Living Beauty [ficlet]

Geisha is a word that can mean many things, so many things. It is a two-part word. The first part, gei, means “art.” The second part, sha, means “one who does.” Together, geisha means artist. The two parts converge in the whole, like twin streams forming one river.

To me, the word geisha means “living beauty.” Every time I paint my face white, melting the bintsuke-abura to help make the mask, I am reminded of the role that I play. I am living beauty.

I have lived a long life. A full life. I carry my years weightlessly, though. Many try to flatter me: “You don’t look a day over twenty, Hiroko!”

I can only smile, knowing the truth behind the veil of flattery. I am still beautiful, true, but I am also forty.

Once I was just a shikomi, newly plucked from my family. Crying for my mother. I didn’t know then to be proud. I didn’t know what geisha meant. But I didn’t know the loneliness that would come, too. You see, beauty is a solitary thing. It is to be admired, cherished, but always from a distance.

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