She made me feel good about myself, gave me confidence in the gap that I covered with my hand every time I laughed, giggled, or smiled. She rubbed oatmeal on my summertime eczema—the only time it would come. Her grandmother used the remedy long before Aveeno started shipping it by the case in cone shaped bottles. I hated everything about myself until she came, and she knew it, too.
“Why do you have those hazel contacts in your eyes?” Lizzy asked.
“They help me to see. I might as well have a color since I’m paying eighty-nine dollars for the prescription,” I replied.
“Is black your natural hair color?” she asked.
“No, it’s a shit brown as I like to call it,” I said.
“Why are you always wearing tennis shoes?” she asked.
“I walk better in them,” I replied.
After that conversation, she wanted to meet my mother. She wanted to see the embarrassing pictures that were kept in a photo album, where the pages turned yellow. The pictures had been behind that plastic for so long that they would rip if they were removed.
She was the first girl I’d ever brought home. I guess I loved her before I even realized it. My mother smiled like she hadn’t had company in over a decade as she swung her screen door open.
“You must be Lizzy,” she said, pulling her into a tight embrace. “It’s so nice to finally meet somebody that Vaughn is dating. I always hear about them, but I never get the chance to put a face to the name.”
Lizzy made herself right at home. She kicked off her shoes, claimed a spot on the sofa, and waited for the juice that was offered after introductions.
Lizzy and Mama laughed and talked like old friends, while I sat with my legs crossed at the ankles and my hands in my lap. It didn’t take long for Mama to break out the Polaroids. She pulled out pictures of a girl I didn’t recognize, one much more confident than I.
She died long ago—died with insults of being too dark, having bad hair, and a big nose. She grew up with acne then discovered makeup. She had a little more meat around her waist, butt, and thighs. Being called “fat” sent her into overdrive and instead of losing the weight the healthy way, she starved herself and eventually developed an eating disorder. There was nothing worse than standing in front of a mirror, pinching yourself and always finding more to lose, always finding something wrong.
If hating herself wasn’t enough, she fell in love. At first, she thought everything was all good until she got cheated on and started to question why? Why her? Why wasn’t she good enough? Never getting a response from her lover, the answer was simple. It was her. She wasn’t pretty enough, fine enough… she just wasn’t enough. Everything that society had for sale, she purchased—weaves, expensive jewelry, high fashioned clothes, push up bras. It only cost her, her soul. That seemed cheap when she didn’t know better or realize that everything she owned was priceless. Priceless because it came from her ancestors and couldn't be duplicated no matter how many surgeons tried.
My mother pulled out the last picture she took of me before I became a what I was now.
“This is my favorite picture of her.” she smiled, handing it over like a first-place trophy.
“So, this is what you really look like,” Lizzy said. “Feels like I’m seeing you for the first time.” She smiled and looked into my eyes. “You’re beautiful.”
I wondered if society gave refunds.
© 2016 Christiana Harrell