sure as hell smells her. Sewers backing up again? Why doesn’t John do something about it? That’s why we put him in office, The People’s Mayor! Clean streets, not mean streets! Oh, but it costs money, you know. Taxes. Oh no no no. She’s in fragrant violation not only of civil and criminal law, statutes of morality, decency, etc. (blue nose, blue laws, right?), but the laws of nature. How can a human being look and smell so foul and still exist, not combust spontaneously, implode in a flaming miasma of noxious gases. One can imagine a diet selected from a menu of garbage pails, dumpsters, feral feline survival instincts, fish heads, moldy pizza (pepperoni), fermented Chinese take-out (spicy tofu stir fry), her body probably riddled with Sars, Corona virus, Ebola, tuberculosis, bubonic plague and who knows what other medical nightmares of the previous and current centuries. It’s almost impossible to imagine there is sentience, a life and consciousness, inside this cocoon, chrysalis, mummy, also almost impossible not to imagine something tubular, squishy, yucky, a disgusting worm-thing, inchoate larva of a human clothes moth. (Has our traveler in the STC taken on a new role?) And yet, who would’ve guessed that in the eyes of this monstrosity, in her crystal orbs of sight, surprisingly not cloudy, cataractous, there gleams a brightness, starlight? Who would have suspected that inside this traveling horror show, this fetid corpse flower, putrefied rose, she feels pretty, oh, so pretty, pretty and witty and bright! She feels butterfly flitty, she feels ingenue innocent, she feels feminine and aery and light. She feels like—oh, I don’t know—a fairy? She feels magical. And you know what, folks? She is.