Once, you were a newborn: the swell and fall of your chest dictating the quality of someone else’s life, your tiny new fingers turning everything they touched to gold. You needed help doing just about everything, drinking and burping and sleeping, that’s who you used to be. Once, all you had to do to make someone’s day was open your eyes.
Memorizing the lyrics to a song used to be an accomplishment, just like writing your name without inversing any of the letters. Tying a shoe. Walking three steps. Reciting the alphabet. You used to be someone whose every action was worthy of photographic documentation, whose shoes were worthy of being bronzed and displayed on a mantle in a home like a Master’s degree, like a wedding portrait.
You used to believe. You believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, both of whom would slip into your home in the middle of the night and leave behind gifts you now know you didn’t deserve. You used to believe in god, or something, someone you’d talk to and beg for things like toys or for your parents to stay together, you used to beg for forgiveness. You used to believe in all of those things; you used to believe in love.
Who you used to be is someone who was fascinated by and terrified of animals, someone who has broken the tail off of a lizard, someone who recoiled their hand from an angry dog’s mouth, someone who marveled at the pastel intestines of a frog. You were someone who played too hard, who touched without consideration for other living things, someone who could get away with that. You used to sit on animals, hug them, hit them when they scratched you; you used to think they were the only ones who understood you.
Who you were was someone who asked questions, who wanted to know the science behind rainbows and why your eyes are brown instead of blue. You used to ask are we there yet and then shift your focus to the mechanics of the car transporting you, how the wheels turned and why the windows fogged, how it could take you from one place to another. Who you were was someone who questioned the way things work.
You used to lie, you used to lie about stealing five dollars from your mother’s purse and about the really Important and Meaningful family heirloom you broke, you used to lie about homework and grades and it was always someone else’s fault. You used to lie when you got hurt doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing and you lied about hitting your little sister, about taking a bath, about finishing dinner or your summer reading.
But never once did you lie about how you felt. You just didn’t know how. You didn’t know how to look someone in the eye and say I Don’t Love You even though you did, you didn’t know how to mask grief or shock or fear. You used to get red in the face with anger and you used to ugly cry for an audience, you used to laugh uncontrollably and you used to throw your arms around someone’s neck and never once feel like apologizing for it and of all the things that used to be, this is what you miss most.