Maybe Beauty- Laura Saint Martin

Bio: Laura Saint Martin writes mystery novels set in the foothills of Southern California, featuring horses and their eccentric owners. She also writes poetry about life on the autism spectrum and blue collar struggles. She works at Patton State Hospital and for Rover.com.

Hozho Naasha (The Beauty Way)
With beauty before me may I walk,
With beauty behind me may I walk,
With beauty above me may I walk,
With beauty all around me may I walk.

Austen Delacroix walks a known path, easy as an old shoe, but ripe with surprise. He is a handsome teen, his Navajo heritage lending a look of maturity and thoughtfulness. And he is thoughtful, a quiet young man with a strong moral compass instilled by his single mother.
More introspective than usual, he is eager to rid himself of his boisterous, uninformed classmates and enjoy the tranquility of his home in the foothills, eager to get away from the “hurt lockers,” with their wilted floral offerings and inspiration porn, pictures, stuffed toys, balloons, away from the gruesomely embellished retelling of suicide attempts and successes.
He thinks about a girl named Zoë.
With beauty before me may I walk...
He walks through a neighborhood of winding tree-lined streets and custom-built homes to a short cul-de-sac, and a road whose paving is little more than a memory. The road intersects large open pastures with ramshackle outbuildings. Horses graze in those pastures, or are tied up by a large barn in questionable repair. A couple of women groom and fuss over the animals, and Austen knows more will be arriving, including school girls.
Nope. Not today.
Austen slips around the back of the barn, cutting through a small pen. He stops to stroke the tall black horse housed there, his mother's horse. The horse is named Two Socks, for the neat anklets of white on his rear legs.
The barn is cool and dark, the smell of hay sweet. He climbs a small ladder into the hay loft. On one side, his mother's paintings, under old bedsheets, await her loving ministrations. At the other end, Austen has his work area, his beads and crystals and thread protected in large plastic boxes from the ubiquitous dust.
With beauty behind me may I walk...
The cube-shaped beads were an impulsive purchase, pretty, but thus far proving useless. Too large, too modern. He considers a flat Nbedele herringbone weave, a simplified South African pattern. The geometry lends itself well to the weave, but the silver-lined beads need color. He looks through his Swarovski crystals and selects bicones of various sizes in a deep red called “Siam,” and inserts them in between the vertical rows of stitches. He works as the sun slips behind the hill next to his house, pauses to look out the window. He thinks about death, and life, about friendship and loyalty.
About Zoë.
He turns on a small light and continues his work, glad to give his mother time to rest. She works long hours, works all night, and doesn’t need him in her hair all the time. There are snacks in the barn, bottled water, some cigarettes stashed away. But hunger and addictions can’t distract him. He is creating beauty. Creating beauty in the midst of ugly.
With beauty above me may I walk...
Zoë Seifert isn’t a close friend, but Austen likes her well enough, a nice girl, a girl with baggage. A girl from a broken home, like Austen, a girl who enjoys self-medication on occasion, like Austen.
A girl who shouldn’t want to kill herself. Her attempt was not successful, but ugly nonetheless, her final frontier patched and preempted under leather restraints.
Maybe Zoë could become a closer friend. Maybe I can be a better friend.
Although he isn’t one to cut himself or talk about suicide, Austen understands how easily one could self-destruct. His mother has scars from self-injury, and from the abuse of others.
From Austen’s own father, who did kill himself.
Austen was the one who found him, his father’s head like a plate of spaghetti thrown at the wall. Austen was four years old at the time.   
As he sews the beads together, he contemplates his own life, his family history.
Is there a suicide gene? 
He finishes the piece, a bracelet, admires the intense glitter of the crystals. The Swarovski pokes out of the herringbone stitches like blood oozing from open wounds. He puts it around his own wrist, likes how it looks like razor cuts.
A word from one of his school textbooks creeps into Austen’s thoughts.
Sublimation.
Maybe when Zoë feels bad, she can just wear this bracelet rather than hurting herself.
Austen sews the bracelet to a clasp and puts it in a small plastic bag. He climbs down the ladder, finds an unclaimed cigarette and joins the big black horse for an understated sunset.  
With beauty all around me may I walk…
The horse nuzzles Austen’s long hair as he smokes. Two Socks is a beautiful animal, shiny even in the muted sunlight. Beautiful, mischievous, loyal.
Would Zoë like Two Socks? Maybe horses would make her happy, give her more reason to live.
Austen sucks in a lungful of smoke.
How many maybes fall down with each sun?
Austen blows out a bleak cloud.
Maybe…
A smaller word than “sublimation,” with vaster implications. Like “hope,” but open-ended.
The sun lounges on a bank of maybe, and Austen exhales a stream of hope.
Maybe beauty is enough.
Another breath of Sacred Tobacco, its exhalation a prayer.

May beauty be enough.

3 comments :

  1. Laura St. Martin's vivid writing and poetry illuminates substantive characters facing life's crucibles. Within three sentences, she captures the essence of humanness, and I can't help but laugh or gasp at how real the personification feels. As a member of her weekly writing group, I am always in awe when she reads. TT

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  2. Stunningly emotional and beautifully written. Well done, Laura

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  3. Your piece reminds me that I have so much to be grateful for. Each day is an opportunity to appreciate the beauty around me, around my house, around my neighborhood, within my community. Austen is powerful. He creates beauty and is compassionate. I hope his example enlivens Zoe.

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