It’s here in a student’s journal, a blue confession in smudged, erasable ink: “I can’t stop hoping I’ll wake up, suddenly beautiful,” and isn’t it strange how we want it, despite all we know? To be at last the girl in the photography, cobalt-eyed, hair puddling like cognac, or the one stretched at the ocean’s edge, curved and light-drenched, more like a beach than the beach.
I confess I have longed to stalk runways, leggy, otherworldly as a mantis, to balance a head like a Fabergé egg on the longest, most elegant neck. Today in the checkout line, I saw a magazine claiming to know “How to Find the Perfect Dress for that Perfect Evening,” and I felt the old pull, flare of the pilgrim’s twin flames, desire and faith.
At fifteen, I spent weeks at the search. Going from store to store, hands thirsty for shine, I reached for polyester satin, machine-made lace, petunia- and Easter egg-colored, brilliant and flammable. Nothing haute about this couture but my hopes for it, as I tugged it on and waited for my one, true body to emerge. (Picture the angel inside uncut marble, articulation of wings and robes poised in expectation of release.)
What I wanted was ordinary miracle, the falling away of everything wrong. Silly maybe or maybe I was right, that there’s no limit to the ways eternity suggests itself, that one day I’ll slip into it, say floor-length plum charmeuse. Someone will murmur, “She is sublime,” will be precisely right, and I will step, with incandescent shoulders, into my perfect evening.