A STREET-WALKER ON THE WAY TO HOPE
by J. BROUGH
"O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start."
W. H. Auden 'As I Walked Out One Evening'
The stranger starred out from behind the glass of Hanover Street Gallery as
if an exhibit.
The illumination exploited a blanched, svelte facade; chic makeup all
but washed out by a moonlight which threatened to remove all superficialities
from the porcelain face and to leave the semblance of a snow queen.
The body seemed safer wrapped in the ebony of the short-cut trench coat. It
was beyond the light's scrutiny there, less naked. But it was tenuous that
protection, she was sure of that, held so near to the edge by a loose
fastening belt. Tenuous and fragile.
She strained to see. Her sculptor had been zealous to detail. The fake
fur of the coat's collar seemed to twinkle out from behind the wet glass, as
though damp with a mist of moisture; like the eyes. Her hair was dark, the
long tresses becoming curls at the cheek, where the figure's wan skin was
blushed a potent makeup-red, like winter roses. Who was she? Why had he made
her like this; depicting something so perfectly subtle only to abandon it to
the austerity of this twilit room? She couldn't read the feeling behind the
artist's work, it was there--somewhere--she knew it must be. Only it didn't
show. Perhaps it was the half-light, the sun's reflection lucent in the night
and with strength enough only to illuminate superficies.
A Coke can rolled unevenly between them, its sound hollow as the crushed
surface knocked on the pavement. It stopped in a pile of wet newspaper beside
the window. The sky darkened, and the image in the glass became real again in
the streetlight. Where had he said to go? Hope Street, the name brought with
it a tear, blemishing her powdered face; outside the Anglican Cathedral.
She didn't care much for mirrors, reflections could be so harsh. Like the
penetrating wind which blew through Chinatown that night, forcing her to pull
the belt tighter around her waist. It's all they bought though; the
marionette behind the glass.