Looking at myself through tin-foil mirrors
Who am I when no one is watching?
I’M STILL LOOKING FOR SURENESS IN THE WAY I SAY MY NAME.
You like: history, Anthony Bourdain, Arizona Sweet Tea, and your pet cat, Roxie.
You are: overalls, short, blunt hair, a double chin, and sunburn across your stomach and cheeks.
I am interested in English literature and the way societal standards are developed and the time it takes for them to be considered a new “norm”. I often wonder what parts of my body are most palatable to people online who want to shape me into nine square pictures they find on the Pinterest app. Sometimes I find myself not smiling on purpose whenever I am in front of crowds. I get very excited around new people but I don’t really understand anything about how to get them to stick around. I often wonder what this says about me. Whenever I was fifteen years old I did not think anyone would ever love me. Whenever I was seventeen years old I did not think anyone would ever love me again. I am seventeen years old and sixth months and I think my whole life is about to end.
I wouldn’t necessarily say I peaked in middle school but given the friendships I had with the girls I had grown up with it kind of feels like it. Whenever you really, truly begin to understand the way your body works and the way your mind is set up and how that fucks with everyone you know and formally first loved it kind of sets you in stone there. I feel frozen at a birthday party. I’m about to enter my senior year of high school and all I have to show for it is codependency on my history teacher. I find myself looking back on these memories but I never get to pinpoint what the feeling is whenever I look at them. I think of it as punishment sometimes and I think I let the nostalgia get to me other times. It’s easier to fall back on something that once was than create the newer things you should probably be working on. I think really I’m just yearning for a time in which nobody told me to do everything at once because I’ve never had to deal with anything moving this fast. Growing up means abandoning the rotting shell of the animal you once were, the part of the person that didn’t exist yet but instead roamed. I don’t think I’m ready to purchase expensive items in the name of building myself as a certain type of person or gluing the pages down to start a new chapter whenever really all I want to do is rip up the last one and go build a blanket fort on the one before it. There is no prototype and the body of the person you need to try the skin on for doesn’t exist. You didn’t kill her, and neither did they, but she’s just not ready yet.
I have spent what I consider my entire life alone. I never really think about what I did in my past life to have this one but I think it must have been very bad. I don’t mourn for myself or the lives I’ve had and haven’t had and the one I am going through right now, even though it would probably release tension in my shoulders and back. The harsh reality is you wake up alone and you eat alone. You delete your social media apps under the guise you are eradicating yourself from the mindset and series of toxic mishaps placed onto you by a world that is ruled by technology whenever, in reality, you can’t get enough of seeing what you once held in your hands. I don’t think I took it for granted but I do think that seeing myself under a million different lights has bet on me over and over and eventually run me dry. The light hurts my eyes and I can’t help but ask myself Will I ever laugh like that again? I don’t know where that shirt went. I bought a Romeo + Juliet one in the seventh grade and a friend of mine always tells me she remembers the first time I wore it. I wish she didn’t and I wish I did. I didn’t know who I was then. I’d never seen the movie until my freshman year.
I didn’t know who I was when I was fourteen and I don’t know who I am now. I know that she was right, and her style was a little funky and the women she was into were questionable, and her therapist in eighth grade kind of sucked really bad. I see these girls I knew from so long ago and I think about how I would like to knock on their doors and tell them I have their Christmas gifts from the last four years. Graduation won’t be too bad because I have you guys beside me. Sometimes we cross paths in the hallway or in the grocery store and I forget your middle name. The calendar birthdays are never deleted though. I will get a notification every year and send ghostly-cold kisses your way from my childhood bedroom. Girlhood will haunt me forever. I carry my body like a scrapbook. Pages have been torn out and some have been glued down to others to protect from opening and others have a meaning so large I tore out the memento and stuck it on the cover. The Romeo + Juliet shirt has holes in the belly, the armpits, and the neckline. When I was fourteen I considered cropping it. I also considered getting bangs. I got the bangs but the shirt stayed the same and maybe that’s why it’s always brought up. People miss what they once I had and I never really realized how strangely it fit me until I put it on last week and it barely covered the buttons on my jeans.
Whenever I go out to eat with these people always want to discuss what it was like being our old selves a long time ago. Oh god, your old self. Your life is a dividend of about twenty different sections all of which you felt lost and scared to experience for the first time but now that you are at another place where you are lost and scared you can put painters tape on it and Sharpie it off as something else. Oh this, my musical theatre phase. Remember whenever I was into the grunge scene? The mass producing of aesthetics; the cheaper the clothing is the better it is to hoard all of it until the next trend passes and the newest aesthetic rises. I can’t say I’m not guilty of this because I am, but I’ve gotten better about it. I can’t find the lock or the key to true selfhood but I have about a million years before I die, so it doesn’t really bother me. I’ve begun to dress in a way in which I wouldn’t be able to look it up on Pinterest to see a thousand and one different boards and pieces of photoshopped .png clothing to be able to stick myself into a box. I’ve regained the physicalities but if you asked me who I was on a sheet of paper I think I’d still have to describe a little girl who is very nervous. The claim that I belong to my own self is too wide of a remark to make. I pull the muscles and stretch the limbs and I wake up every morning and eat the food and drink the beverages but I don’t know who is doing the rest at all. I think all of those years of shrinking myself into a google search did something irreversible to the way I see myself as something other than a stranger that other people look at. You want people to see the clothes you wear and the way you carry yourself so they can find solace in putting what they see onto you.
I remember being fifteen years old and entering a relationship in which the person I was could be molded into something extraterrestrial. At that point I’d lost the Romeo + Juliet shirt. I mean, just completely lost it. I didn’t see it again until this year. The way in which my words were delivered changed based on the time, my personality wasn’t brought onto me by the flip of the switch but it was a maze of mirrors where every angle showed something bigger and then smaller, sharper and then rounder. My teeth were large and vicious, and if you wanted them filed I would do it on command. It felt as if my body had been programmed to accommodate a want that had been falsely signaled as a need. Whenever you are as starved as you are alone what would you give up for comfort? Who would you hurt for the scratching of your own back? It didn’t even matter to me that my torso was shaped as a question mark, as long as someone else understood it. This was the biggest instance in which I had very barely but soon enough realized that I wasn’t a person as much as I was a dry erase board. It took me ages to rewire the inner workings of what was supposed to be the core of the human soul, at least to me. I could be painted any way you wanted. I felt as empty as I was broken. But at least I was wanted. Someone could cut me into bite-sized pieces and still be satisfied when the food was finished.
I remember being on vacation as a child and thinking the world was my oyster. I mean, quite literally. When I was ten years old my cousins and I threw a dart on a map of the United States and that’s who we pretended to be for the day. My name is Abigail and I’m from Utah. Oh, you’ve never been to Texas? You should go someday. It’s nice. The land of Philly Cheesesteaks and like, brotherly love. Owning myself is something so close to me yet so far. I’m dead on my feet even when I’m running a mile. It is so easy to pretend to be somebody else and then it catches up with you. I don’t know who Vermont’s governor is and whenever I cut my hair shorter than normal I start to get scared. Will you know me when I have bleached eyebrows? When I cut my bangs I almost threw up. I didn’t know what to do whenever I dyed my hair for the first time. Do you recognize me even when I don’t recognize myself? Are you ever afraid of how different things will become whenever you throw yourself into something everyone says is like a new kind of being? When you go off to college and shave your head, did you know yourself then? When you turned twenty-one did you still feel angry? The resentment is a noise I can’t turn off. I will grow taller year by year and whenever the maturing is supposed to kick in I only feel like the wheels are stuck in the mud and my anger is the only thing rising. I have existed as nothing but a ball of bright red. Everlasting and expanding, the brain size stays the same but the beats per minute of my heart goes up as does my voice.
For now I’ll be angry, and I’ll kick my feet around, too. I’m still learning a thing or two about right time, right place. I don’t think I ever want to have to time myself to feel those things. Constantly in a place of misunderstanding and confusion, towards myself and towards others, whenever I turn nineteen maybe I”ll get there. I’ll be on fire. Or I’ll turn twenty-one and things will lock into gear. Or maybe I’ll be finding myself forever and ever, amen.
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