When I was a little girl, there were a few particular instances that let me know I was a bit of an outsider. We all have them, of course, For me, tonight, I’m thinking
When you’re a young one, and you miss the universal fashion note that your sweatsuit, perfectly fine one summer before, was now embarrassingly gauche, and you hear yourself being made fun of, I wonder why that felt so painful. It seems laughable that I can think about the encounter more than twenty years on and still feel taut and wounded and defensive. I know I ran off after overhearing this on the playground and I knew something had changed. There was a knowing that existed that I did not have access to. A grapevine I had fallen off of and raisin-ed below in the suburban sun. I wish I had drawn on the moxie I would spend decades cultivating a tiny, artisanal crop of, but I did not ever confront these pre-teen jerks and I do not wonder that it was this way.
You can’t introduce yourself or offer a clever, genial self-description that includes the phrases: enjoys talking to flowers, creating infomercials for for invisible audiences or Reading Rainbow-ing to the same. I knew that much, especially after that day. Especially after the day, a bit later, that another girl, horse-faced and forgettable, asked me why I was the way I was.
I didn’t know how people were taking me, but every experience seemed to indicate that if they were taking me at all, it was as a writer. This Harriet the Spy figure, with a notebook and a disparaging eye. No breasts, no body, and worst of all, not even the actual words that are a writer’s stock and trade. I may have been projecting on them. I may have not known how to reach inside their worlds, but I knew there was a distance that had to be crossed if I were to do it. Entreaties were small, fumbling, and largely, failures. I have shut down in the face of the smallest things and life has run like water around a stone.
Aloneness is not weakness or bravery. It just is. It is a state of self that exists in me regardless of how many people I share a room or a drink with. It exists in me even when I share and recognize it in others. Even beyond logic. I often crave it even as I’m experiencing it.
Tonight I am thinking. I am choosing to think, to feel, to dredge and troll the old waterways and draw up the worst. A Saturday night special. It is better though than refusing to let any of this touch me. Perhaps it’s the fact that I finally got my next therapy appointment booked for a couple of weeks out. I am getting the bigger ideas, I am hurting the bigger hurts, questioning the bigger assumptions.
What scares me is as easily as I chose that I can choose something else.