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The Beauty of the Face

by Erin O'Keefe, 16, Richmond, Virginia

She remembers the words of an elderly stranger. He was different from the usual smile-and-nod man on the sidewalk. With his tattooed wrinkles and watery grey eyes he was ignored by many as just another old citizen with war stories and antiquated opinions. Yet he had seen something deeper that younger generations overlooked with their criticizing eyes.

She stands in front of the foggy bathroom mirror. Her palm meets the glass as she wipes away condensation in parallel chunks. The reflection is visible despite slight drops of shimmering moisture. Dark ringlets frame her face that holds no geometric shape, unable to fit the category of oval, round, or heart. It is merely a border drawn around her features, filled in with soft flesh. The contrast is noticeable between the deep chocolate brown of the forming waves of hair and the snow white complexion. She thinks of Snow White, but remembers the heroine was hated by many and loved only by seven dwarves in a forest. Pink flesh with delicate definition forms her top lip. She traces the curve of the upper lip and feels the slight plumpness of her lower lip. They lie on top of each other, withholding a smile. Her nose is shunned by Hollywood glamour. The width and fullness are far from a cute nose with pointed tip and minute nostrils. She likes this flaw. It creates reality. It is her daisy in the crimson rose bush. Beautiful, yet so out of place.

She takes it all in before gazing into the eyes. They are her favorite. The army green eyes with their dark green outline, fringed by long ebony lashes. She flutters them and is captivated by their ability to draw the victim in. They are the source of all the tears, frequently wetted by a nighttime lullaby of sadness.

Nobody has ever told her she is beautiful. In her surroundings she is passed over by unwelcoming glances. Her longing look is mistaken for harsh brutality. She is constantly told to smile. She knows these tormentors do not deserve to see her happiness when it visits. They look away to blondes with rich golden tans and piercing blue eyes. She is never called exotic despite her dark mysterious features. The snowy skin is regarded as ghost white and her hair is considered untamed. She carries this with her everyday. But somehow she knows they are wrong and continues to believe her own fantasies.

She has a secret with the elderly stranger. They both know what all the artificial future will never comprehend. He said she's very beautiful. He would know, he studied art. His words, at first confident, become shy as they float from his crinkled mouth. She will not care because he is so old. She only wants to hear it from young males. For such a wise man, he is wrong in his assumption.

Every time she stares into the glass she stays a moment longer to look at her reflection. The words in his soft slow rhythm fill her ears with the satisfaction she needs. She has something they never will. She has the beauty of the face.

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