She did not want to come back the last time she was there.
She wanted to stay home. Home.
When she was there by herself, she was not a mother. She was not a wife. She was herself.
More enticingly, she was her younger self. She was a daughter. She was the much adored and lauded miracle child. The family legend.
The one who
would be could have been “The Doctor”. The real kind.
She realized much to her sadness and guilt that she has not been a daughter since 1993 when she left home for graduate school. The first time she went home, she brought her American boyfriend with her.
She stopped being just a daughter to her family. She has never been back by herself ever since.
When she went home by herself, everybody treated her as if she had just left and then returned. They treated her as if she were only 24, how old she was when she left.
It was disorienting. A discontium of time and space.
You are here in the U.S. and 24 hours later, you are in a different world. The same skyscrappers. The same modern technologies. Cars. Material goods. Yet different.
Time also reversed. Her family treated her as if she were only 24. She was a daughter again. The unwed daughter. The pearl in their palms.
She looked at her parents who have aged more since she saw them last. She wondered how she could have done this to them. Rid them of their daughter. All these years of separation they seem almost like strangers, yet she remembered. It’s as if life in between simply were not there. She left. She came home. As simple as that.
Now she’s 24.
She has a pretty face. In 3 D. She knows it. Yet nowadays she does not like to look at herself in the pictures. She dares not search for her own face in them. She cannot recognize herself in any of them because the image she has of herself inside her head is different from the face that is staring back at her.
It’s like whenever you hear the playback of a recording of your own voice, you are startled by the strangeness of it.
Is this really how I sound to other people?
Oh my goodness. I should never open my mouth again.
The girl in her is puzzled by how she could have possibly aged so much.
The girl in her did not know at first that being addressed as “Young lady!”, as in “Now, what would you like, young lady?” and “Bill, this young lady here would like an Amaretto Sour!” is actually a sign that you have passed a certain age threshold. People assume that you ought to be grateful for the subtle compliment.
She gives herself a long, uncomprehending look sometimes when she walks by office buildings with glass walls.
The girl in her is surprised by the unfamiliar physique when she looks in the mirror.
Who is that middle-aged woman? If I feel like a P.Y.T. then who is this matron with thick arms and middle bulge?
The girl in her saw the repulsion in her husband’s eyes. Just for a fleeting second. But too late. She’s seen it. You cannot unsee it.
The girl in her says, with defiance, Wow. It kind of sucks to be you because I am not changing myself for anybody but myself.
The girl in her does not know how to navigate space in real life now that she can no longer be classified as slender as her younger self.
It is as if her spatial sensory has never evolved with how her body has evolved. She keeps on bumping into corners. Door frames.
When she looks at pretty young things, she thinks to herself: Yup. I can look good in that too. Imagining her 18-year-old body in the same polka-dotted sundress.
The girl in her forgets that she no longer enjoys the luxury of youth and therefore is no longer as attractive as she remembers. This is not self pity. This is the truth as told by time.
The girl in her behaves as if she were still young and attractive and therefore she winks and smiles as one would.
Sometimes people see the sparkle.
Sometimes people don’t and are therefore startled by a not-so-slim not-so-young woman carrying herself as a young beautiful woman would.
The girl in her is saddened and disappears when she recognizes the startled look in people’s eyes.
The girl in her never really leaves. She sits by the wing. On a stool next to the stage manager’s, waiting for her cues.
The girl in her sometimes wonder when it will become inappropriate, or whether it will ever, should ever, to swing your arms while walking because you feel happy, or want to fabricate the sensation of happiness.
To look forward to a rainy day so you could walk around holding the umbrella as if it were a sword: palm open and up, with the blade pointing up and the sword against your back, and envision yourself as a swordswoman, wandering and righting the wrongs in the world.
To dance in the rain.
To breathe deeply in the smell of rain. Fresh-cut grass. And let out a loud Ahhhhhhh——-
To roll down the hill.
To be barefoot.
To jump in a puddle.
To say the word, Puddle, her favorite word, out loud for no reason because she likes the sound of it.
To talk to random strangers, and wink at them.
To flirt shamelessly.
To jump up and down while clapping your hands when you are excited.
To take off your shoes and throw them into the tree.
To behave as if you had not aged since you turned 18.
This is how she sees herself when she closes her eyes.
This is how she sees herself when her eyes are wide open, as a matter of fact.
Sometimes this is the only thing that feels real.
The girl in her.