Beauty must have been just about everywhere. I've seen the mark she leaves wherever she goes. You can see it in the smiling faces of young men, the misty nostalgia of the old. Beauty is much sought after, and very much missed. Poets write her long, pleading letters disguised as verse. Artists try to sketch her portrait, hoping someone would have seen her recently and knew where she was. Somehow, children have the least trouble remembering where she's last been.

    It's not that Beauty is aloof, or deliberately elusive. Beauty had been a child star, when her fresh innocence and infectious laughter had charmed many who had seen her. Her parents told her not to go outdoors too much. They were afraid of what dangers the world might pose. So she hid herself where only a few privileged admirers could find her. Sculptors and scholars, artists and millionaires would come to woo her. At first, it was all very exciting, even flattering. But Beauty soon grew tired of being treated like an exhibit or a possession. One night, when no one was looking, she ran away. They've been searching for her ever since. The authorities have no idea where to start. All the clues given by those who claim to know her have led to dead ends.

    You'd have thought that Beauty would've been recognised by now. Perhaps she has always been good at hiding in plain sight. She can walk down a busy street and not be noticed by a single passer-by. Then again, most of them have their heads down all the time, and are usually in a hurry. Or maybe no one expects to see Beauty appearing around their ordinary neighbourhood, so it doesn't sink in even when she's right in front of them, or just across the street.

    Beauty has had many lovers. She's been known to visit some of her old companions, Passion, Truth, and Joy quite frequently, but she enjoys the company of anyone who will spend some time with her, and not make too much of a fuss about it. Some would say she's pretty indiscriminate who she hangs out with. Once in a while, someone who knows her will run into her, quite by accident. Occasionally, you'll hear someone declaring that he's pinned her down at last. But the moment too much attention is drawn, Beauty disappears again.

    Sometimes I think I catch glimpses of Beauty, usually in the oddest of places - at some small art gallery, in between old shop-houses, in the swaying branches of a raintree, a stone's throw away from sunset, in the shadow of cracked paint. You might have seen her yourself - she's small for her age, but very nimble, shy yet insatiably curious. She has an inner glow which makes it seem like she lights up the air around her. Just once, I managed to look into her eyes - they were bright and sad and lonely, and so shiny I could see my reflection in them. From that moment, I lost all desire to hunt her down. She could be anywhere by now.

    If you do spot Beauty, take some time to get to know her. She will not stay, but she may rest for a while and tell you the stories she's picked up from her years on the road. Beauty has a soft, soft voice most people would miss what she has to say, unless they were really paying attention. But if you listen carefully, you might learn where to find Beauty again the next time you need her in your life.

07 April 2002   23:39 hours
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