Monday, 1 August 2011

small joys and freckles

An eternity ago in early May, as a consequence of sunny lunch hours spent on the school lawn, I discovered a smattering of freckles high up on my cheekbone, near the thin blue skin beneath my right eye.

It was just a light dusting of them, an area I could cover with a few clustered fingertips. But there they were, improbable and exciting and new.

Blandly blonde, with a complexion the colour of skimmed milk, I have always longed for skin like a star chart. Back in playschool I had a friend with skin as pale as mine, but an explosion of rust-coloured dots scampering around her face. She was spectacular, with her polka dot eyelids and misty hairline, and I was desperate enough to paint clumsy circles onto my cheeks with a brown felt tip.

So there they were, my first true freckles, proudly pointed out to all of my friends. My mother, who nonchalantly sports freckled arms and shoulders every summer, calmly remarked that my pigment must have altered with age.

Freckles suggest days spent in the sun, a certain carefree je ne sais quoi. An entirely different attitude, a better life. Freckled people are infinitely more beautiful than the rest of us, it seems, a group somehow more adept at life.

Or so I thought, naive as I was.

Although my collection of freckles remains small (in addition to cheekbones and nose, a few flocks have settled onto the backs of my hands, my forearms and my knees), I have lost my delusions. There's always a gut-wrenching nostalgic sadness in watching childhood dreams flicker and die, and even more so when they were dreams of eventual happiness.

Because last spring, although sublime in many ways, almost convinced me of freckles being the shadows of tears. And along with the steady accumulation of the little brown dots, although this summer has proven to be better than many of the ones before, has come the realisation that no amount of freckles will result in happiness. (A silly notion of course, but a solid one.)

And still there's the small pang of joy every time I notice them, a fleeting glance into a mirror every morning, a jolt of energy in my veins. Small joys build up to happiness, after all, so maybe the constellations of my skin will eventually show me the way.

Drawing by the always wonderful Daniela HenrĂ­quez.

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