It was the very last day in February and it was warm. Unusually warm.
During my lunch I ran up to the outdoor mall to scope out a rumor I’d heard about a shirt on sale at a store I rarely shopped in. Sure enough, the shirt was exactly what I wanted, half off the sale price making it affordable. Hoping to keep my shopping luck alive I scanned some dresses.
And then I saw it. A red dress. About 1/4th of the original price. I picked it up and glanced at the size. A size 6. Way smaller than anything I had put on my body since approximately the 5th grade. But I stared at it and thought, what the heck.
I stood in the dressing room, with the dress zipped and twirled around.
To be sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, I took a picture to text to my friends, giggling the entire time. My jeans wrapped around my ankles, pale winter legs, a large pink bandage from my day before skin surgery, and messy hair thrown into a ponytail all put inside a tiny red dress.
its a 6 i texted and $20.
The responses I got were crazy jealous and encouraging. So I bought the dress.
I stepped outside the store and headed back to the car. I remember the feeling of the sunshine on my face so vividly its like I could be there now. I remember the moment because that was the day after I had met him. I remember hoping for future nights of dancing and date nights and conversations and laughter and dreams when I was wearing that little red dress. I remember hoping for love.
I kept that dress in my closet for months waiting for the right occasion to bring it out. I never found the perfect night to wear it. So it stayed on the hanger, tucked in between practical and glamorous. Waiting to be worn but never screaming at me to choose it.
The other day my eyes wandered to that dress. I pulled it out and scrutinized from top to bottom. Wondering what to do. Usually in the morning I’m rushing and grabbing and pulling and hopping on one leg and searching for a missing shoe so I pay little attention to what is in my closet. But because I had never worn it, I didn’t have any real memories to tie it to. It was a dress I put hopes and dreams into but in the end the reality turned out very different. But that dress never entered reality.
The tags still hanging off the side, I pulled it back over my frame, this time without the bandage or jeans around my ankles but still with a messy ponytail. I walked into the hallway to assess if it was worth keeping and in the background I heard a love song come on my iTunes.
Typically this would result in a frantic rush to change the song and blast angry Taylor Swift lyrics but this time I let it play out listening to the words with different ears. Ears that had heard whispers of love and whispers of heartbreak. I heard the ache and the longing. I heard the risk and the fear. I heard that love was worth it.
After a bit, I slowly unzipped the dress, hung it up in my closet, and climbed back into my familiar clothes. The clothes that have carried me through the last 7 months. The clothes that have soaked up tears and echoed with laughter. The clothes that have felt the distance of loneliness and the warmth of being held. The clothes that have made the long journey with me.
But something in me shifted when I put that dress back on.
I started to listen to love songs again.
I started to hope for dancing and laughter and dates and dreams.
I started to believe in love again.
All because I put on a red dress.