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One of Love’s Many Dismays


There was once a young man who had heard about a woman whose beauty was so legendary that no man was able to resist her. It was said that whenever she passed by, all men fell on their knees and worshipped her like a deity. The story also did go that while she entertained all the suitors who lined up at her door, that she would also turn down each proposal when she was asked for her hand in marriage. This broke everyone’s hearts, naturally. Pools of the tears of the many men who had desired her welcomed the next suitor by the threshold of her door.

One day this young man was so intrigued by this story of the woman he did not yet see, that he started daydreaming about her whose beauty was known to crush any man’s heart. She would be the first thing he wondered about as he awoke to each new day, and she, the woman of many possible faces, would haunt him in his dreams. He asked himself what she liked, what jewellery adorned her, what she did in the afternoons; or if she liked long walks, if she liked tea, or cake. These wonderings, and doubtless countless more, obsessed the young man to no end. Yet as what always happens when desire intensifies when what it desires remains out of its reach, no longer did it matter for this young man that he come to meet her face to face, to see for himself what beauty inspired her legend. It was enough to stay at a distance, safe from seeing her and possibly being disappointed, than risk a perfect desire--perfect, because he was perfectly alone.


Gustave Caillebotte, Young Man at His Window, 1875




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