In a flat windswept town small enough to be called sleepy, a little girl lived in the countryside within a big fenced yard that encircled the property.
There was a tall heavy gate that had to be opened to get outside the yard. And beyond that a two lane highway with cars whizzing past.
Three dogs and numerous cats kept her company. And she spun stories and made the pets characters during play.
Then she turned six and had to go outside the gates to an elementary school a few miles away. It was hard to imagine life beyond the big gate. A place she had to go five days a week.
That’s when everything changed.
It was there among all those children that she realized how different she was.
The children were loud and this made the little girl cringe. She didn’t like unexpected noises.
These children played on the outdoor equipment and raced one another. They played hopscotch and marbles and jacks. Their voices outside were unrestrained and loud.
Mostly she stood in a place backed up to shadows where she could watch them.
She wished that she’d never had to walk through the doors to the little brick school.
Going to school spoiled everything. It took away what she knew and relied on. Laid bare a truth she’d rather not have questioned.
It made her realize that really old ladies like her “mama” weren’t really parents. They were grandmas or great-grandmas.
This was apparent when she watched the children being picked up by much younger women with belted dresses and pretty shoes. And sometimes men dressed up for work.
Relatives sometimes came to visit and brought their children. They had two parents, but she had thought maybe that was an anomaly.
Once she went to school it all began to unravel. She realized that she was the anomaly. The one who stood out from the others.
Like hornets gathering in a nest, questions began to fill her head and she wondered if she dared to ask them.
Her “mama” didn’t like her asking questions. It made her angry and she would gaze up above the little girl’s head to some other place and time.
And so she was a quiet child, never causing trouble because that meant being noticed. She didn’t like people looking at her. It made her face feel too warm.
From an early age she yearned to be invisible. Then she could walk through town like a ghostly presence. She could see them but they couldn’t see her.
And then no one would have questioned who the small child was walking between the two old women.
Instead of looking at her she wished they could look straight through her to the other side.