The dress was off white,
a soft cotton fabric with turquoise polka dots.
When I wore it I felt like a doll,
delicate and dainty,
a porcelain twirling teacup.

For the first year it stayed hidden in my closet,
on summer days I would gently touch the hem
try it on in my room
feel uncomfortable and put it away again.

My skin wasn’t clear enough,
not tan enough,
my stomach wasn’t flat enough,
breasts weren’t big enough.

It was a dress for someone prettier than me,
more confident than me,
for a young women,
not a girl who was afraid to shop for new bras
for her new dress
alone.

As I packed for Florida for the second time
the dress lay on the bed,
still on the hanger,
tags attached.

We stared each other down.

I placed the hanger over my head,
the fabric draped over my shoulders.

I watched myself in the mirror,
picked out every flaw,
acne scarred shoulders and
stretch marked arms and
vein speckled legs,
thighs and bottom like
water stained wrinkled paper.

I folded the dress,
tucked it in a space bag,
buried it in my suitcase.

Our new apartment had a walk-in closet.

The dress was shoved to the back,
the way back
where the light didn’t reach.

One day,
a month or so later,
when it was 100 degrees and
the air was full of water,
we came face to face again as I pulled out a hanger,
and a strap was caught and
the dress fell limp onto the carpet.

I placed it on the closet door,
sat on the bed and
stared.

It had not changed at all,
aside from a few wrinkles.

I think I had though.

I’d started to see beyond
scars,
stretch marks,
and rippled skin.

I had someone lifting my chin up.
The sky is beautiful,
did you know?

The dress fit better
than when I first tried it on.

I felt like a princess,
with worn out flip flops,
pigtails and plastic jewelry.

We left the house that day,
my baby doll polka dotted dress and I,
me a little self-conscious,
both of us a little wrinkled.

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