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2004-02-13

Gertrude Stein
B. 2.3.1874 Allegheny, Pennsylvania / D. 7.27.1946 Paris
Cancer

The Q local, one of those perpendicular seating encounters, me in a window perch getting an eyeful of the bespectacled brunette who boarded at 14th Street; that is, of her profile and her hands. She holds a rose
is
a yellow one, in one, and in the other hand a pen which she rests, oddly, across her ring finger. On the blank back of a xeroxed handout she scratches strings of numbers, letters, blanks; they appear to be codes or their keys. Perhaps she composes difficult word puzzles for a living, and she’s been out at an acrostics trade event or dinner, which is where she got a rose
is
no lover gave to her; she hasn’t kissed tonight. Through rings—French, cathedral, limestone, saint—her profile’s arrow speeds to pierce its central simile: Jeanne d’Arc’s modern avatar, Justine Henin. But without the flush, in spectacles, without the victories, no garlands, just a rose
is
scent-less, in a clip-on plastic reservoir. Into the pocket of the dark blue backpack go the handout and the pen. The pale-pale lavender fleece hat next, off it comes—bangs! Always welcome if done well, as here. Pale brown hair, not yet graying but the color plug’s been pulled, the gray is coming. Charcoal gray her coat, black the shoes, again the navy pack, a rose
is
all the bright hue to her. Pale hands, winter-pale, sorely red and rash-ridden all along the bowl between forefinger and thumb, wherein rests a rose:
is
I should take her home, throw some Elidel on her. She is sleepy. Through the darkened lyre strings of the Brooklyn Bridge I watch the Statue of Liberty twirling out to sea. The woman with a rose
is
starting to nap, reveals notably short eyelashes. I determine to make a journey of looking at her profile. She will be to me Quebec City or Brussels. I absorb her stone house-fronts, tall and pastel-shuttered; her clock-spotted steeples of historic note; her chilly church naves and organ recitals; her postcard racks squealing protests at every quarter-turn. Meanwhile a rose
is
however hardy must start to wilt on the Q train. In slumbering grasp, the contents of the reservoir are tipped away from thirsting stem. Fifty, a hundred brushstrokes a night her hair could use, for luster, and neatness. Is that a bald patch coming at the very top? I will not stand up to get a clearer view: if I arose
is
too conspicuously from my seat, and awoke her, what could I do? I’d have to get off, await the next train. Better to sit and observe her chin puckering as it sinks into her chest; my chin must pucker even more unattractively when I doze upright on transport. The generations who have dozed thus! Our basic unfitness (I’m coming home from a production of King Lear) is overwhelming. Who had the idea for a rose
is
whose yellow petals look like they’ve been dipped in crimson dye, just the tips? Why? I see her as she’ll look when she is old—a rose
is
sealed tight within its form, a rose
is
the same rose, equally with its freshness to be loved. The gloves go on at Seventh Avenue, the hat is next, at Beverly Road. Her youth restored, at Newkirk Avenue she rises, goes. The moral? I say, if you want to make sure of being seen in public, there’s no way like a rose
is.

Consolation Site: This is a nice story

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