A Disapppointed Child

I bought her a long time ago, when my interest in collecting photographs had just begun; when I was new to the hobby of introducing strangers into my home.

I was only an ingenue.  But I knew enough to realize that an image of a young woman – straddling a staircase, wearing a housecoat and rolled stockings, taking a high and shameless swig from a flask – was worthy of purchase.

But her home is unadorned wood.  There is a cellar door behind her.  Garbage cans are in the distance.  There is nothing to inspire her, except her youth and resentment.

Her brows are straight and angry – her eyes watch the photographer in narrowed defiance, in concentrated fury.  Cocked elbows compliment each other in an outline that dares and swaggers.

Perhaps this is her vision of a gin-runner's moll:  staggering out of doors in the mid-afternoon after a night of speakeasies full of the sharp perfume of smoke, cocaine and jazz.  A night when the neon air had colored her marcelled hair into sleek, unnatural rivers.  And later in the daytime:  a liquid breakfast that went down her cigarette-shredded throad like a coil of unadorned alcohol and acid.

Only she can't help but taste and feel her reality:  the drink is Volstead-approved water, the dress is Woolworth's and not Lanvin, and her life is plain and moral – not vulgar and illegal.  This is no scintillating life of short skirts and gangsters.

The disaffection of this child is universal and ageless – every decade harbors its bitter populations.  Their thin dramas, carefully dressed poses and detailed fantasies take what they want from newspapers and the radio:  the world's informants.  The unwanted facts are jettisoned into a swill of superfluous data; a slow-moving sewer of unwelcome words and pictures.

It happens now.  And it happened then, 80 years ago, by the side of a blank, lonely house.

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13 responses to “A Disapppointed Child

  1. Wonderful closing, Ms. Aubrey. I can't help yearning to know whether that bottle contained a drop at the time of the photo, whether when it did she was its commander or whether she was hamming it up or feigning defiance for the lens. Whatever the truth, love the pic, this is the girl I woulda married had I been alive then!

  2. I love how you inspire me to look at photographs differently…and to notice details I would have missed otherwise! šŸ™‚

  3. And yet each generation thrusts into the world, convinced that they won't end like their forebears, that they will make a difference. Pass that gin around, honey, it's a long ride.

  4. Yet another excellently-worded piece to go with an excellent moment in time.

  5. I think that today's equivelent get pregnant as a career option rather than stack shelves in a supermarket or be a trolly dolly/checkout girl. Even sadder, they are like vampires who sleep all day and are sen in their nighties in the early evening. They watch Tv all night, smoke wacky all night until the welfare cheque runs out. They seem defeated before they get the attitude of this girl.

  6. This is fantastic. I like Doug's comment as well.

  7. "The disaffection of this child is universal and ageless – every decade harbors its bitter populations." Indeed! Well said.

  8. I wonder if she did this just as a lark (and was staid otherwise) or if she ran off to the big city and became this for real.Maybe she became the best madam in the city and swathed herself in furs and jewels. But had no children, thus her photos ended up for sale to strangers.

  9. Waterbaby – I really think this girlie is a ham, and has watched one too many gangster movies. It's a wonderful image, taken out of someone's photo album – wonder what the others were like?
    Lauri – thanks; even if the photos were considered ordinary back then, there is always something marvelous to see.
    Doug – you make me worried for her! I wondered what ever happened?
    Sherryman – whether posing or authentic, whether water or vodka, this little dollar has it all over our currencies.
    Red Pen – right? Everyone has to fight through/with their anger.
    LT – I think, as the picture was taken, it was strictly for a lark; showing off to the gangly boy who was no doubt taking the picture. But I wouldn't be surprpised if jewels were in her future. She could be alive now – let's ask her!

  10. Truly an awesome acquisition. I love this photo and how it honors her individual spirit, and how it shall live on inside your home. If only could read your killer tribute. She would have loved this forum.

  11. Beautiful picture! Liked your last line "It happens now. And it happened then" very much šŸ™‚

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