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A Flashback on Girlhood

A Flashback on Girlhood
Zahara Foster

Dear Magnolia,

I want to start by apologising for the aimless nature of this email. I think this is more for me than it is for you.

Until a few days ago, I had only thought about you in fleeting moments and never for long. I think I just wanted to forget everything that happened. Not out of shame but out of there never being much to see, it all having slowly dissolved into fuzz. When I look back at that time, it appears to me as indistinguishable sounds and colours: vitriolic reds and the chaos seething through playground gossip. The only thing I’m ever able to make out is your cropped blonde hair – streaks of pastel yellows and off-whites.

I saw you last week. Well, it turned out not to be you but merely someone with the same striking haircut I remember you once having. Though once the woman turned around and it undoubtedly wasn’t you, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen you. You being a phosphorescent reminder of a life once lived, the girls we once were.

A provocateur, that’s all I ever saw you as. With all the looks you got I believed you had crossed a threshold into a world of new-found touches. You existed on a different plane to me; living in a haze of unbridled love and adulation. I always imagined you as the girl who would lay scantily clad on an unmade bed with a lazy smile hugging a lipstick-stained cigarette, patiently waiting for her lover to come home.

I was the voyeur across the hall, huddled behind my door. And like you, waiting for him to return. Waiting to hear your noises in the night. That’s all I ever was in comparison to you – a lowly shadow.

Now I see how pliant you really were. Beholden to their perceptions. It’s only now that I realise I never knew you, only a distorted image. I had that image framed, as you have to understand that this image embodied everything I wanted to be. I think I used you to sate my unattainable wants. Through you I achieved emancipation.

No matter how much I would like to believe otherwise, I’m no better than the others, I was just another spectator. I wish that all of those years ago I could have seen that. Maybe your piercing wails in the dark were not ones fun but of fear. No one ever looked hard enough to care. But I hope someone does now.

You must understand that we didn’t turn away out of disdain but rather as not to fracture the carefully curated image of you we had spent so long creating. We all wanted to be you. Hair clippings laying idly in the sink beneath me is a memory I’ll never erase, even more so the feeling that I may get to look like you and get to live the life you live.

Best Wishes,