Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.
Kim has a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. I love this story in part because I can hear Kim’s voice in it, even though we haven’t been in the same room in over a decade. I hope you’ll enjoy it as well. You should also check out Kim’s first novel, Accidentally Me.
An aisle separates the mother and son seated in front of me at the high school dance recital. She is resting an eager elbow on the outside armrest, leaning toward him; he is shaggy haired and slumped in the chair, playing on his IPhone. His attendance is certainly compulsory, no doubt dragged here by mom to watch a sister or cousin or close family friend.
I glance at the program titled “Inspirations.” Beneath each dance is a quote that presumably inspired the choreography, of which a striking number are attributed to “Anonymous.” “Dance like no one is watching.” “You can be anything you want to be.” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
A new number begins. The boy in front of me slumps farther into his chair. My seven-year-old daughter, however, perks up when she spies the dancers’ leopard-print leotards. “I like how this music is kind of jungle-y,” she says. She, of course, would like the jungle music. There is something wild about her, this little creature seated beside me with wide blue eyes and a halo of hair, fine as down. She reaches a searching hand to her head and I redirect her fingers to her necklace. She sighs and then begrudgingly fidgets with the heart charm at her throat.
My daughter is pulling out her hair. Trichotillomania, the pediatrician said, when I discovered small bald patches on her scalp. A week later most of the hair on the left side of her head was gone. She sneaked into my bed one night and, after she had gone to school, I found a small nest of twisted blonde hairs under my pillow.
No one has given me anything that sounds like an answer – not her teacher, not our pediatrician, not the therapist whom my daughter and I met with earlier that afternoon. We sat for an hour in a colorful room and fielded questions that sounded like accusations. “Does she behave well in school?” “Would you describe your home as ‘stable’? “And your husband, is he…present?”
“It’s her job,” my husband said, when I had called him on the verge of tears after the appointment. “She’s supposed to ask questions. She’s supposed to pry.”
And what’s my job? I wanted to ask, but hadn’t. I don’t know how to help my daughter. I don’t know if her hair-pulling is just a childhood phase, something to be outgrown and forgotten, or if it hints at something more sinister, some hidden hurt or worry. If my daughter has the answer, she hasn’t given it to me. She hasn’t told me anything. She hasn’t told me how to help her.
The boy in front of me shifts in his seat. The aisle yawns before me like a gulf. A chasm. A terrible divide. And then, with a move that is more inspiring than any platitude, he turns to his mother, dangling a long, adolescent arm toward her. He whispers something and she tips back her perfectly coiffed head and laughs. On the stage, the leopard-print dancers leap and twirl, but I can’t tear my eyes from the performance that is the wide arc of her smile, the almost bridge of his arm.