Inflorescence

Throughout elementary school, I didn’t look directly at other kids and teachers when they talked to me. Something in everyone’s eyes felt frightening.

Very rarely did I initiate conversations unless I felt sick and needed to use the bathroom. The only reason I think others considered me a friend was because I was a good listener, even though I was known for turning sideways to talk from my profile in conversations.

I had a secret in my pocket that I never told anyone about; I was pregnant with an idea, but in profile, no one could see what was growing inside of me.

From afar, it often looked like I was talking or singing to myself. Those that called me a friend said I was just weird, and teachers said I should get tested, but for what I never knew. Caregivers thought I was obsessed with underclothes and pockets, and maybe I was, but I never told them why both were so important to me.

When I was seven, I drew a picture of what I thought my mama looked like, before I’d ever seen her real image in a photo, or felt her heart from her journals. It was the size of a 5×7, folded over several times, and hidden in my pocket each morning.

I used to watch kids walking hand in hand with a mom or dad onto the school grounds each morning, and I remember pretending not to watch as they leaned down to kiss them goodbye before walking away. I observed them again when picked up from school, and how they were still greeted with a smile, a kiss, and sometimes even a hug as if they’d gone away on a long trip and they’d not seen them just a few hours before.

Deep down inside there was a longing to know what all that felt like, so that’s why I drew a picture of mama and pretended she was with me all day, holding my hand, talking to me, and giving me random kisses in the morning, at recess, lunchtime, and after school.

Whenever I turned to the side after someone talked to me, I was hiding my whispering to mama, wanting to check in with her first to see what she heard, because I’d learned that sometimes what people were saying to me wasn’t what I thought, so I hoped she’d help me sound smarter when I answered. Maybe we crossed wires or something, because my answers still caused others to laugh, not because they were funny, but because they didn’t expect them.

I guess the moral of the story is that some people are pregnant in ways we can’t see or are walking around carrying a weight that doesn’t look like much but pulls all of their resources, leaving little energy to respond to things that don’t seem so difficult. People like us are walking around with dreams folded over and hidden in pockets or beneath clothes.

Now when I see someone on the street, at home, or at work that looks to be talking to themselves, I consider they’re talking to a friend or a loved one, seeking an answer or translation to something, or maybe just speaking in gratitude to someone I can’t see holding their hand.

I always say a quick prayer for a healthy birth to whatever it is they believe will bring them peace and joy, and I ask mama to remind them that the sense of isolation they may feel goes away, cause it did for me when I started looking at folks in the eye.

But it wasn’t until I saw my mama’s real photo the first time that it dawned on me that all those years I’d been frightened of my own reflection, and not other people.

Instead of planting flowers, I honored mama by buying several flamingo flower plants, and leaving them anonymously on people’s doorsteps late at night. They grow some of the shiniest flowers I’ve ever seen, and it seemed fitting that mama’s love could be part of waking others up to see themselves in the reflection of those beautiful petals.

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