My focus remained fixated on my hands folded on my lap. Silence surrounded me, except for the sounds of the highway. I abandoned my typical game of observing the cars passing. Instead, I intently investigated my freshly trimmed nails and did not lift my gaze. All my strength consumed by maintaining my composure.
My dress, that I now forced myself to ignore, lay against my scrawny thighs. I was so excited when I picked it out weeks earlier. It was sky blue with white polka dots. The selling point was the ruffles that adorned the hem and the straps. The fabric was soft against my sun kissed skin.
I had worn it on the dance floor, the ruffled hem cascading as I twirled. I made myself dizzy that night, spinning as I tilted my head and my eyes to admire its invigorating flow. In the blended family wedding photo, it is impossible to miss my flushed cheeks and proud grin.
Tonight, though, was completely different. I was confused because with each moment that passed of this deafening silence, I grew more and more ashamed of the ruffles that had so recently brought my young heart so much joy. It had been the special dress I chose to wear to my mom’s wedding. Now, it was a source of contention and rejection. Was it me or the dress? In my innocent mind, I could not separate the two.
With as minimal movement as I could produce, I opened the car door and kept my eyes from raising to the expression on my father’s face. My young heart could not bare to interpret it. I was all sensing, no feeling in those moments. The cold of the door handle against my sweaty palms. The warm breeze that greeted me as I opened the door. The welcoming sounds from the nearby highway; cars beeping and tires against the pavement.
If words were spoken, I was now deaf to them after the calculated hushed tones that had ensued just an hour earlier. I walked in a daze to my front door.
The dress was deemed not suitable for the restuarant, inappropriate with my bare shoulders adorned by ruffles. Cotton, no less. I must be taken back home to my mom and miss dinner.
As I closed the heavy wooden door behind me, tears brimmed in my eyes and I was barely able to will my feet forward. P.J., our family dog, greeted me and I let my hand touch her scruffy fur. With her beside me, I was able to find my way to the coach and sink into the comfort of all I knew.
Emotionally exhausted from the weight of the emotions that I had just withstood, I discovered myself sobbing in my mom’s arms. I was not able to comprehend what had just happened. I just knew I had not felt pain like that before.
Although this memory is unpleasant, through it my emotional resilience was fostered. With no apologies, I gradually discovered the words and the bravery for that sweet girl. I refuse to be ashamed of the love and acceptance I am now capable of spreading in her name.