I was wearing an orange dress, I had no clue why or how. I didn’t own a single item of clothing that was orange—nor did I ever plan to. I was in a ballroom. A stadium? No, a ballroom, a hotel ballroom. The same one I’d been to years ago when I had to go to some relative’s wedding. That was a strange day; I’d seen so many family members that I hadn’t seen in ages at that wedding. The music was so loud. I could feel judgmental eyes on me for staying at the table where the aunties sat instead of getting up and dancing with people my age. But the food was great that night, and it made up for the headache, the awkwardness, and the fact that I felt like a hostage to traditions the whole night. Meanwhile, this time there was no wedding. Instead, there were hundreds of people I knew and had met throughout my life. Most of the faces were blurry. I couldn’t tell if I was a blur to them too or not.
I wish I hadn’t worn an orange dress.
I spotted a group from my old school so I quickly spun away, and I raced to the nearest crowd I could disappear into. This new crowd included many people I’d almost forgotten, some of whom I’d been purposely trying to forget. I noted how one of the faces that weren’t too blurry was of a boy I’d met just once. Once, when my scrawny eight-year-old body was struggling to drag my tragedy of a backpack up the school stairs. I was already half an hour late that day—as I was every day—and the Sisyphean task wasn’t helping. He came along when I had made it halfway to the top and offered to carry it the rest of the way. I just looked at him and nodded, feeling mostly dumbfounded by the fact that a boy was being nice; back then, it was a very foreign feeling. Now, I found it sadly ironic that he would never know he’d managed to stay in my memory all these years, thanks to just these few minutes of air time. I wondered if I had that superpower, too. I stopped staring at him out of fear that he’d come to notice me.
I glanced around again.
Everyone was dancing. I was dizzy. I could see people from all the different stages of my past lives mixed up together. This wasn’t right. What if they all realized what had brought them together, what the only shared thing was, connecting all their paths? Even worse, what if they told each other about me, about all the different versions of me, the ones I no longer was or the ones I wished I could be again. I panicked at the thought and suddenly felt trapped—what if all of the little bits of me inside each and every one of these people came together right now and exposed who I was and who I was pretending to be. What if they all started questioning why I lied and why I’d led them to false hopes in me? I couldn’t bear the weight of that confrontation; I had to leave. I started looking around the large room for the nearest escape. There was none in sight. I wondered how nobody had noticed me since the start of the night.
Why was it that I could see them but they couldn’t see me? Was this some kind of twisted joke and, if so, how had it come about?
I was brought out of my trance when I locked eyes with someone, the only person there who I’d never seen before in my life.
He yelled from across the room and made his way toward me. Nobody seemed to have heard him yell my name; his voice was familiar, and I was trying to remember where I’d heard it before. He smiled, and suddenly I knew who it was. But how was he inside a different body? And how had I recognized him? More importantly, what made him so special that he was the only one able to recognize me?
He came and stood in front of me. He was much taller than I remembered him.
“I haven’t seen you in so long, you look beautiful. I like your dress, it’s my favorite color.” He laughed. He knew I hated this color.
“What happened to you?” I couldn’t stop staring at his now completely new, yet somehow still familiar face.
“Oh, this?” Nonchalantly, he gestured toward his face and body. “What do you think? I like this one more. I just feel more comfortable in it, you know?”
“This body, you mean?”
“Yeah, what do you think?” He repeated the question, more eagerly.
“I uh . . . I like it. You look amazing.”
He looked like he was about to cry. “Thank you,” he said in a quieter tone.
I hugged him and felt my previous worries fade away while, softly, he sobbed into my shoulder.