I was always the girl growing up who just wasn’t quite like the rest of them. I liked working hard. I liked contorting my body until I could feel the ache inside my bones, until I could feel the pain in my teeth. I liked to wear lipstick and nothing else and found myself fascinated with the shape of my lips and the different colors I could make them. I ate too little. Slept too much. Masturbated far too often and at far too young an age. I enjoyed the feeling of being naked alone behind closed doors, exploring my deepest secrets within my imagination, as I put my hand over the rapid pace of my heart to feel how nervous it made me. I blushed at the faintest mention of my name and almost perished when complimented. I loved to find the answers behind someone’s eyes. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of when someone REALLY looks at you. And I read. Every chance I got.
Guess I haven't changed very much.
I loved to read, especially from about ten years old. Books I shouldn’t have been reading. Books I didn’t quite understand at the time, books and plays in high school that made sense to me only on a purely emotional level: Wuthering Heights, The Mill on the Floss, Romeo and Juliet, The Awakening, The English Patient. Like my childhood books, of course the infamous Judy Blume and Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, I didn’t realize that I didn’t quite understand them.
And yet, I did. I understood them in that one moment of living. I was the girl crying to Mariah Carey as my sophomore boyfriend moved out of state, abandoning me at thirteen who thought she’d never recover. I was that eighteen year old in love with my very own Heathcliff for seven years. I was the leery girl, afraid to jump into that headlong lust that beckoned me only months ago.
But when I read and reread such books or plays or stories I loved and couldn’t quite even understand why I loved them at the time, I see myself in them again. I see a different self. I see my niece and my students. I see the older characters in the book. I see the passion and the lust in Romeo and Juliet, the idea of what it means to go against what is expected of me. I don’t see Kate Chopin’s protagonist as a selfish woman anymore as I did in high school. I see and feel exactly why she walked into that ocean to take her life. For to live an unfulfilled life and then perhaps find someone that might actually take away the mundane, preordained, mapped out societal bullshit but not be able to act on it? I get it all so differently now.
A student in my class asked me the other day why we still read Shakespeare, that it didn’t make sense to him in high school. What should have been a simple answer, turned into a passionate discussion of what makes a work of literature last.
After class, the student looked at me and said, perhaps I should go back and reread it? And I answered, emphatically, “Yes. Perhaps you should.”