i often find, when i pull up memories to revisit them, that the people who were with me at the time have vanished from my recollections. they’re gone and i’m left in the memory alone. perhaps it’s because they were unimportant to the event; the memory is about me, about what i felt and experienced, and other people become the thought equivalent of white noise.
i’m sure my father was up and about although i don’t remember him being there either. like me, he has always been an early riser. in my memory, however, i’m alone. no family members, no friends, and no neighbours show up in my recollection.
it was late spring or early summer, of that i’m sure. i remember the sun was rising over the hills to the east. it was a beautiful morning, very much a perfect day. it was sunny, the birds were singing, a warm breeze was blowing, the sky was blue and white, and the scent of freshly cut grass was everywhere.
i wore a cotton jumper that morning, a one-piece shorts and top set. i loved that outfit; i wore it long after i outgrew it, long after it should have been given away to somebody it fit. i kept it because wearing it made me feel happy. it was white with a button-up top, an elasticized and gathered waist, and flowing shorts. it had pastel-coloured flowers dotted in a random pattern all over it; it was a pretty, delicate, girly thing. i’ve abandoned overtly feminine things in the years since in favour of dark-coloured sacks that hide everything and celebrate nothing but that outfit was light and airy and fanciful; well-suited to a spring-like morning and a young girl.
as i recall, i got up, put on my well-loved romper, and headed outside. when i was young, i wasn’t afraid to be alone. going out into the world didn’t scare me. in the before days, before i started to starve myself, before i started to hide, before i became afraid, before adults touched me in ways that little girls should never be touched, i was brave. i had the limitless courage that only young children have. the courage that comes from believing the world is a wonderful and safe space and no harm will come to you in it. i loved to go out, to search through the wild spaces and explore. i was hungry to discover as many things about the world as i could. the beauty all around me thrilled.
i grabbed my bike from somewhere in the yard, although the exact where is something i can’t recall. i probably pulled it from the shed out back, before jumping on and cycling down our rocky driveway towards freedom.
i lived on a quiet street with old and quiet houses, and old and leafy trees. in my memories, the street stretched out for miles and took up infinite space but in reality, it was a small city block that linked the school on the corner three doors down from my house to the neighbourhood bodega at the opposite end. that stretch of street felt like the world to me as i travelled it. i felt incredibly grown up when i headed away from home to cycle over its length.
a bike is a fantastic thing to have when you’re a child. it gives you freedom and independence. you jump on it and become powerful. you’re a racer and an adventurer. you feel immortal. my bike made me happy. i loved ripping along the road, pedaling hard, feeling the wind in my hair. helmets were not a thing we did when i was growing up.
i remember coasting down the street in the morning sun and feeling its warmth on my body. i remember squinting against the light. i remember pedaling hard and feeling the muscles in my legs drive me on. i remember the wind on my face and the sounds the legs of my shorts made as they flapped in the breeze. i remember the green of the grass and the red of the Japanese maple tree that grew on the street edge of my front yard. i remember what the neighbours’ houses looked like as i rode past. i remember bird songs and the low drone of lawnmowers off in the distance.
there was no one about. no people walked the sidewalk. no cars drove by. it was just me, out by myself, riding down the street in the sunlight, full of joy, and full of life. i was living in my body and living in the moment and everything seemed wonderful.
i remember the thrill of being out on my own. i remember feeling free. i remember the happiness that filled my body as the bike cruised over the cement. i was content from head to toe. i remember pedaling so hard and biking so fast that i started to imagine i could lift off from the ground, defy gravity, and fly away.
i miss those feelings. i miss the way i used to love life. i miss the pleasures i encountered when i was fearless. in those days, i moved my body and did what i wanted. i didn’t worry about what i looked like, or what people thought of me, or if i was acceptable as a human being, or if someone was going to hurt me. i was brave.
i miss the happiness that comes from being at one with yourself and your surroundings. i miss living in the moment.
i miss the girl who enjoyed life and took pleasure in the things she did. i miss clothes that make me happy. i miss having the wind in my hair, and feeling free, and smiling smiles that make your face ache with the stretch and leave your teeth dry and crusty. i miss being willing to embrace every fantastic and wonderful thing that life has to offer. i miss believing in the impossible.
i miss the joy that i felt when i was still single digits, riding my bike in the sun.
(april 28, 2018)