Today I met myself on my way down the hill. I was retracing my steps and thinking about where I could have gone wrong on the way. I’m not sure if I was unconsciously trying to find myself or if we just bumped into each other by accident, but it happened as destiny does.
Both rounded the corner at exactly the same time, it was as if the planets were aligned. I was preoccupied and lost in thought and she was in a hurry to meet him. The moment stretched like an elastic band, pulled and ready to burst. I saw her touch herself to make sure she was still there. We were both surprised, her more than me I think as surprises lessen as life goes on.
I studied her, the fresh face, the thick, dark curly hair and the air of excitement that she carried. She was in love, it was not long after they had met and she still wore that look of nervous expectation. I remembered the day well, today the relationship would be sealed. I looked and remembered how long it had taken her to decide what to wear, I also knew what she had in her overstuffed handbag. I smiled, I wanted to tell her he wasn’t really worth it, that in the end she would find she didn’t really know him but I couldn’t do that, she would have to find that out herself. She would have ten years of happiness with him anyway, well most of it happy and she would have our beautiful child. I envied her the opportunity to hold our baby once more, the freedom and the life she had in front of her. She had so many choices to make, so many experiences to grab. I thought back to the day when I had been standing in her shoes and tried to look out of her eyes and find myself, I must have missed this moment last time. Funny how many things we miss as we rush through life getting to our destination.
A thought jumped into my mind, if she hadn’t seen me when we were here before, what else could change, what if she made different choices. I wanted to know what would happen if she changed the course of events that brought me here now, where would I be if anything changed. I looked down at myself and prayed I wouldn’t dissolve into nothingness. I wanted to tell her how to do it right, how to keep me alive, but I knew I couldn’t. I didn’t even remember all of it, life was a whirl back then, full of ups and downs. I wanted to tell her it would be okay, that the tears of her lessons would dry and she would realise that she had her whole life before her. I wanted her to meet him, he was a big stepping stone to our future, but again I stayed silent.
She looked at me, my thinning hair, dyed to hide to the inevitable grey and extra pounds I carried. She was such a willow of a girl if only she knew how beautiful she was, if she could only see the light that shone out. I thought of a number of outfits I could have put on today that might have left a better impression, I didn’t want to scare her. I imagine she thought I had let myself go and I wanted to tell her how hard it was to remain slim, I wanted to let her know I was only a size 10/12 after all not that much bigger in the scheme of things, just softer in places. I didn’t utter a word, just stood a little taller and pulled tight on what was left of my stomach muscles. She had a cigarette in her hand and I knew another twenty Marlborough Red in her bag at least, I desperately wanted a drag. I hadn’t smoked now in years but that moment I was a smoker again.
I thought of what I could tell her, asked myself what lessons she needed, but realised she would probably laugh, after all I was as old as our mum now and when did she ever listen to mum. I wanted to tell her about all the people that she shouldn’t waste her time on and those that would be with her all the way. I wanted to tell her how her family were truly her real friends, but she would have to find that out herself. In fact she would have to find it all out herself, as that is what would take her up the hill I had just walked down from. I understood, that it is the challenges that are before her, that will mould her and create the me of today and I couldn’t help her with any of it.
Neither of us had spoken, we just stood transfixed staring at each other in that moment. I smiled gently at her and without a word I walked away. I hoped that my smile conveyed the love I had for her, the love that I had for myself.
I didn’t turn around as I walked back up the hill again, I knew at some stage she would follow me.