Little Girl Lost
I will don that cap and gown. I have graduated from high school, but I didn’t attend graduation. I had only been at the school for a month and didn’t see the point.
I was bitter. Too bitter. Life was an uncoated aspirin that always seemed to get stuck in my throat; the acrid taste ebbed on the shore of my tongue and refused to leave. Decisions I made in order to survive were whirlwinds of change, downdrafts of life’s tornadoes, most of which I was not prepared for. I needed help, desperately, only I didn’t know it. I was 18, a legal adult, and ready to take on the world.
Or so I thought.
A married friend from the service deli department I worked for offered me a room at her house, yet still no school would allow me to attend. They didn’t seem to care that I was an adult, paid rent, or anything else. I needed a guardian.
They were right. I did need a guardian. I needed a guardian angel.
Betty White’s character “Rose” from The Golden Girls always reminded me of her, though she was never that scatterbrained. Their personalities were similar, their body shapes were similar, and even their wispy cotton cloud of hair was similar. It’s no wonder that show became such a favorite of mine after my grandmother died.
She rescued me.
She gave me a room in her home, a car to drive, and freedom. She gave me the freedom I’d never had growing up, and I, in turn, abused it. I would sneak out after she went to bed, and returned shortly before she left for work, often before the sun arose to greet the day. I skipped school more often than I should have because of those late night trysts. I rebelled in every way I possibly could against the inflexible existence I had been reared under. I cared for no one, least of all myself, though my heart beat vehemently in its search for love.
Love she gave freely of, yet I did not know how to accept. It wasn’t her love I wanted. It wasn’t her love I pined for, the one every love song I heard set the yearning from a simmer to a rolling boil over. The abyss in my chest could only be filled by a man. The chasm that was usually filled up by the love only a father can give was left barren, decadent, denied. I filled it with all the wrong things—lingering moments at the bedsides of men I thought loved me simply because of the moment he had shared with me, and returning to their bedsides, until the hunger was subdued and the hole filled.
Temporary love kept me going, even when I started college. The hunger still overwhelmed me. The need to survive dominated my life, and college life ended faster than it started. Now, 22 years later, I am still waiting for that cap and gown, its call mostly ignored, as I settle into life without an abyss.
Happiness is my own personal cap and gown.