As I walked through the cold gates, I shivered as I recognized my surroundings.
It must’ve been ten years since the front gate saw me. Walking through the foyer, I let the music lead me into the hall.
It was filled with dancing children covered in bright colours, reflected from the big mirror ball on the ceiling.
I knew them… all of them.
They couldn’t see me, but I could see them.
Thank God ski-pants are out of fashion and is that Dr Alban that they’re dancing to? Walking past the long black haired bitch that tormented my primary school years with her sharp tongue and her superiority complex, I stopped to take a better look at my bully. Scrawny and irritating, she was trying really hard to impress those around her and it was clear that with that much effort involved, she wasn’t having any fun.
I was shocked that I was ever intimidated by someone that small.
In fact everything looked so small, I recalled it all feeling so big back then.
I felt old.
Just about ready to skip this dream, it occurred to me that I’d seen everyone except myself. Instinct took my gaze straight to the dance floor, that’s the place I was meant to be. That music; that setting; that was the evening I’d won my first dance competition and showed my worth to my peers. I should be overjoyed and enjoying my new found confidence and self respect. So why wasn’t I on the dance floor?
Is the past exactly the way we remember it?
Walking out into the cold night, I started looking in the places I knew that I was bound to find my junior. I looked on the playground, behind the trees I used to hide. I wasn’t in the jungle gym and I wasn’t in the library. It was a long shot, but I looked by the tennis courts and in the alley between the tuck-shop and Mrs. Weeda’s first grade class. Having only one place left to look, I took a deep breath before facing my younger self.
What do you say to a ten year old with a broken heart?
Now it seems ridiculous to let myself be bothered by the idiot that didn’t want to dance with me… time showed me later that he couldn’t hold up a conversation for longer than five minutes and that his only expertise was taking care of his rats.
That wasn’t all that I’d be crying about…
There were those girls that had made fun of me when I was announced the winner, how do you explain to a child that jealousy makes people nasty?
Swearing, I promised myself to lay off the yoghurts before bedtime and wished my fruitful imagination had blessed me with dreams of Jude Law, Freddy Prinz Jr or that guy that starred in the Need for Speed movies…
Standing outside the bathroom, I decided that the sooner I could deal with my lost memory, the sooner I could back to dreaming of the good stuff… and so I closed my eyes and tried to remember what it was like to be on the other side of that door.
I knew what was she was thinking, I knew how she felt and I knew exactly what she was telling herself.
She was wondering what the hell she was doing in a bathroom by herself, why her friends weren’t with her and why on earth she’d risked dancing when she only made a fool of herself.
She wished she hadn’t ran out crying of the disco like that, she wished she’d stayed at home and she wished her parents had stayed in Portugal instead of making her move out there to a place where she was an outsider, where she didn’t fit in.
She hated her reflection, she wished she was thinner, she wished she was taller and she wished she was prettier. The tears would be running down as she gripped onto the cold sink in rage.
I walked in as she buried her face into the cold water and I could hear her words as she told herself the same sentence I’ve been telling myself for twenty four years:
“you’re gonna be okay, just hang on a little longer and you’ll be just fine.”
She caught my image in the mirror and turned around to stare me right in the eyes.
I stood frozen.
Anger seeped through my veins with the incredible urge to scream and tear apart every being that ever caused me to doubt myself.
But it wouldn’t help this child in front of me that waited on my very word.
Do I apologize?
For being weak?
For not standing up for myself?
For thinking everything was my fault?
Apologies did me no good, nor would promises of better days that I knew wouldn’t come.
Helpless to help myself, powerless to ease my own pain…
I fell to my knees in front a sad child and wept.
I cried for her, I cried for myself and for every tear we both still have to cry.
Vulnerable and small in the face of small child that found the courage to approach me, take me into an embrace and run her chubby hands through my hair. Taking my face into her hands with practiced ease, she smiled sweetly and repeated the words I know all too well:
“Don’t worry, you’re going to be just fine.”
I sighed as the light spilled warmth into my room from the sun’s first rays. Isn’t it wonderful how everything looks right in the morning? From the speed of dawn, I could tell that it’s going to be a beautiful day.
Looking into the mirror, only the dark patches under my eyes stand evidence to a harsh night… nothing a hot bath and some make up can’t fix and I smile at how easy it is to brush off a rough night.
Staring back at me, a familiar face smiles back with a knowing look that tells me, that everything is going to be, just fine.