When and if you have to describe beauty don’t do it from the front. Do it against the public eye, and against the visual. This is a book not a movie, so listen:
He felt her looking at him, her eyes amused behind those little round glasses like the hippies used to wear, blond hair pulled back into a thick braid… He watched her walk back into the file stacks… her legs taut beneath the faded jeans.”
A description is born from an interested perception, inside a relationship, between people or between a person and a thing. Even a measurement is born of a relationship. The blond hair is pulled back, touched, handled by particular hands. Part of what makes this woman a woman Jack meets behind a counter. She is a counter girl, and eventually that counter is bedded down along with the girl, her thighs, her glasses.
No need to use the brand of the jeans — the jeans are not the characters in this book. The characters are cops and the girls they love or fuck, all kinds of cops, old cops, ex-cops, bent cops, divorced cops, cops behind desks and cops in cars, listening in on smart guys-turned-businessmen they are trying to put away…cops in the small towns of Massachusetts.
A description can also be a back road to the mind.
He watched her as she watched back into Electrical… across to Aisle Four … He’d seen women with shorter hair in Harvard Square, maybe Jamaica Plain, even bald, in recent years… When he was in uniform they’d give him hostile looks, waiting for him to make a comment… He’d just shrugged. No stranger than being a cop, walking the streets in a uniform all summer, 15 pounds of gunbelt dragging at your hip. Harder, maybe. All the stares. Her hair was like the crewcuts they used to give kids, but soft, so you want to run your hand over it…
Not visual, not really: a haircut. Not in a book.