The Power of Beauty
Why do we care so much about how we look? Because it matters. Because beauty is powerful. Because even when we learn to value people mostly for being kind and wise and funny, we are still moved by beauty. No matter how much we argue against it or pretend to be 1)immune, beauty 2)exerts its power over us. There is simply no escape.
If only we’d never gone there, thought Alan. They were scrambling up the mountainside in the late afternoon heat. Alice was so tanned that she looked as if she had lived on the Mediterranean for months, while he, being fair, had turned a blotchy, peeling.
He looked up at the mountainside, the path twisting upwards towards the cairn cross, the white heat bleaching the rock. Why on earth couldn’t they talk about it? Why couldn’t he even accuse her?
He had thought it was going to be all right. But it was as if the heat had drained their love.
At home they had been so blissfully happy that he now realized it couldn’t have lasted. She comes to his school from the Midlands because her family had split up. An only child, living with her father, trying to look after him, lonely, depressed, anxious, she had come to Alan to be healed. At least, that’s what he liked to think. Had he healed her? No. Tom had, even though Alan loved her with all the passion. Now his hatred for both of them was as strong as his love.
在家时，他们曾是多么幸福。现在他意识到那不会再继续下去了。由于家庭破裂，她从内陆来到他的学校。作为独生女，她和她的父亲住在一起，尽力去照顾他。她孤独无依、无精打采、愁眉苦脸，经常到阿兰那里去排除忧伤。至少他喜欢这样认为。他为她解忧了吗？没有。是汤姆，即使阿兰曾付出所有的激情爱着她。如今他对他们俩的爱就像他的恨一样强烈。 “Come on!”Alice had turned back to him, waving impatiently.
“Coming,”Alan looked at his watch. Five, The crickets would start singing soon. He walked on, the sweat pouring into his eyes. Knowing she had opened the bottle of mineral water. Would she let him catch up with her? An even greater misery seized him. It reminded him of the night he made himself drunk on the rough local wine his parents bought in the village. His heart had ached then, too, and his sense of loss had increased as he relived each minute of a day when Tom and Alice had seemed to draw closer and closer together.
He walked faster. Here, a few miles away on the bare mountainside, there was arid space, and the olive groves, clustered in the stone-cluttered valleys below.
他走得越来越快。他为山顶上那些中世纪的城堡而欢呼雀跃。放眼望去，离那座山几里远的地方有一块空地，在山谷的乱石丛中生长着一小片橄榄林。 “Come on!”
Alan strode doggedly on, looking down at his red, peeling legs, thinking of Tom’s strong, straight, brown ones.
Suddenly he had turned the corner by the stone shelter. He could see her waiting for him. If Tom were here, they would be together, mocking him, looking at each other, leaving him alone. As he strode self-consciously on Alan focused his mind on her.
“Where’re we going to camp?”She was sitting on an outcrop, her slim body supple and salt-caked. Her legs were swinging and he longed to run his hands over them. Instead he imagined Tom doing that and hot, angry tears filled his eyes.
“It’s a deserted monastery, down in the valley. Amongst the fir trees. Over there—look, you can see it.”
“Oh yes.”She turned her head. When he did look he was shocked to see how beautiful she was, like a goddess.
“Won’t that be spooky?”she asked in the slightly broken voice that he had always found so sexy.
God, how he loved her. Why couldn’t he just take her in his arms now? That could solve everything. But there seemed to be an impenetrable barrier around her—as if she was sealed away by Tom.
“The valley’s dangerous,”said Alan, hoping to frighten her, to provoke reaction.“If the clouds come down there’s no way out. Sometimes for days.”
“Is there anywhere else to camp,”asked Alice.
“Not really.”Alan was certain she’d rather be with Tom. Yesterday he had seen them sitting on a wall together outside the villa. Their ankles had been entwined. He had wanted to grab Tom’s legs and pull him off. He would hurt his brother—and Alice would be sorry . It would be her fault.
“Let’s go,”said Alan quickly.
“How far is it?”she asked.“I’m whacked.”
“Half an hour.”
She Left Her Shoes
She left her shoes, she took everything else, her toothbrush, her clothes, and even that stupid little silver vase on the table we kept candy in. Just dumped it out on the table and took the vase. The tiny apartment we shared seemed different now, her stuff was gone, it wasn't much really, although now the room seemed like a jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing, incomplete. The closet seemed empty too; most of it was her stuff anyway. But there they were at the bottom, piled up like they usually were, every single one of them. Why did she leave her shoes? She couldn't have forgotten them, I knew too well that she took great pride in her shoe collection, but there they still were, right down to her favorite pair of sandals. They were black with a design etched into the wide band that stretched across the top of them, the soles scuffed and worn; a delicate imprint of where her toes rested was visible in the soft fabric.
It seemed funny to me, she walked out of my life without her shoes, is that irony, or am I thinking of something else? In a way I was glad they were still here, she would have to come back for them, right? I mean how could she go on with the rest of her life without her shoes? But she's not coming back, I know she isn't, she would rather walk barefoot over glass than have to see me again. But Christ she left all of her shoes! All of them, every sneaker, boot and sandal, every high heel and clog, every flip-flop. What do I do? Do I leave them here, or bag them up and throw them in the trash? Do I look at them every morning when I get dressed and wonder why she left them? She knew it, she knows what's she's doing. I can't throw them out for fear she may return for them someday. I can't be rid of myself of her completely with all her shoes still in my life, can't dispose of them or the person that walked in them.
Her shoes, leaving a deep footprint on my heart, I can't sweep it away. All I can do is stare at them and wonder, stare at their laces and straps their buttons and tread. They still connect me to her though, in some distant bizarre way they do. I can remember the good times we had, what pair she was wearing at that moment in time. They are hers and no else's, she wore down the heels, and she scuffed their sides, it's her fragile footprint imbedded on the insole. I sit on the floor next to them and wonder how many places had she gone while wearing these shoes, how many miles she walked in them, what pair was she wearing when she decided to leave me? I pick up a high heel she often wore and absently smell it, it's not disgusting I think, it's just the last tangible link I have to her. The last bit of reality I have of her. She left her shoes; she took everything else, except her shoes. They remain at the bottom of my closet, a shrine to her memory.
In the doorway of my home, I looked closely at the face of my 23-year-old son, Daniel, his backpack by his side. We were saying good-bye. In a few hours he would be flying to France. He would be staying there for at least a year to learn another language and experience life in a different country.
It was a transitional time in Daniel‘s life, a passage, a step from college into the adult world. I wanted to leave him some words that would have some meaning, some significance beyond the moment.
But nothing came from my lips. No sound broke the stillness of my beachside home. Outside, I could hear the shrill cries of sea gulls as they circled the ever changing surf on Long Island. Inside, I stood frozen and quiet, looking into the searching eyes of my son.
What made it more difficult was that I knew this was not the first time I had let such a moment pass. When Daniel was five, I took him to the school-bus stop on his first day of kindergarten. I felt the tension in his hand holding mine as the bus turned the corner. I saw colour flush his cheeks as the bus pulled up. He looked at me-as he did now.
What is it going to be like, Dad? Can I do it? Will I be okay? And then he walked up the steps of the bus and disappeared inside. And the bus drove away. And I had said nothing.
A decade or so later, a similar scene played itself out. With his mother, I drove him to William and Mary College in Virginia. His first night, he went out with his new schoolmates, and when he met us the next morning, he was sick. He was coming down with mononucleosis, but we could not know that then. We thought he had a hangover.
In his room, Dan lay stretched out on his bed as I started to leave for the trip home. I tried to think of something to say to give him courage and confidence as he started this new phase of life.
Again, words failed me. I mumbled something like, "Hope you feel better Dan." And I left.
Now, as I stood before him, I thought of those lost opportunities. How many times have we all let such moments pass? A boy graduates from school, a daughter gets married. We go through the motions of the ceremony, but we don‘t seek out our children and find a quiet moment to tell them what they have meant to us. Or what they might expect to face in the years ahead.
How fast the years had passed. Daniel was born in New Orleans, LA., in 1962, slow to walk and talk, and small of stature. He was the tiniest in his class, but he developed a warm, outgoing nature and was popular with his peers. He was coordinated and 6)agile, and he became adept in sports.
Baseball gave him his earliest challenge. He was an outstanding pitcher in Little League, and eventually, as a senior in high school, made the varsity, winning half the team‘s games with a record of five wins and two losses. At graduation, the coach named Daniel the team‘s most valuable player.
His finest hour, though, came at a school science fair. He entered an exhibit showing how the circulatory system works. It was primitive and crude, especially compared to the fancy, computerized, blinking-light models entered by other students. My wife, Sara, felt embarrassed for him.
It turned out that the other kids had not done their own work-their parents had made their exhibits. As the judges went on their rounds, they found that these other kids couldn‘t answer their questions. Daniel answered every one. When the judges awarded the Albert Einstein Plaque for the best exhibit, they gave it to him.