Do you remember, trying to press your spine against the wall? And how it felt so cold and smooth in the September heat? And how the shag carpet snaked between your toes because it would be dishonest to wear socks? And how it was just sunny enough to see dead skin cells floating in the light let in from a West facing window? You gave purpose to that room that was so dusty and empty and smelt of stale carboard. You took a dull pencil and marked exactly above where your head was, pressing your hair down first of course, in the name of fairness. You did what they did in movies, ones where there were families that owned a dog and a decent car, and had game nights, and small feuds that ended with ice cream. You marked your own height, and dreamt of being a basketball player, or maybe a model if that didn’t work out.
Do you remember the bus? how it smelled on rainy days, packed with too many pre-teens? Or maybe you recall more vividly what happened when you got off the bus; when it was 7:23 am, and still dark. You tried to walk tall with an oversized backpack and shy away from being too smart in class. This meant you didn’t raise your hand much; let’s be honest you didn’t speak much at all, even when you were not in class. But you had a few friends who you walked with through the breezeways after lunch. They were ones that made you feel just a bit cooler until you played truth or dare and refused to ask out the cute boy who was shorter than you; most of the boys in seventh grade were. Those days in a way, were your glory days. Do you remember obliterating them in the pacer test and timed mile? Of course you do. The coaches asked you to do cross country, and even though you planned to since the year before, of course you waited until a year after, because sometimes it was just too hard to do things. That’s all. You did join though. You continued to mark your height against the wall, in hopes that longer legs would take you even further ahead of the boys you still towered over. At those times, your body was so light. Sometimes it felt like a little piece of dust caught in the sun beams floating in that room where you marked your height.
You won a 1.7-mile race one day. It made you forget that you rarely talked, or that you had homework, or that you sometimes cried in the toilet stalls at lunch time. People congratulated you by your name. Your calves were crusted and muddy and cried in the most euphoric pain you had ever felt. Even after the exertion of crushing three middle school teams of female runners, you still felt light. You got Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and a blue rose compliments of dad. Who knew that roses came in blue? It was perhaps the best day to exist.
Your body though that once felt so light, could not remain this way. Do you remember the first time you wanted to hide it in a barrel? Let me rephrase that. Do you remember getting your first bra? You had to bend and slouch in a desperate attempt to feel unseen. But you made sure to stand tall when you marked your growth on the wall. And it paid off. You grew about two inches one year. You seemed to change so drastically when you compared the annual school ID photo printed on a small plastic card. But do you remember when they suddenly all blended together? when your face no longer had baby fat to rid itself of, and your legs no longer had the will to elongate.
Do you remember your secret brains that you hid? And your fascination in science class? Some knowledge crushed you though. You learned about genetics. You looked at your mom and dad and threw away your dreams of becoming a basketball champion that could work a runway. You marveled at how your cells had been replacing themselves constantly. You wondered then why you felt so homeostatic. You wondered whether that was even a word, and how incorrectly you were using it. You had been marking the same line on the height wall for months. You felt flimsy and heavy, and betrayed by your own corpse. For the first time, your race times became slower and slower until you quit. You left the track hoping to leave with it the feeling of failure.
Do you remember what it was like to spend time at home? You would head for the kitchen, then to the computer, and back to the kitchen. You would fall into a rabbit hole of YouTube and pirated movies until you heard the growl of a red Ford on the gravel. Only then, would you leave to your room. You would try to stay there and stifle outside noise, especially when you heard the smoother purr of a Dodge Ram on the cement. But it was hard not to crouch by the door or at the top of the stairs when you heard the owners of these cars downstairs, when you heard a ceramic plate shatter against the wall, and knew it was not an accident. You learned from dad that cursing was reserved for hatred and rage. You learned from mom that running was reserved for fleeing conflict. You learned that sobbing inside your own bathroom was to your surprise, significantly worse than in the stalls at school. The walls were painted a horrifying bright pink that mocked your blotchy eyes and flushed complexion. You would go downstairs only later that night and see the remnants of the broken plate on very cold linoleum. You swept it up with care.
Do you remember feeling like the plate? And how its jagged, broken edges scraped at your mind when you rode the bus to school in the rain? You painted that plate as a Mother’s Day gift in the third grade. You wondered if your mother ever made one for hers. You wondered if your father ever hid inside his room when he was 16. You wondered if they ever thought about their shortness, did they too feel the halt inside their bodies that came so subtly but devoured them with immense speed? You wondered when they started throwing plates. You couldn’t forget how sharp the broken edges were.
I know you remember sitting on a rooftop, not crying, just sitting. How could you forget the first time you felt so completely empty when looking into a sunset? You were trying to forget the sharp object that you held so delicately in your fingers moments before. You were trying to forget that it was not a broken plate, and that you were too weak, and did not know what that meant. You tried to forget about your body growing in a way that repulsed you, or how the grainy roof shingles felt like sandpaper on your soles. You missed the soreness of your feet after races. You missed not being home. You were 18 and convinced that you would be forever. I wish you knew that it was temporary.