Remember when you first learned that there was no word in the English language that rhymed with orange? Remember when you learned about onomatopoeia and thought it was cool? Remember your first journal? Mine a green faux leather thing with a tiny gold key. A 5th grade entry, Today I asked Carrie Shell what love is. Do you think Carrie Shell remembers I asked her that? Do you think she finally knows what love is after a couple of divorces or a stint as a call girl or reading Eat Pray Love?
Did you have stationery with Peanuts cartoons or daisies or smiley faces? Did you have a big fat pen you could click on to get a different color ballpoint? Did you have a fountain pen that made a bump on your middle finger and turned it blue? Did you wander around your school library and take out books no one else was reading? Did you secretly write in the back of your math spiral notebook dramatically describing the wind, a failed friendship, an unrequited crush, your sense of not belonging?
In third grade we had the following writing assignment: If you could be anything in the world what would it be? I think most kids said ballerina, astronaut, teacher, mother, circus performer, fire fighter, movie star, or doctor. I said, a bathtub. I wrote about using the water to cool myself off in the summer and warm myself up in the winter. I wrote about bubbles and being relaxed–I was certain it would be a darn good life. After I got it back with an A+ and a shiny blue star, teachers that were not my teacher stopped me in the hallway and said something about it. And I thought–wow, they talk to each other. And then I thought, holy cow, they liked it–they saw something in it that stood out, that made them smile or gave them pause or at the very least caused them to take the time to say something to me. It was the first time I felt noticed, in almost a secretive way. And I kept that attention a secret. I stored it up for times I desperately needed it. I brought it out when I thought I was ugly or a loser or a dweeb doomed to never have a boyfriend. I cherished it.
And so that hazy sense of who I was, a writer, followed me around through the years like an imaginary friend. I think I danced with her and fought with her and took her in and out of the closet so many times she has a very confused identity. But she’s a persistent bugger. She’s leaning over my shoulder right now saying, I told you so.