Being a grown-up is not at all what she thought it was going to be.
Graphic by Amy Ly (Graphic Designer, The Continuist) IG: @famy.ly_dessart
By Aimie Homem (she/her) Content Creator (Fiction), The Continuist
I hold her hand as she crosses the street. The gentle breeze blows her soft dark brown hair, twirling around the velvety strands as if they wish to learn the girl’s secret, why she’s always so happy.
“Did you know,” she looks up and into my eyes while she softly lisps in her childlike voice, “Mama said we could go to the Padaria today.”
I smile and nod at her, content for a moment that she provided this highly important information; she turns back to her task at hand and resumes skipping beside me.
Her slow skips next to my aging body ground it in a way I’ve been yearning for years. Ignoring the slightly clouded sky and the blooming flowers around us as we make our way home, cutting through my old elementary school playground, I think back on my day. The hours spent bent over a desk, neck and back aching, staring at a computer screen and wondering how I got to this point in my life. Why I paid money, incurred debt, and studied day and night for a menial job whose pay is, let's face it, subpar and feeling such a deep sense of unfulfillment and unhappiness. It’s not the fact that I don’t have people around me who love me and I love back, but the fact that I never expected my life to become the way that it has.
People always say that ‘when you grow up, you’ll understand how hard it is to be a grown-up.’ However, I always found that fictitious and, quite frankly, a ridiculously concocted scheme to scare children before they’re even fully grown. It puts their complaints down and treats them as sub-humans, ones who should be seen but never heard. I thought we were past the point of make-believes, of knights riding atop a fiery steed to save the damsel in distress. But looking back on my childhood, the innocence I had towards the world around me was quite frankly saddening. Not because of how naïve I was but because of how the world, as I grew up, showed its heinous and disturbingly vile colours.
A tug on my right-hand pulls me away for a moment from my dark thoughts, “Are you okay?” Her brows are scrunched up; the concern is displayed across her youthful face. My lips press hard together as I feel the pressure inside me build higher. I nod once more and try to fake a smile. However, she does not seem convinced this time. Looking away, she stopped skipping and looked at the concrete below her feet, the breeze slowly calming, making my feet hitting the concrete ground sound deafening. Staring at the trees on the other side of the gate, signalling the end of the playground, my mind can’t help but stray to the tasks I have at hand the next day at work.
Dreading the thought of it, I close my eyes and feel the wind on my face, but unlike her, it doesn’t whisper to me or wish to know any of my secrets. I have none to share. I’m an empty, silent vessel that floats along next to the others, wondering where I went wrong.
At that thought, I stumbled, a moan rising inside me as my hand got yanked out of hers, and I fell hands first on the ground. The sharp sting of rocks cutting into my hands and knees almost helped me push down my emotions once more, but the tears welling in my eyes couldn’t be contained any longer. Finally, opening my mouth, I let out a wail for the first time in years.
Sitting up, I ignored the rip in my blazer and the stain of blood on my wool knee-length skirt and cried. Trying to maintain a semblance of control, I try to muffle the sound of my bawling screams with my bloodied hands, pushing my fists against my mouth, but nothing can contain it. Looking around and ignoring the sight of myself in the school windows reflection, I try to find her, forgetting that I have lost sight of her.
I feel myself going spiral as I ignore the sharp pain of putting my red-heeled covered foot on the ground as I pull myself up. Spinning around, I try to search for her frantically, tears smudging the makeup I took hours to carefully craft on my face. Not finding her in the entire elementary school playground, I become more distraught and agitated, not at her but myself for losing her.
Suddenly the breeze is gone and standing in complete silence, I hear it. I hear her.
For a moment in time, I remember. I remember what it felt like to be young, innocent, and naïve to the harsh realities of life but always had a glimpse of it right in front of my face. As tears run down my face, I think of the little girl. I manifest her in front of me, her face terrified and unsure of what’s to come and pull her towards me, hugging her to the point where I’m unsure where she begins, and I end. As I come to terms with and grieve that young girl, I begin to hear Aqua’s Barbie Girl playing in the background.
I think of her, jumping on my parents' green and brown plaid comforter-covered bed, singing along to the lyrics I knew so well.
“I’m a girl…in a world...where fantasy lives.”