My Thirteen-Year-Old Self

I had a conversation with my thirteen-year-old self the other day
She smiled politely, but I could tell
She had questions
Thirteen-year-old me is not a very good liar
“Okay,” I said, “What do you think?”
She was quiet for a moment and then,
“You’re very pretty”
Thirteen-year-old me is not a very good liar

“No, really. What do you think?”
She was about to open her mouth when I added
“And you can tell me the truth
I don’t care too much for bullshit”
Her eyes widened
Thirteen-year-old me can’t believe I just said bullshit

“It’s just…”
She started
Not making eye contact
Wiggling too much
Uncomfortable in her own skin
“It’s just…you’re not…very…”
The words drip out of her like molasses
Slowly…so slowly…
“Thin”
She finally says
“You’re kind of…fat”
Twenty-seven-year-old me is not a very good liar
Either
That remark stings
But I don’t let her know
She continues to stumble on her words,
“I just thought. Maybe
MAYBE
By now you’d have figured the whole fat thing out”

I almost laughed
But I knew what a fragile doll she is
“What else?”
Thirteen-year-old me eyed my left hand
I definitely laughed
“Nope. Still fat. Still single.”

“Do you live on Broadway?” She asked
I shook my head
“Milwaukee”
“Oh! Do you work at the Rep?”
I laughed again
“No
I’ve worked at some theatres
Had some plays produced
Directed a little”
I wanted to explain that the Rep gets their actors from New York
Or Chicago these days
But I didn’t think that will help the situation

“And you’re…how old are you again?”
“Twenty-seven”
I may as well have told her I was a hundred and two

She wanted to ask so badly
She wanted to ask the same question I’ve asked myself
Every day
Every night
The difference between twenty-four and twenty-five
Was day and night
One day I was a college graduate trying to figure it out
And then I was an adult with nothing figured out
She wanted to ask so badly
And finally she did
“So…what exactly have you done with your life?”

“Well…
Like I said…
I’ve worked at a couple theatres
Nothing too fancy
But I’m trying
I’m trying really hard”

Before I could say more, she began to cry
She’d held it in so long
She’d taken deep breaths and blinked
Trying to push back the feelings
But she couldn’t do that forever
And here they are
She began to cry
And just like that, the grief tuned to anger
At bone-crushing speed, she jumped from one to the other,
A telltale sign of a diagnosis
She won’t get for another five years

“What have you done with your life?!”
She demanded it now
The fury in her eyes comes from sorrow
Sorrow and fear
That we all end up the same way
Single
Fat
Not at the Rep
Complacent
She goes home every day to complacency
It’s another member of the family
Who sits at the dinner table
And follows her to bed
Who goes out to dinner with her
And orders the same thing over and over again
Always saying, “This time…something new”
But something new never comes
She wanted to know so badly that somewhere along the line
Complacency died
I knew this
I knew she was speaking in anger
But we’re so much alike
I couldn’t help but speak in anger, too

“Let’s get a few things straight here, little miss,”
I started,
“You don’t know anything
I don’t know anything, but you
You know even less
You know a hundredth of what I know
And I know a thousandth of what everyone else knows
That’s how far off track you are
That is how stupid you are”

And then
The two of us were crying
For even though time separates us
One facet of our beings has never changed:
The need to be self destructive
We were crying
Wheezing
On the verge of hyperventilating
We were so upset with ourselves
And then we took a breath
Age (and drugs)
Have helped me come up from the lows faster than she does
She was sobbing still when I finally said,

“This life is not that bad
This life is truthful
You wanted to walk out of high school
And marry a movie star
You walked out of high school
And got educated
You took a road trip
You threatened to leave
You did leave
You wrote terrible plays
That people will always remember
You wrote incredible plays
That people somehow forget
You stood at the bow of the catamaran
And chased whales across the Pacific
There’s a dog
And several men
And an angel
And everything in between
This is not the life you wanted
But it is a life”

I wanted to tell her to ask Grandma more questions
I wanted to warn her about the car accidents
I wanted to suggest a thousand things
But the future is hers
And no one likes spoilers

Playwright, wannabe vegan, critter enthusiast, INFP, Hufflepuff, intermediate crocheter, barista, auntie