She says things I feel or think, sometimes before I’ve realized I’m the same way. She writes about how inside she’s still thirteen and wondering how she woke up one morning with four children and a husband. Girl’s Gone Child: Thirteen.
Inside, I’m still about sixteen and trying to make sense of my high school world. Sometimes I skip back to thirteen, experiencing middle school and wide leg jeans and my first boyfriend, Brett, whose hand I held through the halls. His hand was so warm and I felt safe there, as if all the teasing of fifth, sixth and seventh grade had rolled off of me and I’d emerged as someone cool and pretty. Ian makes me feel this way too.
And then sometimes I’m nineteen, wearing my white eyelet blouse or hooded red jacket (the one that made people call me Little Red Riding Hood and actually got me some new friends) on campus at Shepherd, loving the friends I’m making and the classes I’m taking, the parties I go to and the people I talk to about poetry while drunk and wishing my crushes would notice me. That was the first time I remember becoming friends with the people I’d watched from afar and wanted to become friends with. They wanted to get to know me. I felt likeable and interesting. Even though at the time, it was lonely and hard, looking back now, I am still there, in the middle of that challenging, changing freshman year of college.
And then I wake up next to a strange man and don’t get into trouble for having him in my bed. I stumble into clothes to take the dog on her morning walk, squinting my eyes because they aren’t quite ready to be open. I make coffee and kiss my husband goodbye while imagining the glorious freedom of summer. I worry about how to pay bills and wonder what I’ll be when I grow up, when we have a house, when we raise children.
I look in the mirror and like who I see, and then experiment with hairstyles and eyeliner, dress up in clothes to take on the persona I feel today. I still feel like a teenager. It still comes as a shock to me to realize I’m married and 28 and carrying a master’s degree around with me and most people have careers or at least full-time jobs right now, or even children. I’m still peering into books in the teen section, imagining how my life will turn out, and thrilled beyond belief that I’m free in the middle of beautiful afternoons instead of being stuck in algebra.