My Child Self

By Kayli Harley, TIWP Student

It’s that feeling again. The one that shakes my bones, quivers my lip, and weighs my heart heavier in my chest. My breath is quicker, my hands tremble, my body aches. I stare at the mirror and look into my eyes. They are so familiar in their pain, glossed over and blurry. They transform into fear.

“What are you doing?” a young voice says, a voice I recognize, a voice I miss desperately.

I turn and there she is, with her short brown hair and crooked teeth in her bright smile. She’s staring at me with the same big, beautiful brown eyes I was searching for in the mirror just moments ago—except hers are innocent. They do not know the pain that mine do. They are still filled with wonder and love.

I drop to my knees in front of her, and stroke my fingers across the smooth skin of her face. Is this real? I pull her into my trembling arms and apologize profusely. I run my fingers through her hair because she is real, she is here. My heart warms, then it breaks with reality.

“Why are you sorry?” worry stains her voice.

Hot tears are streaming down my face, a sensation I know well. A desire fills me, a desire to hear her laugh. I stained her laugh with knowledge, with doubt, with fear. I tickle her, the only weakness she should ever have, the only weakness I wish I had. Her joyous laugh fills my heart to the brim with happiness. I missed this sound. I never realized before this moment how much I needed to remember it.

“You never answered my question,” she says, still smiling. “Why are you sorry?”

I pull away but I cannot meet her eyes. How do I tell her that I changed her? That I ruined her? That I took her innocence away before I should have? How do I tell her that the broken pieces of the person before her is her future? That there is pain she has yet to feel?

“Because I killed you, I ruined you,” I whisper.

I feel her small finger rest on my chest where my heart is, “But I’m still here,” she says.

I feel tears glide down my skin, eroding me away.

“There is nothing good left in there,” I reply.

I’m just a shell of her that does not fit anymore. All I wish I could do is regain that parts of her I lost these past years.

“Look up,” she nudges my chin. I slowly raise my head, breathing for the first time in what seems like years.

“I’m here” she says, meeting my eyes.

She takes my arm in her small, soft hands, and traces the veins of my skin with her finger, “See, you are, too.”

I feel myself smile ever so slightly, realizing that that has changed, too.

“Don’t waste the future thinking about the past, there is reason for your growth.”

Then, she is gone.

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