I am not sure what keeps dragging me back.
Memory is shifty at the best of times. Sit down with a group of friends that you have known for years and bring up that time at the lake. Ask each of them to relate a particular incident in their own words. No two stories will be quite the same. The characters, the background, the emotions, and the conversation remembered will all be different. Life is in the eye of the beholder.
I slip back into memory so easily. I can smell a person's coat, I remember the feel of curtains between my fingers, there is the click of women's heels on linoleum that was put down in the 1950s. It is hard to turn away from things that are always within arm's reach.
Right now, I am in the girls' bathroom in the basement of my grandparents' church in their hometown of 150 people. It is 1984. The floor is covered in a layer of plastic meant to resemble brown pebbles, and the walls are whitewashed cement. The stalls are constructed out of flat sheets of cheap plywood painted white, and the toilet paper is appropriately economical one-ply with no embossed pattern. It is suspended against the the wall on wooden doweling.
I am in an eyelet lace dress that never turns me into the girls applying lip gloss at the next sink. The dress has a turquoise ribbon sash that I tie too tightly around my waist. Unless it is constricting my ability to breathe, I feel insecure. I have split it twice at the knot while sneezing, and so the sash is nearly too short.
My white stockings make me naked. The springy girlishness of the dress makes me naked. Everything makes me naked. A friend put lip gloss on me once, and I felt as though I had been caught masturbating in public.
While the other girls touch their hair and spray hairspray out of the handles of dual-purpose brushes, I run my hands under numbingly cold tapwater.
Did you see Darryl?
Do you thing he's cute?
Yeah! Have you seen his cousin?
Yeah! You should talk to him!
Is my hair okay? It's too flat.
No, it's perfect! Is my hair okay?
You look so cute. Where did you get that blue mascara?
While they giggle and re-tease their hair, I think about how the first boy they like has a dog bite on his face and his cousin drags his feet when he walks. My isolation is as palpable as the cold porcelain between us. I do not have their eyes. They smell like strawberries.
I shut myself in a stall and pull the elastic tights away from my leg. When the tights snap back, dust rises from them where my dry skin has worked its way into the knit. The bathroom smells like a hockey arena, and I imagine that I am there in the hall behind the stands where I can hear people bang their boots against the wooden boards.