We are not exhibitionists. We are confessors. We express excruciating moments with carefree wit. We use writing as a means to an end, the end being someone else. If we laugh – if others laugh – those things will leave us. We can rename those things as if they never were the way they were.
I would not have been so shy that the first day of school was the worst day of my year because my parents named me Lauren, but called me Laurie, and I had to tell my teacher when she called attendance. I would not have been so afraid to ask to go to the bathroom that I peed in my pants in the library. I would not be the one who came home on the first day of seventh grade with her bra up around her neck because she didn’t know how to ask her mother how to adjust it. I would not be the one who asked, mortified, only to hear her mom laugh while telling her friends about it later.
I would not be the one who stole candy from her babysitter’s car. I would not be the one who was certain that no one liked her.
I would not be the one who ate her way through law school instead of leaving. I would not be the one whose dad’s cousin raved about her mother’s beauty, then told her she looked just like her father.
I wouldn’t be the one who found a napkin stuck to her boot last night after walking across the bar to the restroom. I would not be the one who won’t finish writing the novel that tells the truth. I would not be the one who worries that nobody will comment on this introspective nonsense. I would not be the one who worries that people will judge.
You won’t be the one who didn’t go to your prom. Or who was beaten up by a younger kid when older meant stronger. You will not have been short, fat, frizzy-haired, tall, skinny or a late bloomer. You will have had perfect skin and teeth. You will have been friendly with puberty. You will not be surprised when people like your writing, or think you are pretty or handsome or want to spend time with you. You will not be the one who ate lunch in the library, or played fantasy games, or collected stamps or could not talk to boys or girls. You will not be the one who read words but could not say them.
I will be the one who Brian chased on the playground so he could kiss my hand in its red mitten. I will be the only freshman to have had a part in the school play. I will be the one whose first submission was published. I will be the one who makes people laugh when I tell them about the worst things. The things I think of 20 or 30 years later. The things that still don’t make me laugh. Not really.
We write ourselves into different stories and then edit. And edit more. Until the original is disappeared. Mostly. Run your fingers across our scars, knotted and raised.