Just Look Natural

“Just look natural,” I say, picking up my camera phone from the diner table, wanting to capture the radiant warmth that glows off her soft face.

Her face falls, her skin pales. She presses up the corners of her mouth like each is capped with a lead weight, a Herculean effort, and she tucks her chin down as if she’s ashamed.

I study words late into the night, poring over stacks of maroon- and evergreen-bound library books under my yellowing desk light, but I am yet to find a way to tell someone that “Just Look Natural,” spilling uncontrollably from my lips in admiration, isn’t something I feel I have to say conforming to society’s slapped-on apology for telling us that we aren’t beautiful as we are, but something that overflows from me, overcomes me, when I see her push her glossy hair back and laugh at a typo or a silly name on a sign on the subway.

She asks me not to post the photos, and I agree. They plaster my mind, though, filling the dark corners with the light and warmth of her dark brown eyes, and her laugh, a mere note different from my own.

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