Boyhood was a confusing time. So many rules, unspoken until I transgressed them. Look at your fingernails like this, not like this. Stand like this, not like this. Talk, sit, play like this. For boys there was stickball, kickball, dodgeball. But I looked wistfully at the girls who had jacks, jump rope, hopscotch, and Miss Mary Mack (Mack, Mack), all dressed in black (black, black).

Coward that I was, I changed my favorite color from lavender to blue. (Girls like these colors, boys like these.) Oh, I’ll betray myself so as not to get caught. The deepest undercover agent, deeper than Mata Hari. I intercepted dispatches from the world of boys, decoded them alone through painful trial and error, as I’d not been given the secret decoder ring. 

Trapped in enemy territory, waiting to get picked for stickball, kickball, dodgeball. Maybe this time I wouldn’t be picked at all. Maybe this time I would bolt, run away, run until I faltered and stumbled in a field of weeds and wildflowers and broken cinder blocks, and lay panting in the itchy grass, shins scraped and bleeding.

Until a hand taps my shoulder and I look up. A girl in a summer dress of periwinkle blue leans over me, her dark eyebrows furrowed in calm concern. Wordlessly she reaches a warm hand to mine and helps me to my feet, beckons to follow her.

There amongst weeds and wildflowers grown higher than my head–there, hidden from plain sight in this vacant lot amid burnt-out buildings, I join a troop of secret girls, accepted without question as one of their own.

And so it was. And so it was not to be.

As I drifted into adolescence, I spent so much time alone in my room that my ears rang with the silence. Or else I listened obsessively to Édith Piaf records. The scratchy distance of those recordings. At night, the sheets became the arena in which I strove against myself. I masturbated angrily to thoughts of self-oblivion. In the desk drawer a pint of vodka, an X-ACTO knife. At 15 I felt old, betrayed by my body as it moved swiftly beyond any hope of girlhood. No way back, no way forward. 

But time is linear only for clocks. 

Now, sitting cross-legged on the bed, I can look down at myself and see my thighs, my pubic hair, my rounded stomach, my breasts.

And I think: So here I am.

Leave a Reply