Everyone’s busy. Grim faced people stream past me on the street. Many are typing or scrolling on their phones. An old lady approaches, dressed up for an outing, a day in town. ‘Beautiful day isn’t it?’ her gravelly voice washes past me. She’s still walking having learned that no one has time to stop.
I think of the VCE students who walked through the school gate for the last time yesterday. The relief and uncertainty, a balm and a wound shoulder them. It’s now or never … exams, results, courses, dreams … I remember.
I relive the relief of never having to go back through that high school gate again. When I got home, Mama opened the door and asked me about my day. Mixed feelings surged through my veins but mostly I felt lost. The predictable path I’d trodden the past five years had vanished and the unknown stretched out before me.
I’d made plans, I knew my place. I’d play my part.
Mama sat with me. She listened. She made time.
Sitting in my tattered uniform, I read the signatures and well wishes. This wasn’t a dream. It was over, well nearly over. Over except for the two weeks of solid study ahead. Over except for the six exams that sat between me and my dreams. I knew that I’d make it, a nerd, I’d excelled at high school so far and didn’t intend to stop now.
My parents expected me to go to uni. I expected to go to uni. My TE (tertiary entrance) score guaranteed me a place in any course. All I had to do was keep the marks coming. Part of me, rejoiced and ran ahead into the wind chasing bubbles and butterflies. Another part, the shadow made itself known tainting the joy, a squeezy, wheezy, uneasy feeling in my stomach.
Mama didn’t say much. She let the afternoon unfold. She understood.
I sat there trying to contain myself. Something in my inner world rebelled. It pushed and shoved, prickling my eyelids, rippling anxiety radiating from my core. I folded my arms across my belly. Could I hold myself together? It became harder, the feelings escalating and becoming more urgent. I couldn’t quite name them but they screamed out demanding to be released.
It became intolerable. I thought I’d explode like an over inflated balloon on a hot summers afternoon. I imagined it, the noise and the force. I’d be gone. Nothing left. Tears threatened lording their rights overcoming my will. I would survive, degassed bit by bit, washed clean. Mama moved closer placing her arm around my slender shoulders.
I felt her move retrieving the tissues she always kept tucked in her cleavage. The tears came, an unregulated torrent of emotion. High school, its crazy world purged itself out through my eyes. I couldn’t identify the losses but they came one after the other. Wave upon wave, little bits of me, fears, misconceptions, anger, doubt … I knew I’d given shelter to unsavoury visitors. And they hadn’t said thank you or taken their leave.
My tears washed them out, sending them scuttling down the front of my uniform. Mama held me. She didn’t say much. In time the tears stopped. Reality failed once again to measure up to my fairy-tale world. Although relieved I felt drained, head-achey and snotty nosed.
‘It will be alright,’Mama said. She always said that. I blew my nose drenching the first tissue.
‘I have faith in you,’ she added. She often said that. I looked at her, seeing she’d aged.
‘You can only do your best.’ I heard her truth. I blew my nose again.
And then she said, ‘You are enough.’ Mama had given me her time, a powerful demonstration of her love. It helped me chart a new course away from the anorexic experience.