Unshaven Legs

I find myself watching them. I watch them all intensely. Usually when one of them is speaking. I want to know them. I want to know people generally. I burn through them with my watching. It isn’t staring. Staring is cold, unkind almost. I look with care, with empathy, with compassion. I know this. But I am also curious. For they are not me. I only know myself. And how it is to be me. How is it to be them?

She doesn’t say much. She is withdrawn. In grief. She is clearly grieving. She is a beautiful woman. You see, I don’t want to make judgements but I cannot stop my mind making these distinctions. I look at her with wonder. How is it to be so beautiful? How does it feel? Her chin comes almost to a point but her face is heart-shaped. An exotic, dark-skinned kind of beauty. And so different to mine. I am a Jane Eyre, a plain needing-to-get-used-to-and-love-kind-of-beauty. A not noticeable kind of beauty. Hers is enchanting.┬áHer voice has a hint of American or is it Canadian? She wears patterns, shimmering golds and greens. Yesterday she had on harem pants that were cut at the ankle. A woman of largesse. She drives a people carrier. A family woman, a mother. Then when we moved to sit cross legged I notice her calves. Her legs were hairy, unshaven. Long black hairs. It was a shock. Ridiculous to admit it but it is true. And yet it is just a different notion of beauty. That is all. Still is took something away.

Last night I dreamt that my legs were hairy. I was ashamed and made a mental note to remove them the next morning. It was a surprise to see them in the bath clean as a whistle.

She answered the phone. It was nice to hear her. Her voice is stronger, more cheerful. She’d been for an MRI. I’d put on tidy underwear, she said, and then found out they did it with my clothes on. She suddenly realised what she’d implied, and added, but of course I change them clean everyday. Of course. Of course you do.

The wind was strong this morning, gusting. Students and revellers wandered wind blown along the Prom. Big girls with cleavage-revealing tops and no coats. Such big-bosomed girls. One had on a gingham top, all flouncy at the sleeve and chest. A Botero-darling. She walked back to the Halls alone. They are so luscious. Are they safe? Nothing is hidden. All is on show. So different. Do I notice it more now that my ripeness has gone? I don’t mind. This is another time, another place. I am content.

Yesterday was better. As were my readings. Perhaps I still can. Who knows?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.