The Story I Never Tell Part 5
I am reminded as I write this story of just how fragile we are, how fragile every love, every relationship with every person, how fragile every tender heart. We are all walking around, looking so robust, looking so full of vitality, but even the most vigorous among is is so fragile. We can be brought low. We walk out into the world and invite others to interact with us though our words, our faces, the look in our eyes. Our energy attracts people and things to us. We just walk out there never knowing what is in store. We are innocently walking out and then boom, here comes trouble.
Lest you forget that this is a story all about me and not all about Brett and me, I wanted to interject a little bit of a further back backstory to explain something I wrote in Part 4. You know how I said that Brett is the savior of my life and I reiterated it easily 5 times? I think that needs illumination. Why did I pray for him. Why did my aunt pray for him. Why do I know he was an answer to a prayer. What did he save me from? All legitimate questions that deserve some space in this little memoir-within-a- braveryblog. This itself will take a minute to explain. This part will take a few installments itself to explain.
When I was small I thought I was very ugly. To this day, I have to actively remind myself that isn’t true. When I see pictures of my young self, I am transported right inside that body covered in eczema, looking through eyes bald of eyelashes, prone to styes, eyes that sat beneath sparse eyebrow fuzz, all that was left after my incessant scratching. I had curly hair in great abundance and my mother slathered it in baby oil, and brushed it large and free of tangles, braiding it tight, and tying the ends with those elastics that secured with bright, colored balls. I had giant horse teeth in a skinny, little head, a head made skinnier by the great breadth hair that framed it. My two braids hung on either side like slick, Inuit totems with my Easter Island head long and dour in the center. I was a living, breathing advertisement for ancient people and their artifacts. When I see pictures of my baby self, I am right there in that face. But sometimes, lately, I will see these pictures and I will imagine that this little girl is my little girl instead of me, and it is shocking how that slight shift changes everything. She is then so beautiful and adorable and perfect with her still unfinished face, her nose that is long and proud in such a tiny head. I know her teeth that are so big now one day will be such a gift with their bigness and their whiteness. I see her smiling, happy eyes and I remember that indeed she had rubbed out her eyelashes and her eyebrows but I think, oh how bright and excited your eyes are; how ready you look for the next interesting thing. How adored you are, little girl. How lucky you are in your peasant shirt with the apples on the bib and the wide sleeves, and the tie in the back that you thought was so pretty that you wore it as often as you could, many times a week if memory serves. I can see the pile of books stacked beside your bed and I remember what titles you were reading and I remember how you used to go to the Patrick Henry Library in Vienna and get so many books that you had to bring a paper grocery bag to hold them all, oh little Sujatha what a bright and funny and interested girl you were. How much you loved a good story. How much you loved it when your mom read you books, even Kahlil Gibran, though you didn’t understand; David Copperfield that she insisted was so funny but it wasn’t because you didn’t understand. So many books that you didn’t understand, but which later, when you read them by yourself, you understood what it was your mother, who didn’t have a mother of her own to read to her, wanted to share with you, her so precious child. Oh Sujatha, remember when you got your appendix out and your mom stayed home from work with you for a whole week, and she read you Henry Reed’s Journey and The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, even though that wasn’t the first book in the series and you were so enchanted and you got all the rest of the Henry Reed series and The Chronicles of Narnia from the library, and remember how you loved them so much that when you had your first child, you had to track down all those Henry Reed books and bought them second hand from some retailer so your kids could read them too. And of course you read them The Chronicles of Narnia. All that joy you gave your kids grew out of the joy you felt when you were that little girl whom you have been calling ugly for her whole life. You’ve been calling that little girl ugly for decades, Sujatha. You wouldn’t do that to anyone else in the world, would you? It isn’t very nice of you Sujatha.
So this little girl who was pretty cool and read a lot and was smart enough and nice and good who made really wonderful friends became a magnet for trouble of the weirdest and most dangerous kind, without the excuse of insobriety. Stone cold sober, and at the age my own daughter is now, I started down a road paved with lies, lined on either side with lies, in a world made up entirely of lies that nestled uncomfortably within the real world where I convinced myself I was not free because no one would let me just be how I wanted to be.
Grown up Sujatha wonders why little Sujatha ever needed anyone’s permission to be exactly what she was.
The story I’m about to tell, within the story I never tell, is hard to write, which is why I wrote this whole preamble. I should have believed my mother when she said, “You are very beautiful.” I was such a beloved child. I had no excuse to be as utterly, exhaustingly, catastrophically confused as I was. But I was, and part of this journey is to forgive myself for having made the mistakes I made. So please forgive me for taking a minute to tell the story I never tell. I am still so embarrassed by myself. I am sorry for not being bolder yet. Next time, the worst thing.