on the bus (recalled)

I was riding the bus back from the beach. At a bus stop in front of an old drugstore, out near the end of Flatbush, I saw a black girl in a bridesmaid’s dress, her hair upswept and laced with flowers. Next to her stood a stooped old white woman, with impossible red hair and the kind of outlandish, improper makeup that suggests both innocence and insanity. The old woman looked up at the tall girl, dazzled, reaching out her reedy hand to touch the girl’s arm. The girl looked at her, and as my bus began to pull away, I could read the woman’s exaggerated lips: “You look so beautiful.”

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