Dusty in the Closet

August 28, 2008
By Emily Garrison, Portland, OR

Grime coated the delicate fabric like a shell hiding its glory. The once alluring ruffles now hung down like aged skin, sagging and wrinkled. The seams along the sides were loose and elastic poked out of the collar. You could just make out a row of rusty-colored splatters across the stomach. My costume hung in the very back of the closet, waiting.
The curtain opened, my guts were in my knees and I was sure that I wouldn’t ever to be able to move again. But when the music blared over the speakers, electricity jolted my body to life, and I was dancing like no one had danced before. I jumped higher, spun faster, and smiled brighter, and although my exuberance was hidden by my words to the other dancers, “of course you didn’t mess up ” and “I’m sure no one noticed ,” I knew I had been the best.
I kept my eyes closed and tried to remain asleep, wanting to hold on to every detail of the night before, but the blinding rays of sunlight bursting through the window won the war. When I finally opened my eyes, my face felt sticky from the make-up I hadn’t taken off, and my hair was frizzy from hairspray. I took a deep breath, trying to clear my head of the haze of last night’s dance recital. Memories swam in my head, muddling my brain. The only thought that stayed clear in my head was that I couldn’t wait to get to school.
When I entered the classroom, I felt like a movie star. Everyone who went to my dance studio was crowded in a corner, exchanging stories of costume mishaps and embarrassing moments. I glowed as they ooohed and aaahed over my accomplishments, laughed at all my jokes and graciously congratulated me on my performance. For the first time in my awkward fifth grade year, I felt accepted.
Emily you’re so lucky to always be in the front one girl gawgled.
It’s because she’s so tiny,” another one added, looking down at me and conveniently resting her elbow on my head. “Everyone loves watching munchkin Emily I looked up at her; there was almost a foot height difference between us. As I looked around the circle, I noticed for the first time that everyone was at least a head taller than me.
That’s right I giggled, hoping I didn’t sound vain, Everyone loves munchkin I took the opportunity to drop into the splits, smiling enormously at the girls above.
That night, I quickly poked ‘Yahoo ’ into the web bar, and happily made a new account with the e-mail: everyone_loves_munchkin@yahoo.com

Two Years Later
If I ever see a box again I’ll die I sighed dramatically, placing the back of my hand on my forehead and flopping down onto the wood floor, my brother quickly doing the same.
The next time we move, I’m just going to sit against the wall and do nothing, He said, and I didn’t blame him. We had moved four times in the last five years, and I was thankful we had finally bought a house.
Cameren Emily I need you to unpack your rooms, or we’ll never get this house put together My brother and I exchanged sympathetic glances, and then headed down the hallway in opposite directions to follow our mother’s orders.
When I reached my room, the only thing I could manage was a groan. Mountains of boxes covered every inch of the floor, teetering precariously with every step I took. Exasperated, I ripped the first box open, and preceded to throw my old costumes in the general direction of the closet. My fingers hesitated a moment at the bottom before I pulled out the last dress. It was as beautiful as I remember it, with long white ruffles in the skirt and lacy sleeves that billowed and bounced. I ran my fingers over the soft velour leotard, remembering every step I had taken in it. It had lived through days of being worn to friends’ houses and parties, even survived a share of rain and hail, but it was still in perfect condition.
“It fit me before I packed it... the first time” I mused, sure that it would still fit me now. “I’ve barely grown at all since fifth grade. I’m practically the shortest seventh grader the school has, and everyone still calls me munchkin.” I quickly shut the door then peeled off my sweaty shorts and tee-shirt. I slipped one foot into the leg hole, holding the dress with the same care that a mother holds her child. I stepped into the other side, and pulled it up my legs. I had to bend my shoulders backwards to fit into the arms, and I couldn’t breathe very well with all the buttons, but it still fit. And that was all that mattered. I let out my breath, and with the speed of a navy jet, the top three bottons popped off the collar, the fabric tore down the middle exposing a huge rip gaping across my stomach. The lace of my left sleeve caught on my fingernail, rapidly unraveling in the chaos and I screamed bloody murder.
For just a second, my world froze. It couldn’t not fit me. It couldn’t. I felt like l had just lost a part of myself, the part of me that everyone teased for being so tiny had simply disappeared, and I would search for it forever and never find it. I was stuck in a horrifying place, a limbo, somewhere between disbelief and despair. And then I snapped. Everything I had ever bottled up in my life was pouring down out, an endless waterfall of memories and pain. My mind was spinning out of control, never knowing when to stop or how to believe what was happening. I don’t know how long I sat on the floor, squeezing my eyes shut and crossing my fingers like a kindergartner, but when I emerged from the daze, it seemed worse than before. There was no way I could deny it now, no way for me to wish that this wasn’t happening. Every step that I took seemed to echo in my head the emptiness that I felt. Gone. Gone. Gone.
When I placed my fingers on the keyboard of the computer, it took every effort to push each key down to slowly form: www.yahoo.com. I deleted every e-mail I had ever received, one by one, growing more determined with each click. Finally, after going through more than a thousand messages, I hit “Cancel account”. And it was gone.
That day passed agonizingly slow. Every moment, I noticed something I wished I hadn’t. Look at those hands, I thought, staring down at my dirty fingernails when I grabbed my battered costume and placed it on my lap. Look at how big and disgusting they are. No one could love someone with hands like that. I had always liked my hands, proud of everything they had accomplished and of the promise they held. That was before. As I threaded a tiny needle with a snow-white strand, I gently pulled the tip along my finger, watching the blood spill out onto the fabric in a neat row of splatters.
It took me more than two hours to get all of the sewing done, and you could still wiggle the bottons in a circle. I tried to scrub it off, but a faint shadow of rusty red still remained where I had tainted the fabric with blood. I didn’t want to see it like that, a rag when it deserved riches, so I stuffed it in the back of my closet, where I only look if I want to see my goal.
That was the first time I ever understood what anorexics go through, and noticed how much of my world depended on me being unusually tiny. A close friend of mine once said, you can fill your life with good or bad, it’s up to you to decide. Sometimes I still ponder, if I had chosen differently, would things be the same now? I’m still working on not caring how tall I am, and not squeezing myself into shoes that are too small. But in the very dead of night, when I stare up at my ceiling and try to sort out my thoughts, I wonder if anyone noticed.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Aug. 31 2008 at 6:34 pm
the grass isn't really greener on the other side, it's just the lighting.


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