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A journey of self-discovery

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* * *
Eina glided around the corner, trash bag in hand. She was in a rather upbeat mood, for once. It had been three weeks since she had heard from Shane, And she was actually starting to forget about him. She was singing to herself under her breath. The twenty-something young woman didn't have the confidence in her voice that she had in high school, so she usually kept her singing low enough that only she could hear it.

As she swung the garbage bag into the dumpster, she made it a point to throw it overhand as far back as she could. This was one of her many peculiarities. For years she had noticed that most of her neighbors, no matter where she lived, threw their trash in only the front of the dumpsters or trash bins. This struck Eina as phenomenally lazy, so she chose to throw her trash as far back in the bins as she could to even out the load. In reality, it didn't matter one whit where she threw her trash, but it made Eina feel slightly better about herself to do so.

Eina had issues.

Little did she know, her issues were about to compound.

As she turned around to head back across the parking lot to her apartment, she saw Shane's truck parked in front of the building next to hers. She stood for a second, unblinking, and stared at it. A dozen thoughts raced through her mind, but the one in the fore was that he certainly must have come to pay her an unexpected visit. She was filled with both dread and elation at the implications. On one hand, perhaps he came to reconcile. Perhaps he would forgive her all the faults she'd shown in their eight months together. On the other hand, perhaps he'd come to get the few things he'd left there, or perhaps he came to borrow something. If he hadn't come to reconcile, she knew she would have to start the grieving process all over again. Losing Shane was something that had devastated Eina.

She realized she'd been standing there for several minutes and Shane was either still in the car or up at her door already. In either case, she had better go see what he wanted. Eina walked back toward the walkway between the building his vehicle was parked in front of, and her own apartment building. She had taken no more than five steps when the door to that other apartment building opened. To Eina's shock, Shane stepped out.

He paused on the sidewalk and held the door open with his shoulder. He had a cigarette in his mouth and paused to light it. Even the way he looked down and cupped his hand over the lighter made Eina shiver. With a jolt, she remembered how much she had missed him; a fact she had begun to forget until she saw his strong, handsome form framed by that doorway.

Seconds later, a tall, heavyset girl stepped out of the same doorway and paused to grab Shane's ass. He gave the girl the toothy, feral grin that he had once turned in Eina's direction. Eina and her heart both stopped for several moments. She was still yards away from the door and the walkway and she turned her back towards them and started walking that direction, down the length of the parking lot. By the time she reached the end of the row of apartment buildings, tears were pouring down her face. She walked around the row of buildings to her entrance. Thankfully, it faced the street, while the entrance Shane had stepped out of faced the parking lot, so she didn't have to walk past him or even go near him.

She trudged up the flight of steps to her apartment's door. Her hands shook with the overflow of emotion that raced through her like electricity. She finally got the correct key in the door and hurried inside. As she closed the door, she slid down it to the floor and wept. Great, heaving sobs escaped her full lips and tears fell rapidly down her round cheeks to splash upon her ample chest.

When her phone started to ring several minutes later, she found herself curled up with her cheek pressed to the carpet, and she wasn't exactly sure how she got there. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and checked the number. It was Shane's cell phone. Torn with indecision, Eina stared at the number long enough for it to click over to her voicemail. Once again, her heart stopped, but her tears started anew. When her phone signaled that she had a new voice message, she wasted not a second in checking it.

Hey, Eina. I saw you walking from the dumpster earlier. You could've come by and said hello, you know. Anyway, I guess you saw my truck out there. I moved in over there with my new girlfriend. I figured since you were able to afford it by yourself, I knew me and Kristy could afford it, even on my crappy pay. Come on over and say hi sometime. Later.

If the phone hadn't cost so much, Eina would have thrown it across the room then and there. She wasn't, at this stage of her life anyway, a violent person. Instead, she held the phone to her chest and cried again, sobbing with all her meager strength. She wished with all her heart that someone would just show up at her door to rescue her and hold her and comfort her the way that Shane used to.

Nobody came.

Eina cried herself out by the front door. She cried until her contacts were dry and her eyes burned her nose was crusty with dried cry-snot. She cried until she had no tears left. When she settled from a heaving sob to a rough, uneven breathing, she finally rolled onto her back. Eina stared up at the ceiling with a numb heart and an empty mind. She wished she could just die there, on the floor. Shane would come by to see how she was, and would find her lying there on the floor, dead, and he would feel such remorse...

But then she thought of how her parents would feel, and how she would feel when they died. Her sister would be devastated. Who would tell her friends? Her parents didn't have their phone numbers or email addresses and her blog was friend-locked and password protected. Her family didn't know that she had just received an online payment for a blanket she was making. How mad would the lady be when months went by with no word from Eina, because she was dead and no one knew who to contact?

All these thoughts and more raced through her head, as they always did whenever she contemplated death. It seemed a stupid and trivial thing that one of the thoughts keeping her from suicide was the disappointment of a customer, but it was.

The cycle of guilt started all over again in her mind. She shouldn't want to die, because that would make people sad and angry. But why would anyone miss her, because she was so worthless to begin with? No wonder Shane broke up with her. All she could do was whine and complain. She wasn't really any good at anything, and there were so many people so much better than her at everything.

Soon, this vortex of depression threatened to squeeze new tears from her eyes. Eina sobbed once before heaving herself off the floor with tremendous effort. When she was this down, it was like gravity itself was against her. She stumbled to the bathroom. She tried not to look at herself in the huge vanity mirror, but she couldn't help it.

Every time Eina saw herself in a mirror, she had a strange sensation that her essence, her very soul, should not be occupying the pitiful form she saw before her. She had a beautiful soul, she thought, even though she hated herself much of the time. Sometimes she thought she was generous, kind, clever and talented. Other times, she thought she was selfish, stupid, petty, and ugly. When she looked in the mirror, she became even more confused and the bizarre sense of unreality encroached upon whatever mental state she was in, especially if she was suffused with a very strong emotion.

So Eina looked at herself in the mirror, and her reality shivered and distanced itself from her. She studied her eyes: a strange mixture of green and brown that wasn't quite either. Her long, red-brown hair had strands of grey poking up near the crown of her head. Her nose was slender, but not too slender. Her face was round, but not abnormally so. Her lips were full, but her mouth was small. She had a bit of pudge under her chin that plagued her when she had her head down. She was short, so her image stopped at the hips. She didn't have broad or strong shoulders. Her arms were far too flabby for her taste. Her breasts were large, which she didn't mind, but the belly below stuck out too far for her to be called slender, or even average. She wasn't obese, but in another twenty pounds, she might be.

Even with her belly, she still had an hourglass figure; meaning her bust and hips were about the same size, while her waist was 10-12 inches smaller. She was curvy, no doubt, but too large in her own eyes to be considered attractive. Still, Shane had wanted her, for some reason. Sometimes she suspected he was a chub-chaser - a guy who gets turned on by fat girls. The husky woman who grabbed him would be further proof of that.

The thought brought another rush of tears, and as Eina looked at her face turning red and her nose turning runny, reality crashed in again, and she saw only ugly in the mirror. She blew her nose a few times and decided to wash her face. She owed herself enough not to go to bed with a runny nose.
* * *
I used to write... a lot. I used to have notebooks and notebooks full of short stories, chapters of unfinished novels, poetry, and self-reflection. I've thrown a lot of it away over the years, deeming it "worthless".

One such story was one I wrote in 6th grade. It was called The Cavern, and it was illustrated. I don't think I ever really finished it, although I mostly knew the ending.

The concept was this: myself and a bunch of girls from my gradeschool class were going camping in the woods. One by one, each of the twelve girls disappeared, in the night, or out on a walk, or while someone's back was turned. When the girls were noted as missing, and someone would look for them, all they found was a large, lovely rock of some sort. I was very into rocks at that age, and my grandfather and I tried to collect them. Each rock was supposed to represent my perception of that person's true self. I was the last girl to dissapear, mostly because I didn't really know how to get my point across without writing in first person.

The villian of the story was a boy I went to school with, whos mother was a babysitter and watched my sister and I from after school until one of my parents was off work and came to pick us up. During the school year, this was only a few hours. It was during the summers that I dreaded, as I had to be there all day. This boy who played the villian was the same boy who molested me and often threatened to "crush my windpipe" if I didn't do what he said. No wonder he was the villian, eh?

The story was my little outlet at the time, and one of my first attempts at allegory, or trying to solve my problems through fiction half-based in truth. I think I died at the end of the story, a tragic heroine, just before the authorities found the villian's underground lair.

I used the same reasoning to create metaphorical stories based around a certain friend in high school who I was a mite obsessed with. There were a lot of reasons for that, but I will save them for another time. I used the feelings of neglect and jealousy I felt to create pages and pages of metaphor about what I percieved as the situation in my childish and naive mind.

She pretended not to catch on, and she may not have. She didn't have access to my inner turmoil, after all. Of course, she could have just been playing stupid and chose to ignore my blatant cries for misplaced attention. I honestly have to respect her for dealing so maturely with such a baby as I was back then. I have the capability to contact this person at this point in my life, but I think I'll leave the past buried inside me, instead of dragging it out and becoming embarrassed at my obvious immaturity at high-school age.

I wish I had the capability to write believable fiction today, but as I grow more and more jaded, more and more of my creativity becomes burdened with literal bullshit. I am no longer the writer I once was, even though I understand much more of myself and the world than I ever have before.
* * *
I wonder, sometimes, what is love?

On my journey through this life, I once thought I loved a man. I had spent a lot of time with him at college. At 11:30 each morning, I would go to the Center across the street from my dorm to get a fried chicken sandwich and fries or breadsticks. Sometimes I got other things, but mostly I didn't. This was usually my only meal of the day.

I would take this meal back to my dorm and sit in the common room on the couch and watch Scooby-Do. Inevitably, this man that I would come to think I loved, would sit and watch it, too. We never spoke. I was too shy. He was not interested.

As the semester passed and my circle of friends widened, I got introduced to this young man. He was handsome. He was suave. His smile was dazzling. He was single. I wasn't. The only contact I had with him was in the presence of my friends. I did give him a backrub a time or two, but I also gave my roommate backrubs, and my other friends. Indeed, we passed around backrubs like some kind of hippie peace-sharing group. I did not think this young man was in the least interested in me, and since I was attached, I kept my feelings inside.

Near the end of what was to be my last sememster in college, he, my roommate, and I went to one of those dollar stores to stock up on ramen noodles and chips to get us through the last week of college, as most everyone had used up all their meal points. At some point between entering the store and navigating the aisles, he started holding my hand, perhaps so I wouldn't lose him in the press of people. I blushed, and neither of us let go for a minute or so. My roommate later commented that I looked very cute holding his hand.

On the day I left, I gave him a hug, my phone number, and my address, so we could keep in touch. He wrote me a couple of letters. I thought they were love letters. They were just sexy letters. I later threw them away, but they smelled really good.

We talked on the phone a couple of times. I broke up with my boyfriend at the new year. The first week back to school, I went down to see him. We spent a fantastic week together. I don't remember much of it at all. I do remember when I got there, I put my stuff in my old roommate's room, and crept into his room while he was sleeping. I watched him sleep for a good 20 minutes or so. I memorized every curve of his face, every breath, every lock of hair. I was wearing a green velvet mock-turtleneck with short sleeves. I still have that shirt. I thought that surely he would open his eyes, realize I was there, and smile. I was so naive.

I kissed him awake, just like I always wanted someone to do to me. I fell into his arms, and that's all I remember.

I remember him tying my hands together to the head of the dorm bed and blindfolding me. He placed a single rose petal full of water between my breasts and did things to make me breathe heavy so the water would fall out of the petal and roll down my skin.

I remember him doing me from behind. He told me, "I want to make you scream!" but instead I cried. He didn't understand. I later found out from my friends that the door hadn't been completely shut and that everyone on the floor had heard.

I remember that he went into the store while I stayed in the car. He bought me a rose and a box of chocolate covered almonds. I thought he was the sweetest guy on the planet.

The week wore on and my mother called me and told me my grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I came home as soon as I could after that. I think it was the same day, or perhaps the following morning.

He came to visit me once, of his own accord, after that. I wasn't at home for some reason, and when I found out he had come calling, but I had missed him, I was devistated. We exchanged more letters and phone calls, and one day I stopped hearing from him.

My friends at campus informed me that he had been in a bad accident. I sent him purple roses, since he liked purple. It cost me a lot of money. I still didn't hear from him.

I spent a lot of time, effort, energy, and tears wondering what happened to him. One day, I heard from him. He wasn't ready for a relationship. He just wanted to be friends. This perplexed me. I spent a lot of time learning how to crochet, and I crocheted him a blanket. I got a friend of mine to drive me down there so I could present it to him. I again stayed in my old roommate's room. When I gave him the blanket, he let me cry on his shoulder and it was the last time I saw him for several years.

I later found out he had been seeing another girl, but didn't tell me.

I made a complete fool out of myself more than one time for that man. I know I wanted him at least as much as my previous boyfriend wanted me back. I chased after a dream, when I could have made a sacrifice and salvaged a reality.

I wrote several poems about him in the span of knowing the man. I've not written anything worthwhile since.

Close your heart to him, Theona.
Heed not his touch, nor his hungry eyes.
Believe not his pleas, nor his accusations,
And fall not prey to the shadow of his lies.


I never opened my heart to anyone completely again. There's been a small, vital part of me shut away since the moment I found out about the other girl.
* * *
When I was younger, I always liked one boy or another. Sometimes, I even convinced myself to have crushes on boys that I had only a passing interest in, because all the other girls had crushes. I've always been into fantasy and romance. As such, I had this idea in my head of what a true love should be like, and how it should come about.

When I was a very young girl, there was an old lady who lived next door to me. Her name was Julie McCarthy. I wish I could remember how old I was. I guess it was between the ages of four and seven, but I don't remember exactly where in there. A lot of stuff happened in my life before I turned 10, but I can rarely place the year.

Mrs. McCarthy lived in the upstairs apartment and her son Dean lived in the downstairs, in the two family flat, very similar to the one my family lived in. Dean was divorced from his wife, but had a son named Sean who came to visit him. Sean was a very good friend of mine. I used to go over to Mrs. McCarthy's house after school sometimes if my mother wasn't going to be home or needed to run some errands. She would feed me ice cream in the warm months and bake cookies in the cool months. I remember sometimes in the summer I would go out on her back porch and blow bubbles. For some reason, I don't remember my sister being here during this time. It could be that I am remembering something before she was born (although I doubt it, as we are only three years apart) or perhaps she was too little and was with my mother. I remember always going over there in the daytime.

Julie's living room window was directly across the gangway from my bedroom window. The gangway was only maybe six feet wide. If Julie's blinds were open and my bedroom curtains were open, we could see in each other's houses.

Sean came over on weekends to visit his father and grandmother. When I was that small, I usually slept in just my underoos in the summertime. We had only one window unit, in the living room, but a big window fan in the hallway. The fan would blow out, which would lower the air pressure in the house and send air from the outside gusting in to cool the house. I remember my father teaching me that when I was very little.

Anyway, in the summer, I usually slept in just my undies and left the window open. Sometimes, Sean would sit at his grandmother's living room window and call out to me to wake me up in the early morning. I had a small sense of modesty when I was that little, and tried to cover myself with the curtain or the sheet so he wouldn't see me *gasp!* naked. I realize now what I didn't then: the curtains were sheer pink and probably did nothing to hide my torso. He would wake me up in the mornings and we would talk for several hours (maybe it was minutes... it was so long ago) in the wee hours of the morning through our windows. When my parents and his grandmother got up, I would get dressed and go over there to play. I don't remember what we played at, but I'm sure it was sweet and innocent. I would remember if it wasn't.

I guess he was the first boy I ever noticed, but it was completely innocent. Of course it was. I was like 5.

For my birthday one year, he gave me a strand of plastic pearls in one of those department store jewelery boxes with the tuft of cotton at the bottom. I, in my naivity, thought they were real. I was so excited about them. We were playing one day soon after, and he told me that he wouldn't be back for a long time. He was moving somewhere far away with his mother. I was sad. While we played, somehow I fell down and hit my tailbone on a cardboard box that Julie was using to pack up his things in. I remember that somehow it was his fault that I fell, or that's how I percieved it. I got mad because he "shoved me" and I fell into the box and hurt myself. I went crying out of the flat and back to my own.

I never saw Sean again.
* * *
When I was in high school, a friend of mine set me up with the most fantastically nerdy boy. He was about a year older than I, and we shared many of the same interests. We hit it off immediately. I followed him to college, my excuse being that I got a scholarship to the college he was attending. We shared a great many experiences there.

He was a t-shirt-and-jeans kind of guy. I guess most guys are at that age. Personally, I loved to wear skirts and dresses and tank-tops and bellbottoms and lace and velour and plaid and paisley and rather sexy clothes. Everyone always asked me why I was so dressed up, but it was just the way I liked to dress. I knew I looked good, but I didn't realize exactly how good until years later when I became overweight and frumpy. I always had low self-esteem. After all, my high school sweetheart was the only guy who had ever found me attractive at that point in my young life. Well, that I knew of anyway.

I admired the frat boys on campus who dressed in suits and ties daily and carried canes. I wish I could remember the name of that frat, but I suppose it doesn't matter now. I told my high school sweetheart on numerous occassions how dressing in a suit is sexy, and how I wished that he would dress up sometime for me.

Unbeknownst to me, he tried just that. At the time, we were just meeting for dinner in the school cafeteria. In my mind, I had hoped that he would dress up and take me for a night on the town, for a walk around campus, or for a play at the theater. He put on his best black suit, with a white shirt, a tie and a jacket, all of which were ill-fitting. He came down from his room and I met him at the elevators. I should have been grateful and overjoyed that he had remembered my request and spontaneously complied to it. However, seeing him there in his suit with the short pants and over-long jacket sleeves just made me cringe inside. I should have taken my boyfriend by the arm and oohed and aahed over how handsome he looked and happilly carted him around campus. However I, in my infinite callousness, instead told him that he looked silly and that he wasn't supposed to dress up in a suit and tie for dinner at the school cafeteria.

A fight ensued, and although it was really all my fault, I refused to take any responsibility for my cold comments.

I don't remember if this was a turning point in our relationship, but I do remember this incident out of all the time we spent together as being significant. To this day, I feel bad for having treated him that way. I keep that instance in the back of my mind when dealing with people on an every day basis in my current life. I remember how I took his efforts for granted, especially when I have no love interest making similar efforts (or any efforts) now. I try to show my gratitude and appreciation for anything and everything that my friends, family and others do for me, no matter how small.

I don't want to take anyone for granted ever again. I'm sure I'll fail in this, but I will try nonetheless.
* * *
* * *
When I was thirteen years old, I came very close to death. I remember nearly every detail of that day.

It was August 11, 1993. My father, sister and I were going to JC Penny in Hampton Villiage to pick up the pink curtains I had special-ordered for my room. I had already gotten a rose and burgandy double-sided comforter, rose bedsheets, and rose and burgandy pillowcases. I wanted the matching rose curtains so my room would be complete.

As an aside... I loved the house we lived in when I was thirteen years old. My room, oddly enough, had the thermostat inside for the whole upstairs, yet I didn't have a vent in my room. I had a closet the entire length of my sister's room, that went under the sloped roof of the house. It was as long as her room, but very narrow in width, and of course it had the sloped edge on one side. There was also a sort of wardrobe thing built into the wall. I loved that, too. There was also an alcove set into the wall with three shelves where I put my disney porcelain princess figures. I had all the ones that were out at the time: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Tinkerbell, Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Alice... They're all gone now, but they, along with my first two china dolls, used to be my pride and joy. It makes my heart ache that all the stuff from my childhood is gone now. No more china dolls, no more My Little Ponies or Cabbage Patch kids, no more plush Rainbow Brite dolls, no more disney figurines, no more She-Ra castle or Castle Greyskull playset... no more elaborate Robin Hood lego playset.

All I have are my memories.

This fine day, I was wearing all white. I was wearing a short white knit skirt with hook-and-eye clasps, white shoes, and a white t-shirt that my grandmother had gotten me at the t-shirt kiosk she worked in at Union Station. It had a unicorn on it, with glitter accents. I really loved that shirt.

My mother says that my father told he he was not drinking that day. I'm afraid to ask him. I think I'll leave the question unspoken for all the rest of my days, because it was nobody's fault, even though it probably was. He's my father. He already lives with enough guilt over the way things became shortly after that, and guilt over what happened three years later when my sister turned thirteen.

We all have scars. Just some aren't as visible as others.

That day we drove the navy blue two-door Chevy Celebrity down to Hampton Villiage. My sister was in the front passenger seat, and I was behind her in the back. It was easier that way, because the driver's side door didn't work. Sometimes my dad climbed in and out of the window, sometimes he went through the passenger-side door and climbed over.

We were driving down Hampton, I guess, between I-44 and the Hill. We were driving so that the Diamond Head Inn was on our left, across the intersection. On the right was Hardees, and on the left at the intersection there at the I-44 Hampton exit, was a Amoco. It's a Shell station now, but back then it was an Amoco. My dad turned to make a left into the Amoco station. I don't remember if he needed gas or cigarettes, or what. He turned on a yellow arrow.

Some sort of fast, red car hit us as we turned. I don't remember the impact. I think, if I try hard enough, I can remember seeing the car as I looked out of my window. I have a few seconds where my mind has erased the memory of the impact and the laceration. I remember having my head down, with my hands in front of my face. When I opened my eyes, my glasses were gone and my white skirt was covered in blood.

I reached up with my right hand to feel my face. What I felt was something no one should ever be made to feel: the inside of my own cheek. It didn't go through my entire cheek, so I didn't have blood pouring into my mouth or anything. I started screaming. I didn't realize that my nose had almost been completely severed. It was hanging on by just a little bit of skin. To this day, I still consider the scar on my cheek to be the most prominent, athough my nasal scarring has led to other medical problems.

I heard voices. I told my father that I wanted out of the car. He reached in to me and grabbed me by the arms and pulled me out of the driver's side window. I heard him arguing with someone. The man said something like, "Sir, you shouldn't have done that. If there were any bones broken or damage to her spine you could have paralyzed her." I stood and shook and looked at the outside.

There was a boy on a bike standing very close to me.

Someone stuffed paper towels from the Amoco to my cheek. The man arguing with my father was a paramedic. It turns out that he'd been in the drive-thru of Hardees across the street getting lunch. The next nearest ambulance was 9 minutes away. In that time, I could have lost enough blood to sustain brain damage, or more likely I would have died. As it was, my cheek pumped out about a pint of blood by the time I was put into the ambulance and stablized. My mother tells me it was about 90 seconds for the ambulance to get across the street, and just a minute or two more before they got me safely inside.

I remember telling the paramedic, "Can I just fall asleep? I'm so tired..." Of course he told me that I wasn't allowed to fall asleep. I thought I would be dramatic, just in case I showed up on the news or something. I think I remember being dissapointed that I wasn't on the news.

I don't remember the ambulance ride. I remember being on the table in a room, with something hard stablizing my neck. I remember it taking a very long time. I remember my aunts and uncles came to see me in that room. I remember how they checked to make sure I wasn't bleeding internally. I remember that when they had to take X-rays of me, they couldn't take them through my sparkly unicorn shirt. Of course, they couldn't get the shirt off over my head, so they had to cut it off me. That made me cry. When the X-ray machine hovered over my head, I could see my disfigured and bloody face in the reflection of its shiny surface. The nurses said they'd never thought of that.

I remember waking up during surgery, for a minute. Since it was my face that was affected, they couldn't put the mask for the anesthetic on properly. Maybe I dreamed that, though.

I remember the first time I had to go to the bathroom and they said I could get up and go, but I had to be very careful and I had to wheel my IV with me. When I looked in the mirror, I expected my face to be stiched up like Frankenstein. I didn't expect the swelling, or the bruises. My whole face was black-and-blue and my eyes were only half-open. I cried and cried and cried and how ugly and disfigured I was.

My mom brought me chinese food; she smuggled in pork fried rice from my favorite chinese restaurant. I had a hard time sleeping because I couldn't sleep on my side due to the IV. I got so many teddy bears! My favorite was from my Uncle Bruce. It was a teddy bear as white and as soft as new fallen snow. It always made me happy and always comforted me when I held it.

All those teddy bears are gone now. They were all lost when we lost our storage unit.

I missed school pictures, but they made an exception for me a month or two after the original picture-taking. For the first week of school, I couldn't see anything because my glasses had been demolished. They were a special prescription and took a while to come in. They had to be ground in some lab in Texas, I think. So, my friend from gradeschool, Liz Frei, kindly took me around to my classes.

And that was the start of my life without hope. As I blossomed to physical beauty, the presence of my facial scarring prevented me from ever thinking I was beautiful. People told me, "You can hardly see it!"; "I didn't even notice it until you pointed it out!" I never believed them. I always knew it was there. It always bothered me. It still does.

Everyone has their scars. Mine just happen to be external as well as internal.
* * *
I don't remember how old I was, but once I was very very sick. My parents had gone out for the evening, and my grandparents came over to watch my sister and I. I had a fever, but it wasn't too bad. I remember that it was winter, and that I was very very cold. My grandmother (on my mother's side) wrapped me up in my mom's pink terrycloth bathrobe, tucked me in under several blanekts (at my request) and put me to bed.

When my parents came home, I heard them talking to my grandmother about me. I woke up, wrapped the robe tightly around me, and walked into the livingroom. I called out for my mother and my vision was suddenly covered in black and yellow hexagons. In a daze, I still walked forward and ran into a door. It knocked me to the ground. I don't remember much of what happened after that, except for cold washrags and a lot of fussing. It turns out that my temperature was 105° or something like that. I think that's the highest fever I've ever had.

I guess it's amazing the things we can survive as children. Come to think of it, I've been close to death several times in my life. I wonder if that's why I fear it so much now, or if I'm just now coming to realize that my youth is slowly leaving me.

Today my father asked me how old he looks. I am really the wrong person to ask, because I am a poor judge of age. I don't consider him old at all, but then, I still see everyone around me as fixed at an age around five years ago; even myself, sometimes. I have many regrets in my life. One of my biggest is that I never paid much attention to the passage of time, as a whole.
* * *
I had the chicken pox for the first time when I was five years old. Since I was so young, I didn't have a very severe case. I don't remember much about it, other than my mother giving me oatmeal baths and putting my hands in socks so that I wouldn't scratch. I think most of my illness was during the Christmas Holiday, so I didn't miss much school.

When my sister was 10 years old, she got the chicken pox. The poor thing had a huge green one right on her chin that got all infected. I think she even got them in her mouth. She was absolutely miserable. I knew, of course, that since I had already had chicken pox, that I wouldn't get them again. Right?

Wrong.

I was thirteen years old. I thought I had a pimple in the middle of my chest, a few inches below my neck. It turned out to be a chicken pox bump. At thirteen, I had a much worse case of chicken pox. I took oatmeal baths again. I got callomine lotion spread over my whole body. I remember being awake at 3:00 a.m. watching television and crying because I had such a fever and it itched so bad. There wasn't much on television to interest a thirteen-year-old at three in the morning.

I have a pock scar above my right eyebrow. My mother has one in just the same spot, as does my sister. I think Katherine might have one as well, but I don't remember. That first bump turned into an indented pock scar, like the one on my forehead. I remember picking out dresses for my 8th grade graduation, and being very aware of where the collar lay, because 90% of the dresses showed that horrible scar.

Ha. I wouldn't know real scarring until that summer, on August 11th, 1993.

I ended up wearing an ivory slip dress with spaghetti straps and a very modest neckline, and a sheer-sleeved bolero jacket over it. Many of the teachers told my mother I was the most appropriately-dressed girl at the ceremony. I still have the pictures of that ceremony. There is one that stands out to me, as I look over the photographs. I and some of my fellow graduating students are kneeling in the first pew. I believe this picture was taken just after Communion during mass. All the other girls in the row have their hair fixed in ostentatious ways, while mine is up in a simple high ponytail. All the other girls have their elbows on the rail in front of them. Some of them have their hands clasped, some do not.

My hands are clasped together and rest at the wrists on the rail, because I was taught that to put one's elbows on the back of the pew in front of one was extremely rude. On the rare occassion that I attend Church current day, I still adhere to this rule, as well as other rules that my grandmother and all the nuns in my life taught me.

However, when I look around the church, even the older folk have fallen into laziness. Everywhere I see slouching, patrons putting their heads down, elbows on the backs of pews. This bothers me in ways I can't easilly explain.
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I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic elementary school. My parents and I attended church every Sunday, and on most Holy Days. My father was baptised Catholic, but my mother wasn't baptised at all. My father's mother always resented her for that, when I was young, even though she did her very best to raise my sister and I to be good little Catholic girls.

My paternal grandmother bought me an illustrated paperback book on Catholic Saints. She actually bought me a few copies of the book over the years. I remember reading it with great interest. I loved reading the stories of the saints, but whenever my mother would come into my room, I would hide the book as if I was doing something wrong. I guess even at a young age I realized that there was a thinly veiled hostility between my mother and her mother-in-law regarding matters of Faith. I have no idea if my mother noticed or not.

I believed in Santa Claus until I was almost 9, I think. One year at one of my classmate's birthday parties, all the girls invited (I think there were 5 of us) were instructed to bring a gift. We all exchanged gifts, so that everyone got one, not just the girl whose birthday it was. I got a red and white plush mouse. That Christmas, I decided that I wanted to give the mouse as a gift to some poor girl or boy who didn't have any presents for Christmas. It wasn't an entirely selfless act, as I had no particular attachment to the mouse. I put it in a box, wrapped it up, and put it under the Christmas tree with a note for Santa that I wanted him to take it and deliver it to some unfortunate child.

Months later, I was rooting around in the basement for something, I forget what. I found the box in a corner in a pile of my dad's old toys. My heart stopped when I saw it. I opened the wrapping paper, and then the box. Finally, I pulled out the mouse with tears in my eyes. I ran upstairs to my parents and demanded to know why they didn't leave the toy out for Santa to pick up. They gave each other confused looks, tinged with concern. I looked at my mother, then at my father, then back at my mother again.

"There isn't a Santa Claus, is there?" I said, hoping beyond hope that they would tell me I was wrong, that Santa did exist.

"You're right," they told me, "there is no Santa".

"I guess this means there's no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, either."

My mother sadly shook her head, gave me a hug, and made me promise to keep it a secret from my sister, so that she could enjoy the miracle of those imaginary beings for a few years longer. In that moment, my little world crumbled just a little bit. I think I even wondered if God was a fairy-tale as well.
* * *
When I was small, I was very superstitious. I never stepped on cracks. I had little rituals and sayings and things to keep me safe from harm. I was a loner. I went to sleepovers every once in a while, but other girls never got to sleep over at my house. I was shamed by a great many things. I keep that shame still inside me today, just as I did when I was young.

I'm going to try and let a little of it out. If you have no desire to see the deepest, darkest parts of me, then please don't read this.

From the time I was very young, I was quite fond of ballet. I even took ballet lessons when I was five years old, but I had such horrible stage fright that I quit after one year. I don't know if I was good at it or not. I vaguely remember my first dance recital. I remember being nervous in the dressing room. I remember that there were boxes covered with fabric for people to sit on. I don't remember my performance at all. My mother used to have a picture of me in my "Alice in Wonderland" ballet costume. It was a blue leotard with silver sequined straps, and a blue sequined tutu. I wore make-up for the first time. I was gorgeous, even at five. If I wasn't so akward, I probably would have had a bright future ahead of me.

When I was eight years old, I got a diary with a key; my first ever. I wrote in it with a pink pen. It was white with a ballet slipper on the cover. I wrote in it often, but I remember being rather sad that I didn't have anything deep or meaningful to write about. Of course, I mean the sort of things that are deep and meaningful to an eight-year-old. I didn't have any crushes, I didn't have a large group of friends, I wasn't too much of a gossip, I didn't really play sports. I played with my barbies, I made radio shows with my sister, I read books, and I watched cartoons.

I did a lot of dreaming and imagining. I drew. I still have an old sketchbook with a series of fashions that I drew. Even back then, I wanted to be a fashion designer.

I guess at least one of my dreams has survived these long years.
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