Loving Sounds of Static
It’s the warmest day of spring so far, probably the highest temperatures I’ve seen since September, and I’m already feeling summer laziness setting in. Something about the heat brings me back to teen years. Everything seems to do that lately. The moment I caught my reflection and saw someone there who actually looked almost-30 was the moment I started running from the future, the moment I started retreating from adulthood with a kind of fervor I haven’t unleashed since I was 16.
I was riding the train to Fishtown one night this winter, spacing out and watching the city through the window, when we entered a tunnel, and I saw myself in the dark glass. My eyes looked tired, my features drawn. I felt awkward all of a sudden, the same way I feel when I interact with someone shorter than I am – sort of gawky and unsure what to do with my limbs, which start to feel wobbly and gigantic. I’m so used to the world as a shrimpy, baby-faced kid that I don’t physically know what to do with my body when that role is stripped away. When I’m the tall one. When I look…old. Adult.
I think that’s when I started to hit subconscious panic buttons. For the first time basically ever, I don’t give a fuck if people mistake me for a high school student. I encourage it. I wear sweatshirts with loose jeans in public. I don’t do my makeup. I went to a concert last week dressed in a black T-shirt my boyfriend accidentally shrank in the wash and grey Chucks. I looked in the mirror and saw my 17-year-old self staring back. Mission accomplished, I thought. Now what?
It’s the question of the moment. Now what? Where should I go? What should I do? If I’m past the age where gummy bears and wine comprise an acceptable dinner, what the hell should I be eating?? Shouldn’t adulting be easy by now?
And then there’s today. The day after yesterday, which is the day when I decided I’m moving to New York for graduate school. And things are finally starting to feel like they’re moving forward. So, I bought new lipstick that (I think) makes me look like a woman who actually knows how to wear lipstick, and I’m wearing it with this red dress I bought last summer. I like to imagine the whole ensemble makes me seem more put together than I actually feel (/am). C and I are lounging on a couch at his place when a ghost from his past (of sorts) appears from upstairs. And he doesn’t have to say it, but I know the connection, and it feels like coming full circle to that day in April (not unlike this one) four years ago, when we ran into someone similar at the book thrift down the street, and C stuttered when he called me his girlfriend for the first time in public. I feel 17 and 23 and 35 at once. Confounded by life’s tiny twists and the sharpness of my own emotional turns.
Later, here I am drinking a (probably skunked – Lord, let me count the ways I am not a good grown-up) beer by myself and painting my nails and watching things on the Internet. It’s quiet in this house that is not my house, and the dog is napping in the sun, and I want it to feel peaceful, but instead I am just scared. I write about it in an attempt to make the experience somehow more profound than it is. (Yet another thing that hasn’t changed in the last decade, I suppose.) I don’t want to be inconsequential and swallowed up by this expanse of years ticking away. I want the little pieces to add up to something; I want to be building myself, want my youth to be a series of meaningful events. I made choices, and I’m moving, and I’m bringing the last five years with me, and I want it all to capital ‘M’ Matter. The little side stories and the petty jealousies and the insecurities – I assume they are nothing, but I don’t want that to be true. Every look back is like a step forward in my head. Cyclical and linear at the same time.