Beauty Unframed author Lisa Elmers writes about life, loveliness, and seeing something where you thought there was nothing.

Jazz in the Garden

Jazz in the Garden

Near the capitol there is a garden where, on hot summer eves, people come to listen to hackneyed jazz and, apparently, to drink unconscionably. There men can be seen buying sangria from stands and carrying it away in pitchers to their blankets under the trees. Through glass the wine looks good to drink: purple, cold, dotted with lemon slices and with ice. Our men set the pitchers on the dirt, propped to trunks or held between picnic baskets, and find a clean place to sit. They wear working clothes still, stiffened twill and cotton, ties loosed to the heat, collars undone around pink necks. Under the lindens our women freckle doubly, skin-freckled and light-freckled, star maps of where the sun is-and-has-been. Taking pitchers in glowing hands, they pass sangria round in plastic punch cups.

And then the music. It is so hot you feel the music must be a hallucination. A congenial hallucination, coming from that corner of your brain that makes the dreams too odd and too wonderful to be conceived of by you. Or else the music must evanesce from your own damp skin, looping from you, flushed. Untroubled, not reaching for reasons why, you sit back and drink some sangria and laugh when the ice hits your mouth. Beside you, a friend stands fanning herself with a program flyer, hand on her hip, fanning her throat where the sweat can sting. And you raise your cup to a stranger in the neighboring shade, someone who seems to know you from somewhere. Neither of you can remember. His woman wears a long tan dress of pleated chiffon and smiles beneath a big hat.

Everyone’s here, in the garden. Somehow – accidentally it seems, in this unfriendly city – a great mass of disparate bodies congeals, sweating and mirthful, reconciled by the companionable high sun, the unmoving air, the music, the drink. And you know you should not enjoy this, because it is, at best, an illusion. But still you can’t help yourself waving at someone you know you don’t know. And anyway, they always wave back.

noli me tangere

noli me tangere

the kiss

the kiss