9 by 9Max Winter
Her face is probably familiar to a lot of people, but not by much. It’s one of those faces where no feature is remarkable. Medium-sized nose, not unusually large lips, ears fairly flat, eyebrows much like the next person’s. If there’s anything about her that might be called unusual, it’s her make-up. It’s been said that a person’s sanity is in inverse proportion to the intensity of their make-up. And this woman’s make-up is intense. The lips are not just pink, they’re a deep pink that always looks freshly painted, you wonder if it doesn’t leave tracks on the air. The eyes are shaded a dark blue, slightly bruised-looking, making the whites stand out. And currently the whites are pointed upwards, as if the woman were making a show of trying to remember something. But you just know, or should know, looking at her, that she has no problem with her memory, that there’s some larger role probably being played out, here. She’s probably in one of the helping professions, for her day job. But that’s just conjecture. The mouth, in its current pose, is certainly that of one who is concerned. The lips are pursed, as if she were shaming something, or someone, or as if some great misfortune had just occurred, in close proximity to her. Which it could have. She’s standing in a dark public space; you can see blurred bodies around her. She’s leaning up against a red post, and you can see that, on the other side of the post, there’s a sign. What the sign says is fairly predictable: “Wet Paint.” We see it backwards, through the paper, as it is thin—and also some of it is bent, so you can get a hint of the message. And yet she leans against it, unworried that the paint on the pillar might stain her black jacket, made of some sequined material, thin, see through, you see the pink shirt, also somewhat diaphanous, beneath it. If you’re the sort of person who craves physical interaction with the artworks, you might want to reach forward and straighten her up. She seems to have hunched into her frown, in a way that suggests she’s used to the frown, not much used to other facial expressions, though, which they say is bad for you, in the papers, if you have time to read the “health” column. And she does not, really and truly, look healthy. Her hair is poking out at five different angles, could be the wind. But there is no wind underground. No use in worrying, here, about what the hair is all about, or what the person is all about, because that never really comes forward in a purely two-dimensional medium. And the train, the subway train, whose tracks are evident beside her, a dim canyon, a place where we expect rats and empty cups, shoes and empty boxes, the occasional charred leaf, the occasional fallen bird, the occasional blind spot, the occasional sun mote, the train never comes.
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