When I was 7 years old, I was in awe of the little girl who lived next door. Her name was Darlene, and she was perfect. Perfect face, perfect little nose, perfect composure in every deed. It was like she had been 7 years old for a very long time, and new exactly how to do it. The teachers loved her, the kids loved her. I loved her.
She invited me to sleep-overs at her house a few times, and one morning I woke up before her and looked at her while she slept. Even unconscious, she was composed, her lovely arms framing her serene face, awaiting a glorious day.
I wondered what it would be like to be her. To inhabit such a life, always knowing what to do, what to say. I imagined it and felt a giddy freedom. I would take a break from my confused self, my awkward stumbles, and proceed knowingly, confidently.
Sometimes, after we were together, I noticed I walked like her a little, even spoke like her. I giggled. It was like being on TV, playing a part where I knew all the lines. It felt just right.
But I knew it wasn’t me. As I approached my house, I became myself again, and that was OK too. I anticipated the familiar surroundings. Mom making a good meal, even when she was really tired. My adorable little sister, always ready to play. And I felt lucky because no one else got to be me in that moment: walk into this particular place and be with these particular people. It was all mine, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
Yet I still desired to slip into other lives sometimes. What would it be like to be that girl who could really dance? Such beauty in motion. Or the one with the perfect family, whose mom and dad came to all the school plays. If I were like them, would I feel less broken, would I be happy all the time?
I never answered these question in any conscious way, but there were moments that gave me hope. Like looking up from a book and seeing the sun shine though the trees, and feeling for an instant that it had come through me as well, filling all my cracks with light.