The bearded woman

It started in the middle of winter. Almost every day, the two passed by  me on my way to the office. The mother carried the baby ahead, in a kangaroo. In the beginning the little one cried desperately, and I didn’t blame her —nobody wanted to have 32°F blow on their face. The mother, dressed as business woman, tried not to bother. But it was clear they both suffered together.

The two got settled with time. I didn’t hear the baby’s crying anymore and the mother looked more resigned. The red little cheeks from the cold didn’t open up in a big smile, but looked like they realized a bunch of interesting stuff to see. The daughter, facing the world, seemed a second ahead of the mother almost like a body inside a body, as the Antique Greece mythic entities. I loved to see them together, imagining them as a two-head warrior who woke up every day to fight a super powerful enemy.

Each day I thought to smile  to find some way to cheer them up, to say I admire them and how they helped me to keep walking too. I started with a timid smile. The weeks went by  and they didn’t answer back. I thought maybe they were too focused on hurrying, or simply haven’t noticed me. I insisted a little bit with that flawed smile, but no success.

Then I started to think the mother maybe was feeling intimidated by the ties and sophisticated shoes she passed by. Maybe she was feeling like a strange being in the middle of all, a species as “The beard woman” by Jose de Ribera.

A compression started to grow in my heart, an anxiety, a desire to say that “I know, it’s mandatory for working women to hide her motherhood and ignore the sick kid. The fact you don’t trust too much in the nanny, to switch the gears and accelerate.” I stuck myself in the power of that woman, carrying her baby at 7am, to somewhere nearby the office. She speeds the pace up, hoping to be invisible.

Then I dared. I filled up my bravest side and, inflamed by the apathetic warm from spring’s beginning, I stopped in front of the two. I held my hand asking them to stop too. The mother pulled up, impatient. I dared to say together the two used to make my day, I manifested my admiration and thanked.

The mother frowned, looking me with fear. Suddenly, she moved her body in a slow skipping and before I noticed her maneuver, she speeded up the pace, with a “New York is full of crazy people” face…

I never saw the two since then.  

PS: Jose de Rivera was a specialist in painting not conventional people for the XVI and XVII centuries taste. I always felt this mix of discomfort and empathy with Maddalena Ventura, the bearded woman in the post. The beard, baldness and deep voice affected her at 37 years old, when she already had two kids and a husband. In the picture, she breastfed the third one, at 52 years old. All the times I’ve seen her, I can’t avoid imagining the reason that moved her to agree being painted… Does anyone have  any suggestions? 
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Bocetos, versiones, fragmentos de realidad · Textos por: Andrés Gómez O

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