Once I Was Seven
By Odile Postic
It was a Saturday afternoon and I was seven years old. When you’re young it really is “an afternoon,” unlike now where the day seems like a handful of instances quilted together. I drew my dog while he and I sat in the grass behind my parents house. This was the afternoon that turned into the evening that turned into the night that turned into The Day when the drawing was perfect. I had tried to draw him for so long now, but everything was finally coming together. The eyes! The ears! His nose! It looked so damp! No one had ever drawn a dog like this, I was sure of it. My world was small back then, but feelings, I remember, were confetti, fireworks, a tsunami.
I ran the two blocks to Melanie’s house. Melanie was my best friend when I was seven. She oftentimes would say questionable things about how her eyes were light blue and mine were hazel and how this was important to her. She always seemed like she was compiling information about things so that she could later sabotage them. Of course, I didn’t make these observations when I was seven, all of the amateur psychoanalysis came later. I liked her because she knew how to braid hair and her home phone was easy to call because it had three zeros in it. I arrived to Melanie’s front door, breathing rapidly with the corners of my mouth beginning where my nostrils ended.
When it came to Melanie’s room, she would sit in her chair and I would squat on the carpet. I admired the dedication Melanie put into crossing her legs. In a chair, you couldn’t catch a moment where Melanie’s legs weren’t crossed. When she got up from her seat, there was always a round pink patch on the skin right above her knee. I handed my notebook to her.
With the notebook in her hands, Melanie’s lips looked like a panini that had been pressed by an elephant. The drawing that had once been the best dog drawing was now a total annoyance. It was too aggravating to even keep in the same room as my friend Melanie and me. I put it facedown on the carpet behind me. I didn’t care if the graphite smudged, the world was over. The thrill had left me by then. I knew the drawing was good, I knew that improving the drawing would be an impossible task. I went home.
Later on, I came to the conclusion that Melanie was jealous of me. I recalled the instance where she crossed her arms and didn’t say much after I scored higher than her on SingStar. That was the very first and last time we played SingStar together. My mom always bought better snacks than her mom. There were a handful of times when Melanie felt the need to remind me that the food I ate for lunch had too many fats. What I should’ve said back was “I’m seven and I don’t care about things like that.” Melanie and her sister were ballet dancers which implied something invisible to me at the time. Later it was body image, and I learned to know it.
In hindsight, I must admit, I was jealous too. Melanie’s parents let her have four pet bunnies. When I tried to talk with the bunnies, they would run back to Melanie’s side. Those bunnies liked Melanie and those bunnies didn’t like me. This was a truth that made me second guess myself. What was it about me that deterred them? I worried about gossip. Melanie was the first of our class to wear training bras. Most of her shirts made it possible to see the bra strap along her shoulders. I think that she did this on purpose to brag. I always looked at the strap and thought of her mother’s name, “Cami.” Sometimes I would laugh about that when I was alone or with my mom.
Yes, the drawing was the greatest accomplishment I had ever made, but I remembered an occasion two years before this, while vacationing in the Bahamas with my extended family, I thought a pony I had traced from a magazine was of a similar caliber. The things you do are not comparable to each other, because time may be linear, but the self exists in all three dimensions and life would be unbearable if it were any other way. I like to think of aging as a series of post-it notes, because you when you’re 35 is the same thing as you when you were ten. The only difference is that there’s more. It’s like those zero calorie flavor enhancers that you add to water. By the time I’m 75, someone is going to try and take a sip of me and their DNA will be torn to shreds! One day, you and I and everyone else is going to lie down and say “holy fuck, I sure am tired.” And the world will keep turning.
Time passed and I got bigger, but not by all that much. I learned what the opposite of doubt was and to hold it close. My dog is blind now but he and I are both the same as back then in a lot of ways. I don’t let people push me around anymore. When I make something, I love it for what it is and I don’t let people change me unless I know where they’re coming from. Instances like Melanie have calloused me for better and for worse. I make my past-self jealous now. I love myself for what I am but also what I’m not. A walking contradiction, an egotistical woman who gets really fucking angry every now and then, an experience worth exhausting.