I was embarrassed of my skinny legs. Starting in first, maybe second, grade I started wearing black leggings to school. Almost daily. It’s okay, I had multiple pairs, so it wasn’t like I was wearing the same pair every day to school and I figured everyone else knew that. In my childhood mind those black leggings hid my skinniness from the world. It didn’t occur to me until years later that leggings cling to your body. Reveal every bone. I imagine my legs looked like stilts.
My leggings were a little loose on me. Maybe I got by.
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Since graduating from my MFA program with a degree in creative writing I have felt lost. I found what I wanted to do in the world. I loved it. I felt full. Since drifting from my community of like-minded people and program-established friendships I can feel myself emptying. Curling up like a flower touched by evening frost I am allowing myself to believe I am defined by bills, by a need to be responsible, by acting my age, figuring it out. I feel unsteady. Like I’m learning to walk again. And I’m doing a terrible job remembering my determination and my ability to adapt. Sometimes I worry I’m falling on purpose.
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My sister was taller than me. Stretched. She was thinner. More shy. When I was a little older it started to sink in what my mom meant when she said my sister was teased. Would come home crying. People were mean to her. She had braces on her teeth, headgear for a while, so did I, but then again, people didn’t tease me. Or if they did I don’t remember. As a younger sibling I never assumed the role of protector. But now, as an adult, I find myself feeling fiercely protective over her and how the people around her are treating her.
– – –
When I go on job interviews, for jobs I’m uncertain I’m qualified to do well, I’m often asked about my personal and professional goals. For me, they are the same. I want to write. I want to find time to write. I want to be engaged with the world, to learn and educate myself, to explore and grow and have a lot of time for silence and stillness. But I always feel weird saying this in an interview, like I should be more driven. Or more defined. Or more or more or more or more.
I want to make sure I’m growing, pushing myself to do more.
I want to “be successful.”
I want to make my family proud.
When interviewing for jobs I often feel like a round peg trying to fit in to a square hole.
When I asked my mother if she’d known, she said no. I’d come home from visiting with my grandmother. I was eating lunch with her on a weekly basis since my community college was just down the street. This week, she’d somehow stumbled into a story from her childhood. A story about a year, during the Depression in New Mexico, she’d spent living in an abandoned movie theater with her family. All the red velvet chairs had been removed from the auditorium. My grandmother shared a mattress on the floor of the projector room with the her two sisters. The man who owned the theater allowed her family to stay in exchange for her father’s upkeep of the garden that adjoined the building. She remembers eating grapes.
One time a family of “true-form Oakies” came through town and stayed with them. The children, as my grandmother described them, “were like animals. Dirty and wild. They tore through us like a tornado.” She remembers them piling back into their car. The furniture teetering cloudsky, high. She thinks a dog barked from inside the truck. She remembers waving them away, happy to see them go.
In the projector room sat a box of simple toys. Nearby lay a pair of stilts. My grandmother taught herself to walk on stilts in the empty auditorium, lifting her small body high, each step the sound echoing where stars once read scripted words.
I still feel insecure about my body sometimes. I’m such a damn cliché of a young woman. It’s still difficult for me to wear shorts. I went to High School in Sacramento, where the temperatures often reach the triple digits. I didn’t wear shorts once in high school. Not once. Even in PE. Even when we had to run the mile and half.
I want to feel solid in who I am, and I usually do. But I have bony legs. And I have the desire to write and write and write when all I feel like I’m doing is paying bills and this makes me a cliché of a writer, amiright? Jesus I sometimes hate how depressed I get for “not being able to write” because fuck that. Of course I can be a writer I mean what the hell am I whining about?
Right now in life, I’m walking around still wearing those baggy black leggings hoping people around me don’t see what I’m trying to hide.