The Girl Who had Secrets.
January 17, 1994
Nisa was a girl who had secrets. She kept them in a little bag that she carried with her everywhere. She didn’t want anyone to know she had secrets, so she tried to hide the bag from everyone, and changed the subject if anyone noticed it and brought it up in conversation. She wanted to pretend that she didn’t have any secrets and no one understood that.
She tried leaving the bag at home one day. She left it on her dresser. But when she tried to leave the house she couldn’t leave, and had to go back to her room to get them. If she could only forget them that would be ok, but she couldn’t and so she had to carry them around with her all the time.
She wanted very much for there to be someone she could give the secrets to, but she didn’t trust anyone enough to do that. Lots of people asked her what was in the bag but she refused to tell them. She wanted them to look away and not care.
She examined her secrets sometimes. She would dump the bag out on her bed. But only when she was alone in her room with the door closed. She would take a good look at each one. If she stared long enough, she thought, she might be able to make them dissapear. Or at least seem not as important. But her secrets continued to exist.
Her bag seemed lighter one day and she couldn’t figure out why. She counted her secrets. Had she forgotten one somewhere? She didn’t think so. How many had been in there in the first place? She counted them several times. The number seemed right. And yet the bag seemed lighter. It was a mystery. The secrets inside didn’t seem any smaller.
Maybe if she didn’t think about them so much they would go away. She tried that. She read some books. She paid attention in class. She studied for tests and did very well in school. She was top of her class and she was happy. And now, sometimes when someone noticed her secrets and asked them what they were, she would tell them.
“They’re my secrets,” she’d say but she wouldn’t elaborate. And lots of people would roll their eyes at her when she wouldn’t tell them (because obviously, secrets aren’t for telling, and then knowing there are secrets only makes the people who don’t know the secret really really curious).
Some people would try to guess. But they would be wrong because all they guessed were things, like jewelry or playing cards, trying to think up things that would fit in such a size of bag. When what was actually in it was so much bigger that those things (and trust me, Nisa would not have kept jewelry a secret like that. Also trust me in saying that she would not carry around playing cards with her either!)
People didn’t seem to understand that secrets were meant for keeping, not for telling. No one else seemed to know that, though, and lots of kids in her class would play “secrets” and hold their hands up to each other’s ears, and whisper their darkest secrets. Nisa would never do this. Or if she did, she would make up something that sounded like a secret. In reality, that is what all the other kids did, too. (That was another secret.) What Nisa learned from this was that that things that you thought should be secrets weren’t really secrets at all — like if you were making things up that sounded like secrets but weren’t really secrets because you just made them up to make it sound like you had secrets. Having realized that she wondered about her own secrets that were real. They were only secrets because she didn’t talk about them. But just not talking about them didn’t make them secrets. Not talking about something just meant that you didn’t talk about it. Maybe it was boring, or maybe you forgot to talk about it. Having secrets was deeper than that. You didn’t talk about them because you couldn’t talk about them. And it wasn’t that you chose not to or just didn’t want to, it was because you really and honestly could not talk about them.
This was the case for Nisa’s secrets, anyway. And it was a definate step in the right direction when she was able to admit that she had secrets, even if she couldn’t talk about them.
“I have secrets, but I can’t talk about them,” she said to her friend one day. He didn’t really care about her secrets, her friend, and he hadn’t even asked about the little bag, but she had felt that he should know about it any way.
“Ok,” he replied, looking down at the ground. He looked down at the ground a lot. He didn’t
have a little bag but not many people did. Lots of people would leave their secrets at home and not worry about them. Nisa imagined that her friend had a box at home (on his dresser) where he kept his. There was an oriental dragon on his box coloured gold.
Nisa made a new friend one day, one who wasn’t the boy who looked at the ground all the time (he had been her friend for a long time). Her new friend was a girl. The girl didn’t look at the ground but niether did she look you straight in the eye. Other people might have found this uncomfortable but Nisa didn’t mind. This gave her permission to not trust the girl. Nisa wanted the girl to like her (maybe not trust her, but that was a whole other thing) because maybe she would understand why Nisa couldn’t talk about her secrets. She didn’t think this of many people. Most people asked her about her little bag as soon as they saw it, and then they wouldn’t shut up about it afterwards. The girl didn’t do this. If she saw the bag she didn’t say anything about it, like it was none of her business. And it wasn’t. Nisa found her self not having to carry the conversation away in another direction like she usually did. She could talk about other things, like her hopes and dreams. And the only time the girl rolled her eyes at Nisa was when Nisa had said something funny or sarcastic. And they were in on it together.
The girl was smart and Nisa liked that. They could talk about their school work together. Nisa introduced the girl to her old friend the boy as well and they seemed to get along ok. Neither of them talked very much to each other but that was just a coincidence. Nisa talked between the two of them and liked being able to interpret each of them to each other.
One day her little bag seemed so light it didn’t even seem to be there any more. This was on the day of a big test at school. Nisa thought she did pretty well. She had spent her lunch time studying with her friends. It was after school and she was twirling her bag around on her finger (it was really light now so she could do this). Only then it flew off and away down the crowded hallway. Nisa screamed and chased after it. She was sure she had seen it go in this direction but she couldn’t find it. She was horrified that someone might find it and open it and then tell all her secrets. This was her greatest fear. How could she have been so stupid to have been twirling it around on her finger. She walked up and down the hallway looking for it in every nook and cranny but she couldn’t find it. Her heart pounded with fear. Where could it have gone? Even when all the kids were gone and there was no one left it was no where to be seen. She walked all the hallways at school, checking to make sure that it hadn’t been kicked accidently somewhere. But it was no where. Someone must have found it. Her chest tightened.
Her chest felt tight for many months after that, worrying that her secrets were going to be revealed. Her marks fell because she couldn’t concentrate. She was sad and anxious all the time. Her friends, the boy and the girl tried to help, but they coudn’t do anything for her. She couldn’t look at anyone without thinking that they knew everything about her and was just waiting for the right time to tell her.
Then it was her birthday. She didn’t think much of it because she was so worried. She just wanted to survive the day and go home and go to bed. when she slept it was the only time of day when she didn’t worry.
At lunch time her friends found her and forced her to celebrate. They bought her chips from the cafeteria that were her favorite and gave her a present.
It was her little bag! She was incredibly angry when she saw it. “Why didn’t you tell me you had my bag? I looked everywhere for it and you had it this whole time?”
Her friends, the boy and the girl, looked confused, because of course Nisa had not told them that she had lost her bag of secrets. That, too had been a secret. The girl explained:
“When I found this bag I thought that it looked like yours but I knew it couldn’t be because I knew that yours was always full. When I found this one, it was empty.”
The boy continued. “We noticed that you hadn’t been carrying yours around with you lately and thought that maybe that’s why you were sad. So we filled this one up for you to carry around again. Only since we didn’t know what you used to have in yours we had to guess what you might like.”
Nisa cleared her eyes of her rage and opened up the little bag. It no longer had her secrets inside (and to be honest, the secrets she had carried around with her before were growing hazy in her mind). Now there was a tiny paper doll with her favorite outfits (the boy was an artist) and a tiny book of poetry (the girl knew that Nisa wanted to be a poet). And there were three gold coloured buttons because, well, who doesn’t like a little collection of shiney buttons.
Nisa lay these things out on the table and then put them back in the little bag. Then she took them out again. The boy and the girl smiled as Nisa played with her paper doll and arranged the gold buttons. She flipped through the little book of poetry but she would save the reading of it for later. She didn’t know if she would carry it around with her all the time now, like she used to, but she did know that she would tell anyone who asked what was inside it, and show them what her friends had done for her.