He Draws Me as an Old Woman
How quickly I am taken down.
This August morning sags with
flaccid heat. On the bus, two stops past
Madison, he begins to draw. Blocks of sun
skid over vinyl. Rubber meets asphalt like
sweat meets skin. “Quite lovely, actually,”
he says, as if in apology: meantime,
in his sketchbook, he reroutes my face.
Like fate, he can’t make me beautiful
so he makes me old.
Under his starched hands, his nub of
graphite forms rosettes around my cheeks.
What’s in a face? Three stops more, and he’s
speaking of his wife, his art, the usual;
I’ve achieved a battered peace, which sometimes
chafes and bucks at dusk, and sometimes
wakes in summer with sunlight smeared over
its bare arms, and is sometimes the unleashed
Labrador bounding through your yard with
your sandals in its mouth—but which most days
trudges home like a cow with its bell—
“You won’t like it,” he reports, brandishing
his sketchbook. “It’s nothing like you.”
Eighty years old, he explains, I’m slumped in
my seat, blank as cloth, my thoughts full of
the summer day when the clothes I wore to feel pretty
teased an artist into drawing me as someone
already invisible. From the bus I see
years arranged around me, a certain shade of
sky for discontent, and my umbrella on the beach.
The other woman will undress under its shadow.
My stop is next, and he’s still sketching her:
“A minute more,” I tell him.
Jill Kronstadt lives in Washington, DC, where she relocated after sixteen years in Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared in Tin House Flash Fridays, Moon City Review, The Los Angeles Review, Sou’wester, and others.