My earliest memories involve an adoration of women. A playroom, adjacent to the kitchen. My mother potters. Doorbell. The sound of heels or boots on the wooden floor grab my attention. I put my head around the door. I loved the redhead who dressed in bright colours. The cousin with the caramel skin and the curly hair. Designer sunglasses dropped onto our kitchen table. Her style so chic it sent shivers up my spine. And the blondes. Oh the blondes! I couldn’t get enough of their skinny jeans and giant leather bags.
We lived in a house for visiting. Very near the local supermarket. My mother’s pull up a chair policy, no matter what’s taking place. And little me, barely up to my mother’s hip, rolling out a red carpet for the women of the world. As they tossed their hair over their shoulder, I’d mimic them, inch-long hair no obstacle for the woman in me. I’d long to put varnished hands around a cup of coffee like they do. Taking gentle sips with my lipsticked mouth.
In the mirror I’d stare at myself, copying their mannerisms. And there was no sense that I was doing anything wrong. I was a beautiful woman in my mind. The boy in the reflection couldn’t overshadow that fact. If I were at my mother’s table, I’d sit with my legs crossed. I’d throw my head back in laughter, making the blonde locks dance around my shoulders. My handbag would be on my knee and I’d dig around in it every now and again, producing a compact and inspecting my makeup.
My sisters would shun me from their games, our age gap putting us on different levels when it came to playtime. But the game of being a woman was one I was happy to play on my own. My eyes huge as I step into the kitchen for the few minutes that children are tolerated by adults. Before you’re told to go and play. Femininity. I didn’t know the word, but I didn’t need to. A person who’s never heard about God can still celebrate a higher power.
My earliest memories involve an untarnished sense of myself. Standing in front of that reflection with a cropped haircut. Made to wear jeans. Treated differently to my sisters. Given presents I didn’t want. How was I so certain that I’d grow into a beautiful woman? One day I’d be glamorous. Sitting at a kitchen table with my girlfriends.
The eyes in my reflection stay the same as I grow to over six foot, my hair sprouts from my head and reaches past my shoulders, my trousers form into skirts and my lips turn red.
I wrote a poem for the end of our love because I realised no one else would do it for me. At 3am a voice forbade me, it told me not to write when no one will care. I suddenly asked myself where did that voice come from? and I thought it sounded a little like you. Before I met you, it was my job not to care and I was really good at it.
And in some ways I love the softness that came from taking you between my legs. I love what’s become of me, long milk-scented hair and a hankering for knitwear. And sometimes I think I care so so much, but when I step out of my sister’s little red car and gaze at the horizon I laugh about how none of it matters.
You did this, you woke me up and for that I could kiss you one last time, but then I wonder if we’d fall into old patterns and I realise I’m already forgetting the sea breeze in my hair as I gazed at that horizon.
I have a little place now which I know you’d love and I even bought some things with you in mind. How much of this marriage did I cultivate on my own? I told you I was ready for a divorce and I expected you to beg but all you did was look at me with eyes that had already seen the horizon and I was jealous.
And now that I’m here with sea salt on my lips I know that jealousy was warranted because it feels fucking good not to care and why did I not listen more to the girl who ran to New York? For even though she didn’t meet you she knew you so fucking well.
And I wish you’d stand over me again with your hips agonisingly close to my face but I know that deep down I’d feel the fear you always made me feel. And maybe I blame way too much on you and use you as an out because I know I’m fucking insane. My father’s eye is still black from that night in WG and I want to cry every time I think of it because oh god, no one fucking understands do they?
And I step out of that little red car, holding my cardigan tightly around me. I look out at the horizon and wonder how many other people got secretly married at 19 years of age? I wonder how many other people my age are this dead? I smirk because none of it matters and for that very reason I’m going to live to be an old lady.