She Waits

Flower Nymph, Joseph Beuys, 1956

[Flower Nymph, Joseph Beuys, 1956]

She Waits

She waits on the street. Putting weight first on one leg, then shifting her hips till weight is primarily on the other, she relieves the pressure from a tightly-leathered foot, sliding the axis of stress over the balls of her feet down into iron ground. She turns her forearm with a torquing movement to look at the tiny gold watch low on her wrist close to her palm. 4:32. Time. A self-conscious wave makes her look at the whole of herself as others on the street see her: drivers, decorated mothers with bambini, stout stolid older women. She calculates their opinion of her. So clearly American. A mother. But as easily a prostitute waiting for the pick-up. She avoids all men’s eyes so as not to appear to be asking or inviting. If she stands very regally, reaching her head up as she has learned, lengthening her curved spine, they would not take her to be a whore. She shifts to two feet, establishing a physical equilibrium she hopes will be read as a mental one. Folding her arms under her draping breasts, she feels a fortress, a matron, a stern strong mother whose time of sexual flirtation is past, who displays no excess of bared skin, whose buttons button one higher, one narrower than five years before. For a moment she sustains this, towering proud above the curb. Yet she notices her breathing, the way it presses her breasts forward to her shirt, the way it leaves them wandering loose upon exhaling, and the whole thing becomes too exhausting. She drops back into a one-legged stance, hip thrust side, lower back bowed, shoulders rounded. Thrusting her hands into her skirt pockets, she waits.

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