It was much like peeking through the lace of a sheer window curtain, barely moving in the late spring breeze, constantly searching from behind a wall of assumed anonymity. Glancing sideways, with trepidation.
As a child, I’d watch them play outside and wish someone would ring the bell but dread the bell ringing because it would invade my solitude. From my perch, I could smell the flowers that had started to bloom in my mom’s front garden. The scent of lilacs that still brings me back to the hill next to our house, the tall rose bush that begged me to touch it then punished me with thorns. The garden she spent so many hours working in, shaping, tending, and loving.
“Don’t do that”, she said.
“Why not?”, I asked.
“Because you look like a nosey old woman peering out at her neighbours, that’s why. They can see you, you know.”
I knew. Or maybe I just hoped.
Every day, my finger tips descend onto the keyboard — tickety-tack-tickety-tack-tickety-tack — looking for some new morsel, some new piece of the puzzle, something that will maybe tell me why? Why me? Why them?
“Why did you tell them you’re adopted?”, she pressed, her dark eyes filled with questions, her heart not understanding.
“Because I’m special. Because I am proud, and I was chosen. I’m sorry, Mommy”, I said.
I sat in the office of a doctor whose face I cannot recall, knowing that she was looking through her own curtains, trying to figure out why. Or maybe what? What was wrong with me?
“Can you draw me a picture of the thing you love doing most of all?”, the doctor asked. Her hands were clasped, folded just-so on her lap. She smelled like soap and the chair I was sitting in was too high so my feet barely touched the floor.
Well, no. I wasn’t much of an artist and I couldn’t really think of anything I wanted to draw anyhow. I felt put on the spot but I knew what she wanted and complied. She wanted a picture of something happy. Something that would indicate I was normal, whatever that meant. She needed to write the report to let them know I wasn’t broken. I needed to show her I wasn’t poorly wired, that I was like all the other kids.
I thought I was like all the other kids, sometimes. And other times I felt so differently, I wanted to forever hide behind the dark velvet curtains that hung heavily in our living room, or maybe squeeze myself into the space between my bed and the wall, where nobody else could fit. There, I could silently pick at the seam where the two wallpaper panels met, slowly ruining the beautiful rainbow over the field of daisies that brightened my bedroom.
I drew the swing set from the park where that bully tried to light us on fire with his magnifying glass, just like the ants that struggled, shrivelled and succumbed under it. I legitimately feared that he’d succeed, so we pumped our legs as fast as we could, toes reaching for the blue sky, hearts pounding.
But the bully wasn’t in my picture, it was just me, on the swings. Maybe I drew my friends, but probably not. There was the tall slide in the corner, and all the neighbourhood kids knew better than to slide down it in the summer while wearing shorts because the backs of our legs would burn for days. We thought if we swung our legs hard enough we could swing right over the top of the swing set — I liked that. I feared it, too, and the thrill was enough to keep us trying.
In the end, though, it was always just me on the swings, continually reaching, extending legs as far as they could stretch, yearning to touch something so far away and fearing what would happen if I succeeded.