“She was so beautiful she jumped from a train.”
Those were the words that fell out of my father’s face one day when we were out having lunch.
He said it in passing as though it were the most natural thing in the world, and I stopped him from continuing on from whatever rant he was on (I honestly can’t remember) to explain what the statement meant.
Apparently, she was on a train once (he has no idea where) and “some guy” — as he put it — followed her from one train-car to the next til they were on the platform of the final car and — in my father’s words — “decided it wasn’t going that fast” and jumped. The “guy” decided then to stop pursuing her.
It’s not really a story about her being beautiful. It’s a story of her being subjected to some rando’s sense of entitlement to her attention. Her beauty, I think, is the strength of will she showed by being strategically unreasonable after being preternaturally reasonable towards his ungentlemanly behavior.
It’s a story that’s stuck with me though, this story of my great-great-grandmother who immigrated here from Poland and dealt with on a train the same crap I and my friends and so many strangers out there have had to deal with. I once stayed up til about 4 in the morning, alternately falling asleep in my stairwell (before I realized I had OCD and how to lean into my Panic Anger) and screaming at the rando who had followed me into my building and who I didn’t want following me all the way to the door of my apartment.
These stories cross generations and languages saying the same thing: I will be reasonable until the only reasonable course of action is to be completely unreasonable.
It’s not an uncommon story, and with about 100 years between my great-great-grandmother’s incident and my own, just how common it is becomes reason enough to be unreasonable on a regular basis.
Anyway, even though I’ve given away the ending, I hope you’ll enjoy my proper retelling of my father’s story Michelene’s Beauty, just published in EAP: The Magazine’s Fall 2018: Things That Go Bump.
Originally published at Better Storytelling.