I am a little girl again, about five. I have blush on and my hair is curled. I have clear gloss on my lips and I think I am beautiful.

The class files out and takes position on the stage. The other kids are identical costumes, smiling. The air from the fans moves their hair. I come out last, my costume is different because I am the narrator and I have a lot of lines. I have told this to my parents and they are watching me from the audience, waiting for a Kodak moment. My little sister is with them, sucking her thumb and waiting. She loves me and would give me all her candy if I asked for it (and sometimes I do).

An introduction is played on the piano. I smile and say two of my lines. More piano. Then I have a lot more lines but a curly haired chubby little girl has already stared. The teacher signals me to let her go on, “skip it”, she says. My eyes have filled with tears.

The teacher signals me again, offering me a chance to say my last lines, but I can not remember them. I am blushing, flustered, speechless. She guides me offstage. My part is over. Behind the curtain she glares above me, in her dark suit that stops at mid-calf, stuffed into heels and smelling of lilacs.

“I didn’t get to finish”, I stammer. Her mouth purses, a tight little red pucker, and I can’t tell if she is upset or if it’s just to much rouge.

“You weren’t ready anyway”, she hisses.

When she is gone I slink up the back stairs and cry in the cloakroom in a pile of coats that smell like outdoors, kids’ coats. I curl up and suck my thumb.

When the play is over, I’m still alone. They have the reception in the gym, with its stripes and circles on the floor. Tonight they let us walk there in street shoes.

I go to find my parents and I see them leaving. I can’t make them hear me, can’t get them to stop and wait so I can explain. They are gone and I am frozen. I am little, with a pruney thumb. I am sniffling and hitching, trying to ask someone to help me get to the door, but nothing comes out of my mouth.