I was five, streamers on my handlebars and butterscotch tangles on my head the first time I remember failing my father. Wanting attention. Costing him time.
I remember the feel of the wind, slippery as I sailed after him and his friend on bikes of their own. Beneath me, the gravel road blurred to a caramel river – frothy with speed.
They were thirty feet or so in front of me, My mother, standing on the concrete slab of our front porch, watched knowingly, my baby sister Jo Jo straddling her hips, blond curls licking her scalp like pale flames. She was the most beautiful toddler I’ve ever seen.
Me, I was a twisted mass of hair and tenacity, determined to get to my father. And he was determined to out-pedal me. To leave me to my mama’s devices.
“Wait, Daddy! Wait!” I’m certain I screamed, swallowing chunks of sticky summer sky as my legs spun faster and faster and I fell farther and farther behind.
This five-year-old me – she always wanted her father to see her. To know her. To care.
This was two years before I messed up and bought three bags of chips at the local horse show instead of two because I didn’t know what “a couple” meant. I’m pretty sure that was the beginning of my hatred and fear of numbers. It was still two years away from when I would learn to be wary about whether or not what I was doing was pleasing to my father and to the Lord.
But I was still five. And still naïve. And I wanted to ride bikes with my dad.
So my knees pumped beneath my scooter-skirt and my heart pumped beneath my tank top, and I flew as fast as I could across that gravel road perched atop my little banana seat.
I had missed him at my piano recital — the one where I was awarded a superlative and a tiny rose quartz necklace. The first necklace I ever owned.
The polished little pendant about the size of a jellybean — swirls of white cream curling in its strawberry depths — hung at the hollow of my collar bone. My favorite thing to do was to pull the chain up to the triangular divot beneath my nose and mouth and let the stone ride there where I could feel the cool smooth weight of it, like something waiting to be said.
I knew that feeling. Seems I was always waiting my turn to speak.
Anyways, I had missed him at my piano recital. I wasn’t going to miss him that night.
So I whizzed and wound my way after them. Until my tires hit an exposed pipe and swiveled off their trajectory. Until my world went topsy-turvy. Until sky and street cartwheeled all over me.
I don’t know what stung worse. The gravel bulldozing my flesh, or the rejection bulldozing my heart. He had turned away. That fast. That soon.
He came back. He did. But the damage was already done.
My rose quartz necklace was lost. Maybe then. Maybe soon after. I’m not sure. I do know its imprint remains. A cooled reminder of things waiting to be said.
The weight and wait has been too heavy for too long.
It’s my turn to speak.
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