the Ugly Thing

There once was a girl who found an Ugly Thing. She wasn't looking for it. She just came across it one day on her walk. Rather than go around the Ugly Thing, she approached it, curious. As she got nearer, she saw it was even uglier up close. The girl was fascinated. She stared and stared. She walked the length of it, examining every last inch. And the more she saw how ugly it was, the prettier she felt.

Every day the girl would visit the Ugly Thing - sometimes more than once. She grew to know every ugly crack and every ugly crevice, until the Ugly Thing's ugliness was as familiar to her as her own beauty.

Many, many days went by. The girl grew a little bit older. She started to feel the pinch of time and watched as people she loved passed out of her life, in the ways that they sometimes must. The girl spent her walks to and from the Ugly Thing deep in thought. She thought about who she was. She thought about what she had learned, and what she still wanted to. She thought about the things she had filled her life with so far - what she'd made room for and what she had crowded out. And the girl started to feel a little sick when she realized how big a place the Ugly Thing had in her heart.

At that moment, the girl vowed to stop going to the Ugly Thing. But she knew it would be difficult, as breaking habits always is. So she tried to understand this need of hers, to see the Ugly Thing. The girl realized that every day that the Ugly Thing remained ugly was a day that she could still feel pretty - even on those days when she wasn't sure she was. Even on those days when nothing seemed true or clear, the Ugly Thing's ugliness was a reliable constant by which she could know up from down, right from wrong. Every day the Ugly Thing told her I am ugly, but you are not.

The girl felt shame. She felt disappointed in herself, that she'd come to rely on an Ugly Thing for anything, much less as a way to love herself. So the very next day, the girl sat down to make a list of all the places she could go, instead of to the Ugly Thing.

She was still writing long past the hour that she usually took her walk.