When I was eight years old, my head swarmed with nothing more than bright flashes of television, landmines of toys on my bedroom floor, the sweet scent of my father when he arrived home from work, always a cocktail of cold and sweat and cologne when I buried my face in his neck. Life rolled by with homework and spans of playtime from three until the sun went down, my mother calling me inside from our cracked front step. At night the humming of the fan was a lullaby.
I never thought dressing and parading my Barbie Dolls across the sidewalk was something to hide until he swerved down my street on his bike, all I remember are the tires, the way he stopped and put two feet on the street to balance himself while he called out something in that childish sing-song voice, silly at twenty-five but nothing but daggers then. We all know the voice, we all run from it. I don’t know if this was my first encounter with darkness, but it’s the best I can remember. Things get twisted up, out of order when you’re trying to pinpoint your first moment of confusing unhappiness, the what and why of it all. Second, maybe, was being the new girl in a new state in a new school at ten years old, thicker now, the bulls eye of whispers and crumbled notepaper. You’re not laughing with me when I’m not laughing.
At thirteen a teacher told me “they’re just jealous”. His intentions were the best but acceptance was more important to the awkward teenager, it always is, whether they genuinely like you or not. Sulking was my only talent. Twelve had seen a total eclipse, wandering hallways counting linoleum tiles and feeling empty as the air after the bell gave its final warning. Shoving myself inside a locker was never an option, only drifting through the afternoon until I could close my eyes on a turbulent bus ride and bury myself in the couch and count the teardrops.
Fourteen seemed better, more promising, until the growth spurt that left me thin for the first time since that eighth year of life brought on more whispers, the wondering of why I was really in the bathroom. I felt free, strong-shouldered, until the darkness put its hand on my cheek and asked to stay a while. Life was more than television and my favorite smells now, life had become a series of fleeting laughter, textbooks and deadlines, more sadness than I’d expected when all I had was a dream and a ceiling of plastic, glowing starlight.
There was happiness, love even, but something else, too. Since I was very young there has always been something lingering just overhead, pointing its long, ugly finger and telling me to second guess everything, because someone like me doesn’t get to be right. My demon doesn’t maintain permanent residence, but he likes to pop in and check on me quite frequently.
Now I have love, breath, red wine, skin on skin. Sometimes there is darkness, but mostly there is the most beautiful light.
(I hope you enjoyed my response to the WP Weekly Writing Challenge. The above photograph evoked some difficult memories.)