In seventh grade, my best friend was a girl named Gillian. I didn’t like the way her name was spelled, and for a long time, I didn’t like her. We’d been in ballet class together for years. She loved it, and I hated it. And, because life works that way, I was more natural with it than she was.
“You’re lucky,” she said. Being double-jointed, I can do the the turn-outs and turn-ins, but have never felt comfortable following the instructor’s prompt to “Just do a free-form dance across the floor! It’ll be fun!”
Fun? I’d have rather put staples in my toenails than dance across the floor with all of the class watching.
Gillian though…she thrived on those free-form moves; a natural performer. I got from A to B as quickly as possible, usually with a lame little sashay from corner to corner joking my way through.
“She’s got real talent,” the teacher told my mom, who didn’t need further encouragement in her dream of me becoming a ballerina. “Don’t be so shy. Just dance,” Mom said, as if we can fix things like shyness and not-good-enoughness in our heads at the age of twelve. As if we can fix them ever.
The summer after my mom had me do ballet class twice a day, I swallowed my shame. “I quit, Mom. I hate it.” Her tears were the only thing I felt badly about.
Somehow, losing ballet and not liking the spelling of my friend’s name evolved into friendship with Gillian.
She continued ballet. Dreamt of dancing and of making fairy tales real. She was Snow White in the recital.
I never looked back at ballet. Gillian’s friendship gifted me with a love of cold pizza.
One day, I remembered what I knew as a little girl. Witches and bad guys were real. Gillian laughingly told me that my crush, a boy named Curtis, said that he and his friends would follow me home one afternoon to gang rape me. She, giggling, “Curtis so has a crush on you!”
We weren’t friends after that.
The rest of that year, and part of the next, I hid after school so that Gillian and I wouldn’t be walking home at the same time. So that Curtis and his friends wouldn’t have an opportunity.
That was the year of my nightmare. A tiny, pointed cartoon-character of a man with a knife chased me up the stairs. I ran up to a hallway of closed doors.
Woke screaming. Wishing I had fairytale powers.
I wished to be a fairytale creature with invisibility, or strength, or anything at all.
I didn’t see Gillian or Curtis much after the nothing coming from any of it other than a love of cold pizza.
“I have abilities! Just look at me balance!”
“I have abilities!”
My son told me to close my eyes as he whisked himself to another spot in the room. “Open your eyes!” he said, “You won’t believe where I am!”
“How did you move from here to there so quickly?” I asked.
“Well, I have abilities,” he replied. “They’re super-human. Like a hero. You know – a fairy tale.”
“They are,” I answered, and thought about the abilities I had as a kid. About the witch under my bed who could only move as much as I did. How I had abilities then, too.
“It might be autism,” they said. “Speaking will be a lifelong challenge for him.”
I didn’t fall to my knees. I didn’t cry.
“Okay. What should we do? We’ll do whatever it takes.”
Afraid, I hadn’t yet realized that my little boy is a superhero, a mythical creature, a fairytale waiting to unfold. He makes the world lighter with his silly grin, his dumb jokes, and his balancing acts that show his abilities.
Because of him, I’m kinda a superhero fairytale creature as well.
Although, I still think there’s something to having the ability to bop the people of the planet on the head with empathy, or create a world in which empathy and wonder rule…
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers gather to finish the same sentence prompt. This week’s sentence is “If I were a fairy tale creature…”
Me (Finding Ninee)
Julie (Velvet Rose) and this week’s sentence thinker-upper
Vidya (Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles)