She Was Beautiful Once

She was beautiful once.  I can tell by the way she holds herself, as if eyes are always on her, as if everyone is watching her, straight and tall, posing, even here at the laundromat, loading the dryers one armful at a time.  There is still something pretty in the way she wears her blond hair high in a ponytail, in her slimness, but there is a tiredness about her also, as if she no longer has the energy to keep her beauty wrapped around her, to keep it against all the things that would pull it away from her.  Her cotton skirt is faded, blue, with a pattern of white dots, and her flip-flops are worn almost to nothing, the thongs frayed and near to breaking, so that she drags them with her feet, with her painted toes, a sliding and awkward walk.  She does not sit as she waits, neither to read nor to talk, just shuffles back and forth down the rows of machines, her arms wrapped around her slender ribs, her head bowed onto her chest.  She seems to move in order not to stop once and for all, as if to stop, even for a moment, would be to stop forever.

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