I visit me from time to time. I take my younger self by the hand and we fly over rivers and mountains, big cities and vast oceans. I’m like a dream to her, or an angel. I’m making gestures to explain myself and she tells me I’m too theatrical, a mute fairy godmother. She doesn’t recognize me and I don’t tell her. I know she enjoys the ride, for I once enjoyed our walks and flights and talks. The dreams we can’t have we want our younger selves to enjoy.
She does most of the talking, for whatever I say remains in tiny clouds above my head, like I’m a character in comics kids read, but I keep throwing my words to her, for I know she’ll listen in the end. She keeps staring at the tattoo on my arm and I don’t mind her staring, for it’s like she’s looking at her reflection in the mirror, at a possible future reflection she doesn’t yet recognize, but it belongs to her.
That little girl doesn’t like crowds. So we avoid crowded places. We watch people from afar. We watch them play games. Competing against one another. Crushing each other all the time. We don’t want to, I explain, but that’s what we do. Everything we can’t have we crush.
I’m going back to me like in that movie, ‘Peggy Sue got married’, in which that woman got young again to change her future. I don’t intend to change anything. I’m Peggy Sue in reverse. I want me to keep on track. There’s a bunch of people out there, asking that little girl I used to be what she wants to be when she grows old. She tells them and they smile, like she’s entitled to big dreams, but wait, not like that. That’s what grown ups do to kids. They ask what they want to be when they give up their dreams. For their own dreams are shattered. Everything we can’t have we dismantle.
Those grown ups want to take her on their side. They want her bitter, cynical, uncaring. I’m here to help her grow into the person I’ve become. I take her to places where people suffer. She turns a blind eye to suffering, for she can’t handle it. I want to keep her that way. I don’t want her to grow immune to those images. Of flesh and blood we’re made, I tell her. Everything we can’t have, we must claim for all.
Those trips in time keep me sane. For now, mother is sick and I take care of her. Mom shows me a picture of us two, when I was ten. She asks me not to throw it away, when she’s gone. Only she means when she dies. She’s aware of the disease lately, she knows she doesn’t have much time. I don’t tell her what I usually say to sick people, that we never truly know how far we are from dying, that I may die before her, crossing the street, a big truck will hit me and puff, I’m gone, I don’t tell her cause I know the argument won’t work with her, that’s her worst nightmare, losing her child, while people don’t give a fuck about me and they are usually comforted by the thought their time is more than mine. That’s how it goes; everything we can’t have we don’t want others to have either.
I visit me from time to time, to watch me grow wings. Those grown ups stand by, trimming them to fit their expectations. They’ll even mention the myth of Icarus, who got burnt by the sun, for people should remain grounded. I teach me to defend my wings. I teach me to care for the hurt, for I need the lesson now more than ever, now that I’m tired of caring for mom. I run out of empathy from time to time and that girl refuels my empathy tank. I need her, more than she needs me.
Sometimes I turn into another grown up eager to spoil her dreams. I envy her innocence, her ignorant smiles – everything we can’t have we demonize – and I hate her so much, I want to tell her the truth, all truth about life, but I keep my mouth shut. Mom needs me.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece. A Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions nominated writer, her work can be found in many journals, such as Litro, Jellyfish Review, Ruminate, Okay Donkey, Open Pen and others.
image: Lindsay Hargrave