The beautiful people

Some of my ex-pat friends are talking like they feel lucky to be out of the U.S. right now, and I understand, but thought I should say that there are still some beautiful, happy people who appear to be enjoying life in this country despite the violence, waste, and ridiculous cost of everything.

I saw some of them Saturday night.

It’s easy to see beautiful people and imagine that they are happy when you don’t know them. And so if you, like me, decide you need to write about something good, partly for your own benefit and partly for others, you could always write about something that looks vital and healthy on the surface, because appearances usually are an indicator of overall well-being.

Sometimes being near some uncontaminated thing gives you a sense of peace in knowing that the universe continues to unfold and renew itself even as you sit and do nothing. You could do nothing for probably hours or even days and it would be OK.

Other times, watching an expression of energy and joy makes you feel empty in contrast. You long for something that you might have had once, but you didn’t know it, or if you did you didn’t know how to make it last. It’s more than something you can capture in a photograph.

Saturday evening we were to chaperone a dance, and since it was Restaurant Week in our town and we were going to be dressed up anyway, I made reservations. I put in my contact lenses and used my curling iron.

Our table was right in the middle of the restaurant, which I don’t like. At each of the tables surrounding us were young people smiling and talking as they enjoyed fine food and wine. Some of them were wearing fake eyelashes. I ordered a chestnut butternut squash soup as an appetizer.

A young man seated beside me kept quietly breaking out into song. He seemed to be trying to cajole his date into joining him. I wanted to turn my head to get a look at her, but thought it might be too conspicuous. The singer was probably 28 or 30, had dark hair, and was wearing Levis with a light gray wool sweater. My husband conjectured that he must have been a music theater major. He noted that everyone younger than us in the restaurant, and many of the older folks, were dressed casually, without jackets or ties.

“I guess Millennials wear jeans to everything,” I said.

But aside from our age, we had another excuse for dressing up, which was the dance.

I ordered fish for dinner. I honestly have no idea what my husband ordered. His plate was behind the bread basket.

At the table behind him, in the corner, where I wish we had been seated, was the most beautiful woman I have seen in a long time. She had long, dark, curly hair and wore bright crimson lipstick. She was probably 25 or 28. I think she was having dinner with her fiance’s parents or something like that. The fiance was blond with a little facial hair and a tattoo peeking out from the sleeve of his button-down shirt. He looked like an actor on a commercial for expensive beer.

I had coffee custard for dessert. My husband had banana gelato.

At the dance, we sat behind a table of snacks and smiled and I talked about the dances that I went to when I was in high school. They were all kind of anticlimactic. You’d get all dressed up and go with this one boy who would either ignore you or expect you to set the agenda and provide all the entertainment for the evening. It was not like in the movies. I think some of these kids who go to the dances with friends instead of dates have the right idea.

Last night, most of the girls’ dresses were similar to the one I was wearing – dark with lace sleeves. A few wore pink dresses, which I liked because they stood out among the darkness. I guess it’s a good thing I wore a pink dress to my wedding. I don’t know if you can wear a pink dress when you chaperone a dance. You probably can, but I probably won’t.

A lot of the boys wore bow ties.

“The bow ties are definitely a Winchester thing,” my husband observed distantly.

He was tired and wanted to go home. I’d signed up to chaperone for the first hour and it was up.

We gathered our coats from my classroom upstairs and looked down at the dance floor below. Some of them were dancing. I know in my heart that some of them were having fun, even if they didn’t know it. I watched one of my former students standing alone in the center of the pulsing crowd. He pulled out his cellphone and touched a button, lighting up the screen, then he put the phone back in his pocket. Last semester, a pretty girl had a crush on him. He never knew.

“You didn’t stay long!” one of my bosses called as we waved goodbye.

At home, I took out my contacts, and my husband settled into his recliner to watch the end of some movie he had started.



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