“You’re a one,” said Maria. Maria is my medium friend. She’s someone who has energies, spirits, and Source mojo on speed dial. Maria is strong, sassy, compassionate, but doesn’t take any mess. She’s the kind of person you want on your side when the Zombie apocalypse shakes down. Tarot cards, Angel readings, Akashic record readings, channeling dead folk (they hang with us on the regular in case you had any doubt) are all offerings on her buffet of medium abilities, and she seems to add new skills every time I see her.
Once I walked into her office and noticed a handful of metal spoons, twisted and bent, scattered on the table.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m moving energy,” she said the way you might say, “I have a dentist appointment on Thursday” or “pass the salt, please.”
“Wanna see?” she said. Trick question. She took a fork out of the box of silverware on the table and asked me to feel its heft and sturdiness. I palmed the fork and noted its mass. This was not cafeteria flatware made for origami. She held the fork lightly between her thumb and two fingers and closed her eyes for a minute. I stared at the fork waiting for it to glow or pulse. Maria opened her eyes and in one swift movement bent the fork back on itself and then folded over a few tines just for good measure. She handed it to me. It was as solid as when I had first picked it up.
“To remind you that anything and everything is possible.” She grinned. That screwball fork sits on my desk where I look at it every damn day.
I believe in a bigger architecture made of energy and love that’s not always fair or just, but hums along in some kind of harmony that most of our relatively small human brains will never be able to grasp. I believe in many paths, which is why it’s easy for me to believe in Maria’s gifts.
“Let me do your numerology,” she said over lunch one day. I know as much about numerology as I do about diamond mining, but I imagined it to be something like Feng Shui: just one more current in a stream of energies.
Maria’s voice lifted with surprise when she said “You’re a one,” which meant either her math was wrong or she was reckoning with her misjudgment, seeing me from a different angle, or both. In numerology, Maria explained, “ones” are the center-stage-taking sparklers, they are leaders, innovators, and forward thinkers. “Ones love the spotlight,” she said. “Ones just shine, shine, shine!” She sat back in the booth and resumed eating her salad. I laughed.
“So not me!” I said.
“Really?” she said. “But isn’t it, though? When you want to be? I’ve seen it.”
I sipped my ice tea and let her words rest on the table alongside her Tarot deck. I knew spotlight muggers; I spent enough time in theatre to pick out divas before they even opened their mouths, and they were always opening their mouths to loudly run lines from a King Lear monologue or not-so-surreptitiously trill a few bars from “Defying Gravity.” Sorry theatre folk, you know you’re guilty. I never counted myself in that club of people who craved all eyes on them, who spent more time in the middle of the circle then on the rim, who knew what it felt like to be effortlessly chosen.
And then I flash on an image of myself at eight years old. I’m standing on the porch of my grandparents’ summer cottage at the lake, dressed in the most ridiculous, ill-fitting pink silk dance costume. My stomach bulges against the satin, spandex. The tiny rolls of pink feathery fluff running around the edge of the legs sag like floppy caterpillars. I have nothing to put in the bodice. It puckers with the ghost of plump, developed skin. It doesn’t fit because it never belonged to me.
I spotted the dance costume at a yard sale. My mother and Nona loved to yardsale on Sundays, and I never missed a chance to tag along hoping for the reward of a new board game or gently mangled Barbie. The dance costume was beautiful and exotic and most importantly from that world that I ached to be a part of—dance, theatre, anything with a stage—that I begged my mother to buy it.
“What are you going to do with it?” she asked.
“Just, you know, wear it,” I said lamely. She sighed probably doing the math and figuring if she gave in, she would get off cheaply that day.
“How do you know it even fits?” she said, taking it off the wrack and holding it up against my unformed, lumpy eight-year-old frame. I shrugged. I would never be a lawyer; negotiations are not my jam. She relented and carried it over to a bored teenage girl sitting on a plastic lawn chair behind a folding table reading a book.
It was all I could do to keep from ducking behind a tree in the yard to put it on over my clothes.
“Why are you bringing that thing?” my mother asked a few weeks later when she saw me take the costume and put it next to the rest of the clothes to go into the blue garmet bag that was going with us to the lake for our annual summer vacation.
“I just want to,” I said.
“You’re going to get it dirty up there,” she said. I answered with the only kid logic I knew, “No I won’t.”
She shook her head slightly and muttered something under her breath before sweeping it up with the blouses and dress slacks.
The morning after we arrived, I told my grandparents I had something to show them. I disappeared into our neighboring cottage and wiggled into the costume, which seemed to have shrunk in the last two weeks. I skipped down the short, wooded path to the porch steps of their cabin and theatrically hopped up each stair. My grandmother gamely played along, laughing and clapping.
“Look at our very own dancer! A pose! A ballerina pose!” she cried. I jammed my heels together clumsily and bowed my legs the way I had seen dancers do on TV in The Nutcracker. My grandmother clapped louder. I twirled and bowed.
“Get the camera, darling,” my grandmother said to my grandfather. “Take a photo of our dancer.” My mother watched all of this from the bottom step, one foot on the stair and one arm slung over the railing, not really in or out of this play.
If lightening struck me dead on that sun spackled porch, I would have died pretty happy.
It seemed those moments had thinned out over the long road between then and more recently. What happened to the girl who stuffed herself into someone else’s dance costume without a hint of self-awareness, without a whiff of inhibition?
She dimmed her light.
She made herself small.
She fit herself into spaces instead of allowing herself to spill out of the cracks of everything and anything that tried to hold her.
She forgot she was a “one” because she was too busy trying to pour herself into an equation that would never add up.
She glimpses this essence imprinted on her like reptilian DNA, waiting for her to call it back into being. This core thing she knows to be true comes to her in flickers, it passes before her eyes the way trees and telephone poles skid by the window of a moving car. She sees it in a series of photographs tracking her expansion and contraction, a reverse birth of sorts, in snapshots like the one glued into an album somewhere of a little girl in a too small pink dance costume grinning and beaming brighter than the July sun.