Friday, April 8, 2011
Gifts of Invisibility
Dreams of my youth; of being back at F.E. Osborne Junior High, only this time I am me now around the children that were so important to me then. I am fascinated by the ease in which they relate to the teachers, the ease in themselves. I sit alone among them, there but not, certainly not seen.
I remember my teachers; one in particular, Mrs. Rose, the most beautiful woman in the world, or so I thought at the time. Her earrings always matched her outfit; a black dress with pink polka dots called for pink earrings with black polka dots. Her name fit her perfectly for she always smelled like flowers; I breathed deeply when she leaned over me, pointing out something in my Language Arts text, her breasts looking soft and inviting. She floated on her high heels and exuded an aloofness to all of us youth, even the popular ones, as though she didn’t really belong here with us, was misplaced and simply tolerating the classroom until she found her way to the place she really belonged – a grand and magnificent place. Aloof with all except for one, Kim Kowalski, who was much like her. Kim dressed older than she was but classy, coordinated. She, too, was distant, very much alone but seemingly comfortable with that, in her own skin. You could tell Mrs. Rose looked fondly upon her. I envied that look.
When Mrs. Rose looked at me I shrank, aware of my ugliness and my inability to please her. I desperately wanted to please her and it was her class I did the best in – the best meaning I didn’t fail. It was as though her delicate nature pulled at something in me. I didn’t want to hurt the softness that she was. I wanted the cool aloofness to gather me up and see in me what she saw in Kim.
Those days, the days of the sinking stomach when the sound of the buzzer told me it was time to go to class. Those days of dread knowing my homework wasn’t done. I didn’t understand the words of my teachers – they may well have been speaking Chinese. I couldn’t manage concepts and theories and keep these organized in my head. I sat apart from everything and everyone – my inadequacies like a vacuum threatening to suck me into darkness.
Teachers stopped asking for my homework after a while, made little jokes about it that had the other students snickering, rolled their eyes at my feeble excuses.
Oddly enough these memories don’t pain me, as I sit sipping coffee in my warm bed. These memories are like the colourful patches on an old quilt. It was these times that opened a new sight in me – that sharpened the vision of a girl looking through windows at the lives unfolding on the other side. The isolation driving me to become my own best friend; a relationship that 35 years later has become the gentle place I can fall, the smell of roses on my own soft breasts.