freedom, story, women

Pretending

She didn’t know why she had never tried it before. Over the years, she could think back to plenty of times when it could of happened. Remembering herself from a previous era, she was quite surprised, actually, that it was only now that she had ended up in this moment. 

Fingers down her calf, meeting the crisp edge of her high heel. It tickled the bare arch where her foot was hidden. Just enough of her finger inside to slide a shoe off her heel.

Twenty years since she had even thought about it. Twenty years was a lifetime ago. Another girl, not afraid of a little risk, but maybe not aware of danger, as she had come to learn later in life. A pause, a freeze. What did she even do for that long? It made her sad to recount all the minutes and moments she couldn’t remember. 

Thin feather stockings squeezing numbing her pale thighs. She reached up under her skirt, and with every inch of exposure, pulling them down to the ankle, her skin shivered the warm breath of the bedroom. Like bath water rushing over bound up nerves, her body released a long forgotten exhale.

The tightly wrapped clothes that held her for so long, tonight felt like a prison issued jumpsuit. Everyday the same shoes, hose, skirt, blouse. Properly decorated to line the shadows. And she didn’t mind then. It was what good girls do. Wear the uniform. Play the game. Don’t ask too many questions. Just pretend.

And to be as honest as she could allow herself to be, she always knew that she was pretending. For so long. Following the dress code. Closed toed shoes, high necked collar, choking on monotony. And it simply came down to the admission that she was just too scared to do anything else. 

Pressure in her throat, she quickly felt for the top button of her blouse. Smooth tiny button, wrenched into a tinier buttonhole, strangling fabric just below her chin. She desperately clawed at that button to come undone. So she could breathe. Lapels folded open and that deep rush of other overtook her once again.

Every undone button, every piece of cloth that was peeled from her aching body, it was melting away. The must do. The bondage. The false. They were the smelly rags on her bedroom floor. Not really much different from the wretched mess that she was, laying naked on the bed. Now. Uncovered. Unafraid. Not pretending.

She lay there. Finally. And could rest. Although it was a strange sort of comfort. Because nothing had really changed. At all. But finally, tonight, for whatever reason, she was brave enough to take off her perpetually pretty costume. And just stop the pretending.

It certainly didn’t solve any grand problems in her life. Her boyfriend would still be an ass in the morning.  She would still have to deal with the unfinished business at work. Her allergy to shellfish would still keep her from enjoying lunch at the food truck everyone else raves about. But she started to wonder about a freedom that she never understood, while she had been pretending.

The uniform protected her, that is true. From seeing how bad it really was. Pretending that she was happy when enormously disappointed with life. Pretending that she was good, while ashamed of the past and present. Pretending that she had the answers, when she was stumbling and grasping for the last thread. Pretending that just the right faces and places would balance it all out.

Sick, sad, sorry, and yet calm. Pretending didn’t change anything, it just hid her well, almost too well. What if there was someone who saw her, not pretending. What if someone wouldn’t be disgusted to find who she was? Imagine if she acted like she was tired of the hide-and-seek games.  Should anyone associate with something so messy? So free to realize she had nothing to give. So free to believe she had nothing to lose. Yet, she thought that may turn out to be a lonely dangerous road, so boldly not pretending.

“So the woman left her water jar and went away into town…”

After a few secret moments, she woke up from these wishful childhood dreams. It will all go along easier, if she can stand pretending.

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