Monday, December 17, 2012


Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:40 a.m.

The pageant hair is all that remains of her glory days. Age has hardened her face; two packs of cigarettes a day have yellowed her features. But Leeah’s hair still towers high above her head, frozen with Aquanet. Nobody can deny that it is an impressive mane.

Not ten years ago a gorgeous, glittering crown perched atop that hair, secured by countless bobby pins. Leeah was Miss DuPage County, all smiles and waves and makeup and gowns. She was everything a woman should be, according to the judges. Her thoughtful answer about the Iraq War clinched it for her: “Although we have not yet found weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein remains a threat to freedom. How can America claim to be the greatest, freest nation on earth and still allow such a man to rule?” Her mother and her friends were certain that she’d be the next Miss Illinois. They all said so.

But Leeah didn’t become the next Miss Illinois. And Leeah was glad when the next Miss Illinois consequently did not become the next Miss America. Leeah was sure she could have done it.

What she could not seem to do was get into college. The title of Miss DuPage County did not matter more than her GPA. College admissions boards did not care about her perfectly manicured nails and white teeth. It all fell apart from there. Leeah started waitressing. She moved to Chicago for some guy. It didn’t last. She changed, and her clothes changed—no more glitter or satin. But Leeah still teases her hair up every day, what little pride she has left twisted in the tresses.

I had a very lazy weekend involving charades, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings. We just had a meeting about health insurance at work. It reminded me how little I understand health insurance. Why are numbers so horrible?

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