Sometimes the memory is of a memory.
This is a dress I’ve only worn twice. I bought it when I lived in Victoria because it reminded me of Queensland.
We grew up on a strawberry farm, running around the paddock, crazy, loco. Shot at each other with banana pistols, smothered mashed-up avocado on our faces for our complexion. My sister stuck two oranges down her bikini top and we cackled with laughter all afternoon.
Our parents got us three-day passes to Expo 88, Australia’s bicentennial celebrations in Brisbane. Everyone seemed to dress in bright patterns back then, chaotic combinations with colours like nervous tics spasming in different directions.
This dress reminds me of that. So many mornings I’ve tried to wear it but I always get changed out of it again because it never feels right. I feel uncomfortable and over-the-top in it which is just so weird because there are a billion other outfits more outré than this. But somehow the weight of the fabric seems to drag me down; I struggle to hold myself up in it.
Always that familiar swing back and forth between confidence and insecurity like a metronome. Tick. Tick. Wanting to stand out but wanting to hide. Trying not to admit that really you just want to (tick) be liked.
The first time I wore this dress was five years ago. I was meeting some new friends at a trivia night in a pub. The dress was also new to me then and I thought if they can like me in this, they can like me in anything.
(You don’t notice how much the ticks come to matter, how they end up digging in, how they make you swell up and itch. Over time, how they make you sick. Facebook, clique of clicks, trains you like a pup and now you’re concentrating so hard on the tick you forget about the tock.)
The last time I wore it was out to dinner with an old, good friend. I was feeling bold, a little troppo, and out of nowhere I asked him to come home with me. We had never, ever had that sort of discussion before and he was shocked, embarrassed. He could only stammer bashfully. Oh no, he said kindly. Sorry. No.
Rejection is such a strong punch. The acid feeling swirling in your stomach like you’ve eaten too much fruit. Of course, we laugh about it now.
On the farm we had to regularly check our border collie for ticks, and those warm, grateful kisses he licked our faces with when we plucked one from under his skin was all the love we thought we could ever need.