I can't get this girl off my mind; she looks familiar. I tell myself that at my age, everyone is starting to look familiar. Still, whenever I glimpse her, my memory rummages through a flurry of faces.
Who could she have been? A classmate from college? A waitress at an old hangout? A girl on a bus that I looked at, but didn't summon the courage to talk to?
She's a big boned lass with a thick neck and strong wrist. She's dressed for outdoor toil and the sun has left its imprint on her cheek. She works hard, but this is a moment of respite. The faraway glance in her eyes, the chin resting, and the parted lips, all betray her sweet girlish longing, and this evokes in me nostalgia for a time when romantic possibilities seemed infinite.
From beneath her head scarf, rich locks frame her face. She has two scarves! Which is the eponymous one? The red, certainly, because it's the scarf she doesn't really need. Courbet may have seen that dash of color adorning this working girl's neck and admired it, as I do, and perhaps even wondered whom she reminded him of.
Peasant Girl With a Scarf, oil on canvas, Gustave Courbet, c. 1849.