You left your shoes by the door. Those black leather ones with the worn soles and thread-pulled laces. You always kicked them off when you stepped inside, walking around the house in your socks. I didn’t put them away for such a long time. Each day as I left the house and looked down, I thought about how those massive shoes would be so difficult to fill again. I was scared that if I threw them away that there would be no more me.
It’s what I do. Create myself around the person I’m with, becoming who they need me to be. Being alone would be like living in my 3-year old body again. That day we were at a restaurant – me, mom and dad – visiting with their friends and children who were playing on the Wimpy jungle gym outside.
Under the table, my arms around my mother’s leg, mesmerised by the other woman’s blue high heels next to my knees, tapping on the tiles.
Rat tat tat.
She whispered to mom that my lack of socialisation, not speaking, and staring blankly into space was a cause for concern. She didn’t know that it was how I coped with being alone, until being alone was all I knew how to be.
Dad slipped a 100-piece puzzle under the table and at last I uncurled my arms from the safety of mom’s leg.
I built it upside down, the picture against the ground. Somehow it made more sense to make it more difficult. Aunty Blue Shoes said it made me even more bizarre.
The kids ran back, noisy and loud; their stomping feet making the floor shudder. Like me. A frightened, rattled, skeleton child, anxiously grabbing for mom’s leg again.
I stroked the black leather and put your shoes like fragile glass into a black bag. You had become that safe place under the table. My mother’s strong leg. Me, the upside down puzzle that I pieced together around you. When turned the right away up it revealed a picture of your face.
I think I was – am – still that 3-year old in the restaurant. Thinking about the whispered words that I wasn’t quite normal. Not quite right.
It’s why you saw me in the first place. You saw my terror of being alone and knew you could just step right in and become my everything.
And you did.
Like mom was.