1996. More often than not I’ve got a two-year-old on my hip or at my side or strapped in the backseat of the car, content to go where’er I take her.
Whether it’s insecurity or in proof of a point or just a matter of convenience I can’t recall but I bring a date to my 19th birthday dinner at Gram’s house. Everyone around the table–everyone but me–knows it will never last. His is one of the faces I reach for solace in during these lost and broken days. He shows me scars from glass bottle beer fights and gang initiation burns but if there is a leaf, he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s turned it. He carries a goatskin-bound Bible and aspires to seminary. The two a.m. tapping at my window leaves me doubting. Big city stories only go so far with smalltown girls.
Nineteen has me floundering. It finds me with mud caked under my nails from clawing my way out of a pit I created all by myself. Well, that’s not entirely true. But still it’s a pit and I dug my way in.
Nineteen is freedom, isn’t it? It’s i can come in whenever i damn well please and what the hell are you going to do about it thank you very much. It’s you might think that but i have my own thoughts and mine happen to be right thank you very much. It’s how can you not realize that your ideals are profoundly archaic especially when compared to life in the here and the now, thank you very much.
My nineteen is marbled, though not beautifully so like the fluid movement frozen in time on a marble stone slab. No. Mine is a razor-sharp splatter of motherhood and loneliness, circumstance and longing, need and desire. The wind whips and howls through these empty, full days. A storm brews and gains and grows in such perfect conditions. How ripe, the promise of disaster.
Three nights ago I needed a reminding of my nineteen. I summoned that birthday and time to mind and held it up to the light to expose every shadow, every long-forgotten and embarrassing detail. To have known me then is to puzzle at who I am today.
If what you hear in my voice is condemnation you’ve got it all wrong. It’s not a bullhorn but a kaleidoscope I carry. I hold it up and slowly turn the wheel while the sun plays the most coy tricks with those far off moments. They dance before my eyes–curiosity and impatience and disappointment and suspense and faith and desperation. So obscenely beautiful a mess it makes when it all falls together.
Titles are my weakness but I think I’d call it hope.