In my dreams I wear fabulous shoes. Impossibly tall, ridiculously spiked stilettos. Sparkling, shining, red, green, purple shoes. Somehow, in this “La-La Land of Shoe-tastic Living” I know exactly which shoes go with which outfit. And those clothes, sister, I tell you they are gorgeous.
In my dreams my hair is long and blonde and smooth. It flows like a cape behind me as I run…yes, in my dreams I’m a runner. I don’t choke to pay a hundred dollars for a trim. That much money isn’t an issue for me. But that, of course, is only in my dreams.
In my dreams I live in Paris or Venice or Rome. And I speak the language beautifully. I have friends dying to spend time with me, men desiring to hold me. I paint or write or am the subject of paintings or odes. All my former classmates hate me out of envy. They regret all those awful names they called me.
In my dreams I’m happy. In my dreams I’m free and easy; no worries, no troubles. In my dreams life is exactly perfect.
Oh, but. But that is not true life.
In my real life I wear ugly shoes. A size too small. I bought them at the Goodwill for $4.29. They were the only ones on the display that weren’t falling apart. They hurt my feet, but that’s better than frozen toes hitting the hard pavement. In real life my hair is mousy, stringy, smelly. It’s difficult to find time to wash my hair let alone pay someone who can cut it nicely. In real life I live in a basement level apartment in the bad part of town. It isn’t lovely or exotic or even safe. I work at the Wal-Mart just to get formula to feed my baby. There’s no man here to take care of us, let alone hold me or desire me.
In my real life I’m sad. In my real life I’m stuck and depressed; nothing but worries and troubles. In my real life I have no idea what perfection even is.
My real life is cold.
I get up early, so very early. Oh, it hurts to awake in this under heated apartment. Frost forms on the inside of the windows. The chilled floor shocks me into being alert. I put on the uniform I’ve worn for the past three days, my too small shoes and my jean jacket. I walk to the bus stop and smoke while I wait.
Nothing fabulous here.
The 20 minute bus ride bumps me along to Savings Mart. I’ll stand behind that courtesy desk for twelve hours. I’ll take the complaints. I’ll take the insults. I’ll take the yelling of customers who are upset about rejected returns of tshirts with yellow armpit stains. I’ll take it all. And I’ll smile at them because I know something that they don’t. I know about my dream life.
“Whadya mean I gotta have a receipt?” Screams a little, angry woman.
She doesn’t know about the fabulous shoes.
“I ain’t goin’ nowheres till you get your manager. Stupid.” An extra large, angry woman.
She doesn’t see the long locks of blonde beneath the stringy mop of hair.
“You’re gonna have to work an extra hour.” The manager with the clipboard. “It’s off the clock.”
He has no idea the friends that await me.
The shoes, the hair, the friends I realize aren’t real. But pretending gets me through the day. I pretend that I’m undercover to reveal how “the other half” live.
After an exhaustingly long day I punch out, ride the bus back to my neighborhood, let myself into my apartment and sit on the floor. Is it colder in here than outside? It sure feels like it. I tighten the rolled up towels around the windows. There’s frost on the inside of the glass. I trace my name on the ice with a fingertip.
“Bobbi Sue” it reads. I wipe it off and write another name.
Scarlet of the shoes and hair and friends. Scarlet the one I long to be. Scarlet the brave, lovely, desired.
I leave the name on the glass and walk to my bedroom. There on the wall are taped pictures of the fabulous shoes, beautiful clothes, smiling models that I wish were my friends. On the dresser is a box of blonde hair-dye. The cheapest I could buy. I rub the dust off the top with my shirt. I’ve had this box for months, but never the courage to use the dye.
I sit on the edge of my bed, looking at the blonde model on the box. She smiles with her perfectly red lips, showing off perfectly white teeth. Her eyes say to me “I have no problems! I’m beautiful! What could be wrong?”
“You lie.” The words formed from my lips before I understood them. “You are flawed and broken and sad too. Everyone is. You feel it all. And you’re cold too. Just like me.”
I realize that all the fabulous things won’t make my life better. I tear down the magazine clippings from the wall. I take the box of hair-dye. I walk to the bathroom.
Looking back at me in the mirror is a woman. Bobbi Sue written on her name tag reflected backwards.
Bobbi Sue the Savings Mart service desk girl. Bobbi Sue the lonely. Bobbi Sue the frightened and cold and empty.
Bobbi Sue with the hazel eyes. Bobbi Sue with the scar above her eyebrow. Bobbi Sue the human with possibilities and abilities.
Bobbi Sue not Scarlet. Me not someone who isn’t real. Me with issues, yes. But they are mine. Me, realizing that all the Scarlets of the world have it just as hard as me. And I have it just as good as them.
I feel a bud of warmth take place in my heart.