Eighteen years ago I fell down a rabbit hole, blue-eyed and full of curiosity. Since then I have had many adventures and become aquatinted with numerous bizarre characters. I have learned ways to grow smaller, been accused of theft, and been led astray.
I wandered aimlessly about elementary school and junior high as an outcast, perpetually reading books from behind bangs and thick glasses. I soon saw there were many paths to chose among, signs pointed every which way: Math, English, French, History, Hebrew, Science, Music, Art. While I despised mathematics, I was drawn to writing and English. I would sit at the computer for hours making up stories out of my head. And they were good. I knew that they were, for as the years passed I began to get my work published.
After my parents went their separate ways, I would often spend Sundays having tea with the Mad Hatter, but around my fourteenth year, he stopped offering me cakes or sugar in my tea. Instead he served helpings of tofu and brown rice onto my plate. And we no longer dined alone for a slim, red-headed creature had joined the party and I was no longer the guest of honor.
Feeling rejected and unloved I set off in search of a way to regain my rightful place at the tea party. I stumbled upon a box of pills that said, "Swallow me," with the promise that I would decrease in size. Happily I would spend my hard-earned baby-sitting money on the little orange pals and before I knew it I could fit into my childhood blue dress and apron. Though I was pale, weak, and emaciated, I looked like Daddy's little girl.
In high school I met a friend named Narcissus. We spent much time together, and although I was quite mindful of her shallow, self-centered ways, I never thought she would intentionally hurt me. However on one particular afternoon, we came upon some tarts which belonged to her majesty the queen. My companion insisted we sample a few but I was proud of my ever-shrinking size, and to me, eating tarts was the equivalent of ingesting acid. Nevertheless Narcissus placed one in my hand and I stared at it in frustration as she devoured a couple. I was so caught up in the smell and texture of the pastry resting in the palm of my hand that I did not notice a guard appear. However Narcissus had spotted him and ran off, quick as the White Rabbit. The guard summoned the Queen and I was blamed for stealing the tarts. My explanations flew over their heads like smoke from a chimney; particles of irrelevancy. I reasoned that the whole accusation was really quite silly, for in my twisted mind, ingesting a tart would be a far greater punishment than decapitation.
Over at my place of learning, I met a caterpillar who liked to smoke from a funny-looking device he called a hookah. Perched on a mushroom, he would ask me who I was and I began to ponder that question. I knew I was no longer Daddy's little princess and Mommie was seeing a new man as well. I was not a mathematician nor a social butterfly. I had gotten very thin but I realized that was not making me happy either. I had incorrectly assumed that as soon as I got thin, really thin, my jigsaw puzzle-like existence would fall into place and show me an arrow of which way to go. I was wrong.
Sometimes I feel like I am being chased. The Queen and her guards, the Mad Hatter and his new companion all filled with accusations and threats. I run as fast as my white-stockinged legs can carry me but it is never fast enough. For I cannot run away from myself.
All of my life I have felt that I never measure up. Too big, too small, too fast, too slow, there always seems to be some imperfection or flaw. However, unlike the caterpillar, I do not wish to spend the rest of my days smoking on a mushroom, never realizing all the beauty and potential I possess. I want to spread my wings and be all the colors of the rainbow. I want to shed my blue dress and apron and fly off toward new adventures and relationships. It is time. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.