Beautiful Faces and Bad Decisions

Possibly the coolest wall artwork I have ever seen.

Having breakfast today and, grateful for a brief respite from wearing surgical masks in the current pandemic context, someone truly eye-catching walked in to order coffee. Young, petite, pretty with clear skin and sparkling eyes that were as yet undulled by the disillusionment of time and age. She was quite naturally beautiful and everyone there was reflexively fascinated, even though they sought to politely hide it.

The absence of a surgical face mask initially drew my attention and, as one does with beautiful people, my eyes returned several times to ponder the sweet survey of softly symmetrical human physiognomy that was her face. Of course, she should have been wearing a mask and I wondered why she was not doing so but upon receiving her coffee and turning around to leave the cafe I noticed she had multiple prominent tattoos on her neck – kind of like what you would see on a biker, a gangster or anyone else who just really doesn’t give a shit about law or convention. I’m guessing she was maybe 19 or 20, really so very young and with so much yet to learn.

I found myself wondering if she had fallen in with a “bad crowd”, as astonishing loveliness draws rough men like an animal carcass draws vultures. I wondered if one day she would reflect back upon the choices she made, the mistakes she may have self-inflicted upon her arc and trajectory through life, and I wondered if she might eventually regret those decisions made – as they often are – in the passion of youth and the foolish rebellion of an inexperienced, innocent or otherwise unknowing naivety.

It always makes me so sad to see such sweet and lonely souls submerged in the dark consequences of their hasty decisions. When (and if) they finally do manage to drag themselves – after many difficult years – back into some semblance of gentle or compassionate well-being, they often blame themselves. What few realise is that these games of exploitation and cruelty are much older than any of us and the roles, the parts that they play were crafted long ago and far away. Choosing the worst path can be the easiest thing but the choice for us all is often already made by the world in ways that only our pride ever blinds us to; regret is as foolish in this as is seeking to attribute blame. There is no shame, only an experience of living that later (as memory and consequence) will follow us like a shadow.

It breaks my heart, endlessly. In a haunting chill and with melancholy wisdom I watch them all as they fall upon the same diabolical flames – if each in different ways – because there is absolutely nothing I can do to help. I just have to sweep up the ashes when it is all over and shed some tears for what might have been. Destiny is cruel, it is true, but this cruelty is almost always entirely of our own making.

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