My new dress

When I was 16, I fell in love with a dress. I saw it in the window of a shop as I was walking home from the park and I stopped right there, staring at it, slightly hypnotised. It was a simple dress. A-line, white cotton, knee-length, with a V-neck. What caught my attention was the little pattern right above the hem – a string of crimson red tulips blooming right there, under my eyes, on the snow white cotton of the dress. I can’t say why it got me so hooked, but that day I went home and told mum about it. We went to see it that same evening. The verdict was gloomy – beautiful dress, but way too expensive for us.

A couple of weeks passed and the dress was still there. Nobody was buying it and the crazy idea that the dress was waiting for me got into my head. I managed to convince my mum to help me out with half the money I needed, provided I took on a summer job and came up with the rest. She thought it was crazy to get a job for such a reason, but I was so excited she couldn’t say no. So I took a job at a local fast-food joint. The money was ridiculous and the hours even more so. But I would have done anything for that dress. Every evening, after work, I would walk by the shop, to make sure it’s still there. It never crossed my mind that the dress was so expensive very few people would be willing to pay for it.

Then, finally, it happened. I remember as if it was yesterday. I got off work and took the usual route, by the shop, even if it meant 10 more minutes of walking after 10 hours of standing. The dress wasn’t there anymore. I got home a few hours later, with a broken heart and determined to quit my job the next day. As I walked into our apartment, my sadness was too big to notice the gloomy air that filled the living room, where my mum was on the phone. I went straight to my room. And as I entered, I saw it. My new dress, neatly laid on my bed, waiting for me. United, at last. I put it on and looked at myself in the big mirror in my room. My heart was beating so fast. Do you know that feeling, that heart beat skipping moment, when the person you adore is about to kiss you for the first time? That anticipation, that immense joy that’s threatening to crack open your chest. That’s what I was feeling in that moment. It lasted for a few seconds. It felt like forever.

I saw my mum in the mirror, entering the room through the door behind me. She smiled, but that wasn’t her smile. And the look in her eyes… that was not the look of a happy mum, who managed to give her daughter the gift she had yearned for. Now imagine the person you adore, the one who was about to kiss you for the first time, suddenly vanishes, like dust in the wind, taking the delicious anticipation of happiness with them. Imagine the joy that was knocking at your rib cage deflates, loud and quickly, like a balloon caught in a barbed-wire. You see that 16 year old, with her new dress? Look at her. She’s pretty. She has black long hair, with shiny curls falling over her shoulders. She has a wide smile on her lips, because she is wearing a new dress. A white cotton dress, with crimson red tulips right above the hem. She has no care in this world, her days are filled with joy and friends and her boyfriend – her first love. A regular teenager, with a love for books and music and pretty new dresses. Now look again. Closer, this time. Look at the red tulips dancing as she turns to face her mum and the dress twirls around her skinny knees. Look at her arms, her long tanned arms, with hands pressing against her chest. And inside that chest, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the crack of a most fragile heart. Now look at her face. Her pretty happy face, now disfigured by the expression of utter pain that has the corner of her lips arched down, in the opposite of a smile, her nostrils flaring and her eyes welling up. Now she shakes her head as she mouths a silent string of “no”s and the shiny curls are dancing around her face. You can’t hear her screaming. I’m muting her scream, because, dear reader, should you hear her, your heart would crack, too.

It is 15th of August 2007 and I just found out G. was dead. I suppose my mum bought the dress trying to ease the pain. Of course, the idea is ridiculous, but only if you’re a mother you can understand the pain of having to tell your daughter that one of the most important people in her life is dead. Murdered in the most brutal way.

I never wore that dress again.

SB

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