Do you want to be ugly?

Place: The Caracas Metro, Venezuela

Time:  September, 2008

A train pulled into the Plaza Venezuela subway station heading east towards Palo Verde.   As soon as the metal door slid open everyone on the platform merged into a bundle of pushing, tripping, flailing body parts, all trying to maneuver through the entrance of the train at the same time.

Once inside, as quickly as all those bodies had come together, they split apart and spread out to distant empty seats and open spaces like salt molecules in water – the distance between each body maximized almost mathematically.

The men slouched against the walls with their pelvises tilted outwards while the women, teetering to a halt on impressive heels, fussed over themselves, tugging at their clothing and straightening their hair.   Some pulled out mirrors, their fashion nails glittering menacingly with sparkly floral patterns.

After being carried inside by the tide, I found a spot by a silver pole which I grasped with both hands as the doors closed and the train started moving.

Across from where I stood I noticed a child with sun-lightened brown pigtails and wide, soft brown eyes, crumpled into one of the orange plastic seats.  She sniffled disconsolately as tears trickled down her face.  Occasionally she let escape a small whimper that she quickly swallowed.

She stared at her feet dangling in the air as the teardrops fell.  A round woman with a darkly tanned, squinty face, bleach-blond hair and freshly applied red lipstick sat next to the girl, ignoring her.  After a few minutes, the woman sighed volubly and reached over a stomach that protruded beyond her too-tight tank-top and suffocating jeans, and grabbed a large purse from the floor in front of her.

She rummaged through it and pulled out a mirror.  She glared at the child and told her to stop crying.  She stuck the mirror in the child’s face.  She said, “Look!  Look here! Look at THAT! Do you see how ugly you are with those tears?!”

The child stared at the mirror. For a moment she looked like she was swelling, about to crack open with whatever that sadness was in her.

The woman got closer to the child’s ear and said in a loud whisper ,  “Do you want to be ugly?! Yes or no?”

The child shook her head vehemently.   With determination she squeezed her eyes tightly shut and wiped her small face with her hand.  She let out one last small whimper before her tears stopped falling and she opened her eyes.

~ by zoetropic on October 4, 2010.

5 Responses to “Do you want to be ugly?”

  1. That is the reason why Miss Universe is so often from Venezuela…the culture of beauty, and they really are beautiful…again nice writing.

  2. Difficult subject matter – excellent writing, Pacifica.
    The scene is so small and so powerful.
    Mothers – watch what you instill in your trusting children.

  3. I don’t know that this entry is about why Miss Venezuela is so beautiful … it’s a lot darker and more opppressive than that to my way of thinking. p.s. has that mother taken a look at herself in the mirror lately?

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