Dress Memory7

Red Riding Hood cape

When I discovered this dress I was too old to wear it properly. Too small, it was made for a child. Lost for too long in one of Mum’s Narnian wardrobes, but made of the most perfect crimson velvet. I had to find a way to wear it.

My mother, a seamstress, a hunter. Sliced it down the middle like she was splitting open the belly of a wolf. The little girl slid out of it. Along with some guts.

Girls taught to always be modest, even when attacking and defending each other. Netball briefs, a ludicrous concept. They’re just undies worn over other undies.

The stage and the page, the two places I feel most exposed. Keep returning. Don’t know why.

Girl bands. Not a boy band like Robin Hood’s; Red Riding Hoods in dark woods. The guitar worn across your body like a sword. With two or more of you on stage you make an instant escutcheon. A shield, but to others you look like a target. Little robin red breast. A bulls-eye, an Amazon.

Slide your guitar behind your back so it sits like a quiver and take hold of the microphone. Aim, shoot, shout.

Gold stripes bordering the cape. Something military and avian about the sleeves, something bashful. Think they might like to sprout epaulettes or feathers sometime soon. Stale sweat under the arms like inky tattoos, marking 2004, 2005, 2006, when every other band called themselves wolf or bear.

In the beginning it was Gill, Hannah, Chimere and I. Started out not knowing how to play our instruments, ended almost three years later not knowing how to play our instruments better than we did at the start.

The wolves and bears always over in the clearing, watching. Snarling and sneering.

Our heels like banshee hammers, putting our foot down again and again. The tambourine a jangly woodpecker on the stage, tapping, splintering its way through the woods. The path is there, always has been. Though they keep covering it up.

You wake up and realise most of it was just a game. The ridiculous old-fashioned cheer they make you do. For sportsmanship. HIP! HIP! HIP! RA! RA! RA! The girls all chums again, all charming.

A competition you didn’t sign up for. Girls and boys still being told different fairytales. Exhausting, wondering why.

Learning at last not give a shit when you play really badly.

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Image by Lee Sandwith © 2011