When I was 12, a folded up piece of paper was handed to me. I was standing in the middle of the tired, sun scorched school playground.
It was a sweltering summer’s day and everyone was seeking refuge under any spots of shade they could find.
The only activity going on at one end of the yard was a game of handball beside the old sports shed.
Children were taking every chance they could, to lazily sit or lay on the shaded, cold concrete squares every time the ball went over the fence, waiting while begrudgingly someone would finally give in and sigh, hunching their shoulders to go retreive it.
Closer to where I was standing, things seemed livelier. Sprinklers spraying cascades of water across the green patch of lawn; bursting like machine guns as they soaked screaming children running back and forth under them in absolute delight.
I was on the tips of my toes, about to join them.
The sticky sweat across my forehead, running down the backs of my legs.
Looking around for whatever teacher was on playground duty knowing I only had only a matter of seconds to make a run for it and reach cool, delicious nirvana before we were all scolded away by a short temper, hot and tired.
But then the letter was placed in my hand and that was that.
I remember vividly, standing there for quite a while, easing down on my tippy toes a little, deciding what to do next.
I knew it wasn’t a good letter.
I tugged at the draw string on my floppy school hat, pulling it tightly under my chin as I carefully and suspiciously watched the deliverer walk back across the bitumen as fast as they could, taking haven under a giant gum tree on the edge of the playground, the mixture of shade and distance shrouding their guilt, safely.
I took a deep breath in, inhaling all of the sunscreen, wet grass and bubble gum ice drop flavouring, thick in the air, mixed with the heat closing in.
I planted my feet back on the ground, as I placed the folded square paper in my pocket. I ran my fingers over the edges of it, as I moved away from view of 6 sets of eyes huddled in a group, with the deliverer, under the tree.
Eyes staring under a tree. Huddled and waiting.
I found a spot on the other side of the classroom away from the trees. The first thing I remember is how perfectly neat the handwriting was.
One little flower, drawn in the corner, to possibly delay the blow that was about to hit.
One little flower, 4 little sides, 6 little stares.
The context of the letter soon became apparent to me and the dread soon became a burning lump in my throat.
The writer and postman of the letter that was sealing my fate that day, my best friend - in childhood terms a long friendship. Elastics, slumber parties, redskins and secret hiding spots.
We had been completely inseparable up until that very day, so as the words started to blend into mush as tears filled my eyes, air knocked from me completely.
I was being advised that we were no longer friends. Shinier, cooler girls had come knocking…there was an opening in the bossy cliché and only one spot being offered.
Out with the old and in with the new.
I folded the note back up and tried to stop the tears by lifting my heavy, hot head up to the sky for a while wanting to scratch and push the tree and the eyes and the flower away from me.
I realised for the first time ever I had no plan and things were not at all in my control.
And life could be cruel
That was the moment.
The one I still think of to this day. The moment I looked inside and started to take my first dip into a sea of worthlessness. With a strong, loud voice booming like huge marching band symbols in my head over and over.
What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I good enough? Why was I not. worth. it?
Why are people mean and yucky and shitty and then wrote letters and drew pictures of flowers.
Rejection is what I think it’s called. Something I had not ever experienced in my little life on such a scale. Impact lasting longer than it probably should have.
The self-doubt, inner voice and worthlessness all grew with me over the years.
People poking me in the back with their ray guns of rejection 'pew', 'pew'.
It all came along for the whole ride, as I moved on from skates and bubble skirts to bras and doc martens and then heels and casual connections - trying so hard to feel worthy and looking in all the wrong places.
I became bendy. Malleable – shaping myself to please others always looking for approval and always looking to fit in. A people pleasing pretzel looking to find my happiness and contentment in others.
I met people with humour because it was the armour I put on before they saw the sweaty little lump of clay with a hat string pulled under her chin wanting so desperately to be chosen, by anyone. To be worthy.
Luckily I stopped bending long ago.
That was that.
No blame is given to the quiet, small deliverer of the note with the 4 sides.
I am sure she was flying high on the golden warm feeling of being wanted.
I am sure she completely forgets this moment in time ever occurred.
I imagine it feels like that moment pretty girls have, as they walk slowly down a grand stair case in slow motion with everyone gasping and ahhing, as she moved further away from me the old, to the new.
She probably even had listed reasons in a book why she did not want to be my friend anymore - lots of crosses and scribbles but there a list was drafted.
So I sat there icky and sticky, with my 1 little flower, 4 sides and 6 stares – the tears stinging my eyes as sunscreen soaked into them. Not wanting to move forward and not wanting to move back.
I would love to tell you I had a burst of backbone and went marching up to the shade of the gum tree, but I didn't.
Eventually the bell rang forcing me to move on, the sun indolently sinking into the trees, my eyes drying off before I made the decision to look over at the sprinklers on the edge of the field and smile.
Running full pelt through the tantalisingly good sprinkler had to be done, imagine if a piece of paper had of put a stop to that.
I kind of wish now whenever someone comes along to deliver something that I don’t want, or makes me feel like I am not worth choosing; a big giant sprinkler shows up for me to run through giggling.
Or the other option is I could just not really give a shit at all.
Emma Kate xoxo