Artemis Drifting

Just because she tippietoes, doesn't mean she's a creepin'.

The First Bubble

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       I’m eight and I can’t wait to grow up. When I see my parents and their friends, with their towering legs and confident smiles; I really want to grow up. Those grown ups pile me into minivans and take me to my favorite sports and activities. I get to scream down a water slide, I take a chance on a three legged race and I throw my first frisbee to a teenager who is undoubtedly humoring me and my exuberance. I can’t tell his smile is fake yet, I’m not even aware there’s a scale that tips to the side of unjust behavior. Because, right then, I’m eight and everything is fair. Even when my sister gets the Red Ranger, it’s fair because my mother says so and I can accept that. My mother is an adult, and they have experiences I’ve never even cracked a book that alludes to them.

      Then I turn nine and I’m all legs, freckles and nose. I’m the kid with the big mouth, but it’s a big mouth with a smile. It runs like a child downstairs to a christmas tree, but I’m nine and all I want to do is share everything I just saw and know with everyone I just met. But, being nine and excitable it’s inventible that I’m clumsy as well. I get so busy wanting to catch your eyes, your attention, so we can share and enjoy this life together. Sometimes I knock things over, because when you’ve got a unstoppable mouth, it doesn’t give your brain much room to organize a space for coordination. So, to break it down – I’m nine along with being a furniture and porcelain collectable hazard.

      Then comes nine and a half, when I’m pretty darn proud of my new jumper. It isn’t a brand name, but I feel like a farmer and when I get home from school I’m going to go find a whole bunch of acorns and grind them into a paste that I’ve decided is just the same as flour. I don’t get to do it that day, because that’s the day I find out there’s a scale in my life that adults have already begun to tip out of my favor. I’m at my desk and playing with my jumpers buttons, just so I’m prepared to get out of it in the case of a bathroom emergency. Big mouths also ignore urgent bladders. It’s about then, when I’m fidgeting with my button and hook when I hear about one of my friends birthday parties. I perk up because I am nine and a half and birthdays are a real big deal, especially when its people that I’ve come to consider my friends. I start to listen in, sliding forward on my wooden seat to get closer to the two girls whispering. Between them, I see a little glimmer of a scale – because right then, I realize this birthday party has already happened; they’re talking in the past tense. As they continue, one cup of the scale drifted downward, holding a growing pool of an oil so black that not even light brings a blue glimmer across it. That cup had sagged lower because between the two of them, one of which was the former birthday girl, I had inducted that the entire grade had been invited to her celebration. Everyone but me.

      I still saw that scale, hanging there, but I didn’t know what it was for yet. It didn’t have the power to scare me, but it certainly unnerved me. A dozen thoughts ran through my head for awhile that never reached my usual motor mouth; had I missed the invitation? Did my mother not check the voice mail? Could I have forgotten to check my locker? I knew these girls, they were my friends and I was not afraid of the scale yet so I wanted to apologize for missing her birthday. I didn’t know what a cad yet was, but I felt like one. I eased out of my seat and came up to their desks. They went silent and now the whole scale looked like it had weight, it wasn’t a mirage anymore.

      So I gave them my smile, because even though their sudden silence was awkward, it couldn’t dim my faith right then. I loved them because we did crafts together, I loved them because we made forts to keep the boys at bay during recess. I would learn this word later, but if I had known it then, I would have called them my comrades. So I was going to make amends. You should never miss an opportunity to apologize to your friends.

This kid with the big mouth facing an eerie scale and silence held her hand out and apologized, “I’m sorry I missed your birthday.”

Birthday-girl was quiet and pushed her pencil into the crevice in the desk that kept it from rolling away, “You weren’t invited.”

      I don’t think my smile faltered, because even with the scale and her expression I didn’t believe her. Children played jokes, not adults. So I played along and asked her why I couldn’t come, so you know, I could make a joke about smelling funny or something – because the tension was like waiting to get your graded spelling paper back.

Then she and her friend looked up at me and the not-birthday-girl answered, “Her mother didn’t want you to come. She was afraid you’d break something.”

      If you could string together a couple of words to stop that motor mouth of mine, it was those ones. They could’ve even been said in pig-latin and I would’ve clammed up. I pushed my hands into my pockets and knew that scale in front of me was something that wasn’t ever going to get prayed, wished or bargained away. An adult woman had invited 51 fellow class-mates and left out a single one, not by accident, but by intention.

      I was nine and a half and that was the day I realized that being an adult is just a matter of how long you’ve been on this earth, not how long you’ve had to do good deeds and grow in character.

I grew up, but really after that day, I dreaded it.

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