2018. Your history class learns about the Stonewall Riots. Pretend you’ve never heard of the event. Ask enough questions to show you’ve never done private research on the subject, but not enough to make someone think you’d want to. Someone will tell you that the allies always turn out queer. Having known, for years now, you will blush defiantly at any mention of that. You will remove the rainbow pin from your messenger bag.
Start to listen to music that would make others want to share headphones with you. Make Fiona Apple the background track to your high school career. Wonder what it must be like to bite into her last name. Does the juice drip down your chin? Imagine her lips taste like a Granny Smith apple and the phantom tartness will make you pucker your lips.
2017. Fall in love with the white chocolate velvet of the word “and.” The letter “n” melts like custard on your tongue. Go to summer camp and meet a girl from Pakistan with a smile like a chipped tea cup. Go back home and describe it to your friend who will say that if “you love her so much you should marry her.” Laugh and talk about the boy in the blue Nike T-shirt whom you say you want to kiss.
Decide you don’t need labels. You’re like a Tupperware container; your contents are clearly visible. Everyone knows you’re last Thursday’s dinner. Pretend to be an open book and stop hoping someone finds your diary.
2016. In chemistry, learn about polar opposites. Let the knowledge damn near rip you in half. Remember the word bipolar and know that you may at least be caught between two nameable extremes. Listen to the Original Broadway Cast Album of “Next To Normal” and try to locate how many miles away from “normal” you are.
Your body is yours, but it doesn’t feel like you’re its owner. Wonder how many other girls can’t figure out whether That Feeling comes from the woman or the man sharing a TV kiss. Decide that either reason would be okay, but the idea of both would damn near rip you in half. Ask your friends about their crushes so that you can designate yours.
2015. Fall in love with the word “but.” Start taking French and frown at the softness of their word for “but”—mais. Your teacher starts with the grammar rules that don’t have exceptions. “You’re beginners,” she will tell you. Gag at the idea that there are some rules that can’t be bent. Learn to accept it and grow enamored of naming things.
Write a story about a twin you never had. Your twin wears dark eyeliner and combat boots. She likes picking her cuticles sadistically until they’re not red, but purple. Try to summon her in a seance. Leave the story untitled by accident.
2014. Stop getting your period. Name your future children. Soleil. Kochava. Rivaya Eylah. Emily Rose.
Your English class talks about suicide as an act of self-love.
2013. Fall in love with anomia. You’re so used to having the words to describe things that it’s uncommonly relieving to stop naming what you see. When you learn the word for the inability to name things, cry deep and long. Decide to tuck your books into bed next to you. It’s not sad if it’s a choice.
Forget to send your best friend a letter for her bat mitzvah after her dad dies. In the note, write that she’s the most outstanding person you’ve ever met. Pretend you believe in God and write that her dad is proud of her from up in heaven. Write that you couldn’t have survived the last nine years without her. Ask your dad to make you pancakes for dinner and don’t eat them. Remember the taste of your best friend’s thumb against your chapped lips.
Write a poem about secrets that rhymes.
2012. Get your period for the first time. Ask your dad to buy tampons even though your mom is home. Tell him you like the kind that he got even though they sting and you don’t know how to use them. Tell all your friends about your initiation into womanhood and end friendships when they spread the word.
2011. Keep a diary and always hope somebody finds it. Always use first and last names so that the person who does find it will know exactly who’s responsible for the way you turned out.
2010. Play games with your best friend where you take turns being the boyfriend and pretend to make out with each other by covering your mouths with your thumbs. It looks so real that it almost feels real. Lock the door and pretend it’s because you’re playing a game that involves costume changes. On playdates with other people, look at her and look away so you don’t seem overeager. Secretly hope that the other friends leave so you can play your game.
2009. Become obsessed with telling time. When your dad tells you it’s 7:40 and you learn that it’s 7:39, hang your head and march upstairs. Slam the door to honor the sinking feeling in your chest.
2008. Start believing in premonitions. Intuit that your mom’s friend will bring her an Obama T-shirt spelled out in Hebrew letters. When she opens her gift and finds exactly what you suspected, remind your parents that you knew it all along. When they accuse you of peeking, blush defiantly. Sit at the grown-ups table and sulk. Your mom’s friend teaches at Columbia and her wife teaches at Barnard. Pretend you aren’t listening when they whisper sweetly to each other.
Tell your mom you need to go shopping and buy only pink things that sparkle. Match skirts with tops and lay planned outfits on the rug by your bed so you don’t have to think about what you’re wearing before you put it on.
2007. Discover your ability to hear the basement from the attic and practice naming the things you hear. When you hear nothing but dishes clattering, call that love.
Perk up whenever you hear your own name. Learn to recognize it anywhere. Answer to it even when there are others who share it in the same room. Attach stick-on labels to all of your clothes and feel what it means to own something.
2006. Learn to read your first chapter book about twins and a magic treehouse. Pretend you look like the protagonist. Remind yourself that you just want to look like her, you don’t want to be with her.
Let your grandmother buy you a dress. Relish being her Beautiful Girl. Ask her for her lipstick and let her brush your hair.
Greet your new baby cousin by trying to hug her, but knock her over instead. Hope that you didn’t mean it and apologize.
2005. Fall in love with bedtime stories. Don’t let them transport you, but let them help you name what it is you’re seeing. Let their neat endings tuck you in at night. Get used to the smell of your mom’s perfume and the way your dad’s voice drops off while he’s fighting off sleep to give you the proper good night. Wonder what other people’s dads sound like when they’re tired.
Dream about a bedtime story that never ends.
2004. Maxwell from your “Music Together” class kisses you on the lips. You don’t remember feeling it despite the photographic evidence.
2003. Learn to talk. Let your first word be “me.” Your mother will hear it as “ma.”
2002. Measure your success in how many smiles you can conjure just by clapping your hands. The smiles will seem to you like ghosts.
Experience a world as bright as a freezer or a hospital room. Learn to recognize smells and tastes. Curl your tongue in a tremendous effort to form words. Your mother will see her own curled tongue and feel secure in the fact that you are hers.
2001. Let the doctor wrap you in a pink blanket. Scratch the hospital bracelet the nurse tightened around your wrist. Don’t tug at the label that fits and brace yourself for the ones that won’t.
This piece was originally published on Hypernova Lit.
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