March 11, 2010

The funny thing about staying the same size is that nothing ever goes away


I stumble to the closet feeling as if I should be putting my pajamas back on rather than getting dressed. I smash my hand against the wall until I found the light switch and, squinting, I survey the overflowing buckets of clothing I started using a few years ago in order to keep my closet neat and tidy.

I take off what I’d slept in, a baggy tee from a middle school choir trip that had been worn to bed so many times that the conditioner from my hair had left a large white patch about the neckline. I don’t dwell on where the shirt had come from, don’t bother to send my mind back to getting whiplash on a rollercoaster and drinking myself sick with soda. It is far to early for reminiscing.

I reach into the drawer I keep my bras in, a drawer that is so full of underwear, underwire, and swimsuits that it no longer closes. I dig through it, searching for the practical skin-tone I bought last week. I skip past a bright blue bra, the first one I went to a store and bought, that, miraculously, still fits, despite its somewhat wretched appearance. I run a finger along its limp strap and considere walking into the store with my mother, blushing over the half-naked mannequins and trying to reason out why nearly every item in the store was emblazoned with the word “pink.”

I find the bra I’ve been looking for and put in on. I reach up for the t-shirt bin. I fumble through the softened cotton of the pink v-neck that I'd bought specifically to match the long lavender skirt I spent all of sixth grade dreaming of, the fuzzed print on the shirt that my sister and I both have, that we would wear together while bumping hips and laughing, and the thicker, double-printed fabric of the pink shirt I bought before freshman year, the shirt I was wearing on the day that I lay out on the grass in the sunlight, seeing words and hearing music, and noticed that, surprisingly, I was actually happy.

Happiness is nice, but, after handling the bra, I don’t want pink. I switch to the next bin. I reach past the stiff, ribbed fabric of the long sleeved white shirt I had on when I was sent home from school for being a danger to myself and others, a shirt that I defiantly wore regularly for two years before the memory had receded so far that the defiance was no longer needed, and I saw the shirt was so ugly I didn’t want to wear it in the first place. I discover, then, the thin yet fluffy fabric of the shirt I wore the first day of my freshman year, a shirt that my mother bought me for my thirteenth birthday simply because I said I liked it, a shirt that, every time I look in the mirror while wearing it, I still see my fourteen-year-old self reflected in the mirror in my grandparent’s bathroom, wearing the swirling blue shirt, trying to determine why it was that my grandfather, when looking at me, seemed only able to see that I was everything his favorite was not, with all of the intelligence that could get me to the places my grandfather dreamed of for him, but that he would never be able to reach. I resign myself to his ignorance and take the shirt out.

I reach up for a short black skirt that always brings me back to my first day of sophomore year, sitting in Music Theory, the backs of my thighs frozen against the too-cold seat, wishing that I’d had the foresight to wear pants, or leggings, or anything that could have kept the creeping cold from stretching all the way to my bones.

I remember this and open up a second drawer, this one with two pairs of tights. The first pair is flamingly red and so thin that I avoid touching them for fear of creating runs and destroying a gift from my grandmother. The second pair is gray; I got this pair for Christmas last year, and fell so madly in love that I spent the rest of my holiday vacation running about the house in them. Holding them, I can feel myself sinking back into the comfortable chair in front of the fire, watching the flames as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer danced from the radio.

I sniff both pairs, testing for cleanliness. The grays have the same scent of laundry detergent the rest of my wardrobe does. Then I bring the reds to my face, and I am suddenly back in my grandmother’s house, standing in her closet, trying on the crazy old clothes, all my size, and dancing before the mirror. Then I am younger, every inch covered by her scarves, scarves that smell of the same closet and home and woman that the tights do, and I am twirling with my sisters to the music produced by a spinning record, and my grandmother is laughing and moving and twice my size, with her eyes whole and her hair long and her heart open to my own.

I slide my left foot into the tights and began to roll them up before I realize that, if I wear them and wash them and sweat in them and fill them with memories of my own, they will no longer be my grandmother’s tights. I remove my foot, roll the tights up, and return them to the back of the drawer.

I put on the gray tights, the short black skirt, and the tee-shirt that I loved freshman year. I put on the crumbling black sweatshirt that still bears the snags of adventure camp, that is still the only item I own that lets me feel fully protected from the little tiny pinpricks of mosquito legs that I still feel crawling beneath my skin in every dawn and dusk and wood. I slip into my piano flats, a pair that I wore for each performance of Beauty and the Beast, that I wore for every recital until I discovered that I could, in fact, pedal while wearing heels.

I pull the tights out one more time, inhaling the overwhelming sense of home, before leaving the closet behind.

3 comments:

Ginny said...

I love this, especially how you describe things. I had to re-read it several times to catch all of the little details.

Gretchen said...

it's such a nice memory and description of a snapshot in time. i felt happy reading it :)

Tea said...

thank you :)