No Picture Can Express

   I’ve seen some beautiful girls. I’ve seen a few truly lovely women in my time, and I’ve been impressed by them. I’ve been weak around them. I’ve made mistakes that only a fool following a pretty face can make. I believe I’ve grown out of that stage a bit. I look for a lot more in the women I pursue than the gorgeous but uninteresting girls I used to follow around. Still, I catch myself staring at a beautiful face for a second longer than I should.

   I’m a single guy, and my friends all know I’m looking for someone special. I tell them I’m looking for a love that is kind and generous. I tell them I want someone who is more than wonderful to look at, but that’s exactly what they say they’ve found me. Beauty. Nothing wrong with that. But this woman, this new girl in town, is the most beautiful girl they’ve ever seen. Several friends and acquaintances have met her. They talk of her in such extraordinary, hyperbolic terms that when I was finally shown a photo, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment.

   Like I said, I’ve known some beautiful girls, and while she was reasonably attractive, she was no world class beauty.

   It made no sense. I’ve never known my friends to be so wrong. And they all, every one of them, believe her to be a rare, exceptional beauty. I can not understand it.

   Let me start with her first introduction into my life. Now, to be clear, I’ve yet to actually meet her, but her presence is already quite well-felt. She’s apparently my perfect match. I was at dinner a week ago with a few friends, those friends who are well aware of my search for a new lady to fill my every waking thought and slumbering dream. Sheila, the oldest of our little group yet the least experienced in love, brought up this new beauty first.

   “Frank, I’ve got a girl for you. She just got a job as a fourth grade teacher at Jefferson High on McCormick. She’s from Seattle and her name’s Mona.”

   “Mona?” I asked. “I think I saw a painting of her once.”

   “I’d buy that painting. She’s gorgeous. Really. She’s something else. I have to introduce you two. Jenny met her too, and will agree she’s beautiful.”

   “She is good looking,” Jenny chimed in. “I didn’t like her when I first saw her because she was so gorgeous. Sheila has it right. Mona is something else.”

   “Well,” I said, “I’m intrigued, but what else can you tell me about her? Is she just an empty-headed beauty, a lovely but boring lass, or is she really and truly worth meeting?

   “Really and truly worth meeting,” Sheila said. “She’s funny and sweet, but, as shallow as it is to focus on, it’s her looks that set her apart. She has this smile that I couldn’t believe. It starts with her mouth closed, but her lips slowly part over her teeth, which are big and bright white. And when you think that smile can’t get any bigger, it does. It lights up her whole face, and every other part of her face looks prettier because of it.”

   “Whoa,” I said. “Considering switching teams, Sheel? It sounds like you might be more interested in dating her than setting her up with me.”

   “Shut up,” she said. “She’s just striking, is all.”

   “Well, do you have a photo of her? I’d like to judge for myself.”

   “It’s your lucky day, cause I happen to have a good shot of her on my phone.”

   Sheila passed the phone around the table, and as each person looked at her understanding passed over their faces. Like they understood what Sheila and Jenny meant. Honestly? I was excited when the phone came to me, but I played it cool. I gave everyone a smirk to say I didn’t buy it.

   And you know what? I didn’t buy it. The girl in the photo, this Mona, wasn’t anything to moan about. She was alright, I suppose, but beautiful? Lovely? Stunning? Gorgeous? Hardly. I don’t judge people based purely on their looks, and she was certainly attractive, and if she proved to be a kind gal with a good sense of humor, I could certainly see myself dating her, but they didn’t talk about her kindness. They talked about her looks. They brought it up, and dammit, she wasn’t all that and a bag of potato chips. No sir. She was at best a bit above average.

   I couldn’t believe how strange Sheila and Jenny’s taste in ladies was. How could they rant and rave about this girl’s particular beauty? Her smile, which to me showed a bit too many teeth, wasn’t worth writing sonnets and swooning over. Sure, the teeth were straight and white, but her lips were neither perfectly formed or voluptuous. One of her dimples was more pronounced than the other. She wasn’t even symmetrical! How wrong could my friends, whose opinions I’d always respected, be so wrong about Mona?

   I wasn’t sure I wanted to meet this Mona. There was nothing really wrong with her other than outsized expectations. But my disappointment made me think I couldn’t look at her and see the real beauty. I would only ever see the incredible beauty she was supposed to be.

   Perhaps, I thought, it was a bad photo! I needed more information. I needed to talk to someone else who had met her. Jenny told me Rob, an old friend of mine, had also met her. Rob was someone I knew without question had impeccable taste in women – or at least being in possession of a fair amount of shallowness (more than I fear I possess) – so he would give me the real skinny on Mona.

   I texted him that night after dinner. We agreed to meet for lunch the next day.

   We met at a little hot dog place with picnic benches, and I didn’t let him take a bite before asking about the beautiful Mona.

   “Mona? Meh,” he said. “I don’t think she’s worth my time.”

   Ah! I thought, he didn’t see her in the same light as Jenny and Sheila. “She wasn’t particularly beautiful?”

   “I wouldn’t let her near me even if you paid me. Kinda uptight, and certainly lacking in any sort of fun spirit. I mean, sure, she’s alright looking, or maybe hot, but who needs a wet blanket?”

   “Wet blanket?” I asked. “You tried to take her home, didn’t you?”

   “So what if I did?” he said. “She didn’t recognize what a good catch I am, so screw her.”

   “Come on, Rob,” I said. “I’m asking seriously, so come on. Was she, or wasn’t she, attractive?”

   “Yeah, ok. She’s hot,” Rob said. “She drove me nuts from the moment I saw her, but why should I care? Yeah, she had these eyebrows that I couldn’t resist. I am not, by the way, an ‘eyebrow man,’ if such a thing exists. I don’t go for chicks because of their brows. But hers had a way of peaking up over her eyes, as if she was seeing through the bullshit – and I was laying it down thick, so it wouldn’t be hard to I imagine she could see through my pickup lines – but if she knew she didn’t say anything. It was like she was giving me a second chance to take it back. But screw her. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. I don’t care how often I think about her.”

   Do you see it now? Rob had it too. This bug. This ridiculous opinion of a girl that was, in my opinion, rather plain. Rob was one to ignore a girl if she turned him down, but he admitted she was some special kind of beauty too. He thought she was special.

   Curious, I asked him if he had a picture of her. By chance he did, and I got my second view of Mona.

   I kid you not, she looked worse than the first time. Really. Truly. She was plainer in the second photo! But Rob didn’t only look at the picture, he gazed. He was enamored by her.

   Since he’d brought it up, I had to take an extra second to check her eyebrows, and they were large. Rather large. Not freakish, I suppose, but they curled quite far around her eyes, and, I thought, did little to hide her drooping eyelids. That was something I hadn’t noticed the first time around. Perhaps she could have been beautiful, but the sides of her face almost seemed to drag. No. Drip. Drippety drop down the sides of her face. It was as if her makeup were running, only her eyes were the makeup. And the eyebrows only drew my eye to the problem!

   I tell you I was furious. I don’t mean I was angry, but rather full of an intense, nearly blinding energy. Another friend, a wise friend, a good friend, and an honest friend – if a bit of a so-called player – was also under the spell of Mona.

   We stopped talking about Mona after that. The last thing Rob said on the subject was, “You’d like her. She’s some kind of beautiful.”

   But see, I had a problem. Those who knew me well thought I would like this Mona. This ridiculous beauty who made liars or fools out of my closest companions was supposed to be someone I’d prefer.

   One final friend has met Mona. Tina. I decided I would let her be the final word on the stunning new girl in town. Tina is a sweet girl, and forgiving of almost any fault. She’s soft spoken with an unfortunate mouth. Her parents couldn’t afford a decent orthodontist so her braces didn’t do a particularly good job of fixing her teeth. She told me once she was afraid people would look at her mouth when she spoke up or laughed, so she tended to be reserved. But Tina was actually quite pretty, even with the teeth, and was one of the most forgiving people I’ve ever known. She wouldn’t be a good judge of Mona, as she’s easily swayed by kind words, but she is and will ever be honest. In her honest ways I knew she would give me an accurate reading on Mona.

   I stopped by and chatted with Tina the same afternoon I’d seen Rob. I didn’t jump to the subject right away, since I am one of the few people Tina is comfortable talking to – and I know she needs to talk on occasion – so it was her, not me, who first brought up Mona.

   “I want to tell you about a girl I met the other day, if you’d like to hear about her,” she said. I wore a casual expression and agreed. “Her name’s Mona. It was strange meeting her. She was really nice, and never looked anywhere but my eyes. Like, she didn’t look around the room or anything. She was totally, one hundred percent, listening. All the time. If you spoke she heard you and you could just see what you said go through her, you know? Like, she didn’t just hear you, but everything said became a thought for her too.”

   “That’s interesting,” I said. “A good listener? She sounds nice.” Finally a friend who didn’t focus on her looks. Tina rarely talked about how other girls looked, so I wasn’t surprised, but being a good listener made Mona sound like a better date than her gorgeous mouth and eyebrows.

   “Well, but it’s not so much about listening. She’s just so beautiful. It was her nose. It isn’t long, but it’s pointy, and it’s real straight, with no bumps. I guess I liked it when she listened because her nose would be pointing straight at me. Like she was trying to line her nose up with mine. She didn’t look across the room, or at the floor or anything like that. She just listened real close and looked so pretty that I kept forgetting what I was going to say. And everybody saw it. Jenny and Sheila were there too, and some guys I didn’t know, but Mona would listen real close to everybody. And even though everyone wanted her to listen to them, she didn’t let her attention get caught up for too long on any one person. She kept coming back to me. Like she really wanted to hear more about me. I don’t think I’ve ever known someone who looks as beautiful as her, and she was real nice.”

   “Sounds like quite the gal. I’d probably like her, huh?”

   “I think everyone would like her if they got to see her. If they just saw her I bet they’d like her, even if they didn’t get to talk to her.”

   “I never would’ve pegged you as shallow, Miss Tina.”

   “Well, it’s not like that. She’s just real pretty, and I think most people would like how pretty she is.”

   “Uh huh. Interesting. You don’t happen to have a picture of this stunner, do you?”

   “She sent me this one of us together,” Tina said as she dug around for her phone and presented the photo. I can honestly say Mona has a straight nose. It sticks out a bit far though, and the lighting for the photo was not kind, throwing a shadow off that beak that made it more apparent than ever. The way she smiled for the photo looked frozen, like she’d taken a deep breath and was holding it. Little lines showed in her neck from her stretching her head forward, and I had my third example of Mona being quite less the beauty than my horribly mistaken friends thought.

   My fury had subsided. The energy dissipated with Tina’s declarations of Mona’s beauty. I was somewhat sad about Mona. I think I wanted her to be an uncommon beauty. I wanted this potential love of mine to be something special, but before we’d ever met, before we’d ever gotten a chance to see behind each other’s masks, I was let down. I didn’t really want to meet her. No matter how often thoughts of her crept through my mind, I lost interest. For a few days I was listless and distracted because of it, but any potential Mona held in my future was gone.

   The next weekend I was headed over to Sheila’s house for a friday filled with drinking, karaoke and a group of good friends. Jenny walked over to me as I was pouring my first drink.

   “Mona is gonna be here,” she said.

   I almost laughed. “Well, I look forward to meeting the most beautiful girl in town.”

   “We think you’re gonna like her.”

   “So I keep hearing,” I said. “I don’t suppose you have any more tales of her enchanting good looks, do you?”

   “I will after tonight.”

   That did make me laugh. But I made my way around the room, saying hello and telling a few of the folks around the party about my week. I only had a few minutes to regale them with my tales before Mona arrived.

   My back was to the door, but as soon as she walked in people looked over. Their thoughts were interrupted or they stopped listening. If it wasn’t for the music playing, the room would have fallen silent. I kid you not. She took their breath away.

   Then she took my breath away.

   Have you ever felt yourself make a facial expression? I mean an involuntary one. When your eyebrows stopped trying to tell the world what you’re thinking, or you stopped smiling politely at someone’s joke and your facial muscles relax? Seeing Mona cleared my mind of any other expression but the one reserved for beauty. I stopped breathing. I’m ashamed to say the first time she saw me my mouth was hanging slack-jawed like a yokel.

   I was wrong about Mona. I was wrong.

   Don’t look at a picture of her. That would be my first piece of advice. You’d miss everything. I knew she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen from twenty feet away, seeing her between friends and without her looking right at me. I had thought perhaps Tina was swayed by some kindness, and Rob was infatuated with a woman who rebuffed him, but it was more than that. Sheila really did have it right. Mona is something else. It’s the flutter of her eyes as she looks from one side of the room to the other. And her eyes don’t droop! That’s just the flutter resting for a brief moment, but her eyes never fully stop fluttering until she finds something that makes her smile. And the smile! Sheila had that right too. Mona smiles and her lips seem to almost be holding her happiness back, but only in such a away as to create pressure, like putting your thumb over a water hose. It makes the happiness burst through with ever greater force and intensity!

   She approached. Confident and calm, she reached her hand out to me and asked my name. At the moment I nearly stuttered my name, but I was able to get it out just in time to see her eyebrows do a little dance, like she was flirting without flirting. She smiled with those bright teeth when first introducing herself, but my stumbling “Hello” made her pull back and close her lips like she was going to make me work for another full smile or laugh. I was more than willing to work hard to get her to smile again and again.

   Mona’s nose was pointed right at me for the rest of the night. The party, music and singing, drinks, and friends all melted away. I had found beauty. Real beauty. A woman stood with me, sat with me, chatted with me, and laughed with me. And she was lovelier than any other I’d ever met. There was more to her beauty than any photo could capture.

   Jenny gave me a sly smile later while Mona was getting a drink and asked me what I thought.

   “She’s really something else.”

“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.” - Francis Bacon

The End

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *