By the end of all of this, I hope you know less about yourself than you thought you did when you started reading. After all, this is not a memoir. This is not about the person you were or the person you want to be. You could write a memoir about your childhood, your eccentric mother who danced in the kitchen at dinnertime, or the week you thought you lost your mind because you couldn’t figure out if you were gay or straight, but none of it would be true. You could write a memoir about the life you wished you had, and all of it would be true, but if you wrote a memoir about your real life, it would all be a lie. This is the memoir about the other you—the person inside your head, who can’t get out. The you who is not really a person, but a thought, an abstraction.
Start at the beginning of your day. In the morning when you wake up, your left ankle cracks and your back straightens out as you realign your spine, stretching your body out like a slinky. Your bed is too soft, your pillow to lumpy, and the easier it is for you to fall asleep the night before, the harder it is for you to wake up. If only you could stay in bed all day. One morning you wrapped yourself too tightly in your comforter and it became a part of you, sewn to your thigh. The morning sky was grey; the sun hadn’t even come out. You became a caterpillar in a cocoon, waiting for the sun to unfold you.
In the shower, you shed the skin of your former self. It flakes and flutters to the floor, spinning into the drain and withering away. You scrub the dirt between your toes; the drugs and dust and smoke from your hair, and lather your body with beauty. You pull a shirt over your head and jeans up to your waist. Nothing fits right, not on your body. Nothing feels comfortable, not on your skin.
Out in the world, other people scare you. They know your shirt doesn’t fit right, they can tell by the way you incessantly, but subtly tug at the stitching, and shift your weight to hike your jeans farther up around your hips. You repeat the process over and over again and they continue to talk to you. You don’t know what to say, where to look, how to stand, and then they are gone, wishing you a good day. Beads of sweat sit quietly on your nose and your forehead glimmers. If only they could see your insides—your stomach turned upside down, your palpitating heart, and your dry tongue sticking to the back of your throat.
You sit down to write your memoir, but what is there to say? You moved when you were three, and then again when you were twelve. You never felt like you had real friends until they weren’t in your life anymore and you had to make new ones. You have a sister and a brother. Everyone says you and your sister are identical, but you see no resemblance.
You play the harmonica, but after two years you still think you sound horrible. The same goes for the saxophone and you played that for eight years. You have never had a real boyfriend, but then again, you never really wanted one. Those two years in high school when you were depressed seem like an alternate reality, because that wasn’t really you. That was the person inside of your head who came out to play and wouldn’t go back inside for dinner or to sleep.
You were an insomniac for most of your childhood and teenage years. Your mom tried every home remedy to help you sleep. There was even that week in fourth grade when she came into your room at bedtime, insisting that you inhale an onion in a paper bag. “I read about it on the Internet!” she said, so it had work.
You have extremely big feet, which has caused you to loathe shoe shopping. Plus, you are the most indecisive person in your family, maybe in the world, and shoe shopping turned into an entire Saturday afternoon at the mall. Your brother and sister hated you by the time you got back into the car because they were able to pick what shoes they wanted within ten minutes of stepping into the store.
Your mom cut your hair too short when you were in elementary school and you looked like a boy. “That’s a girl’s name, right?” you remember someone asking about your name you when you were eight. You have always wanted to be a cowboy, or cowgirl. There goes your gender confusion, once again. Penis envy, you think. Maybe I have penis envy.
The stories about your family vacations always made everyone laugh. The band kids probed you for more juicy stuff on band trips and your stories were followed by sing-alongs of Bohemian Rhapsody. Then, there was that one time at band camp when you got slapped across the face with a slice of pizza, the oil seeped into the side of your eye and you thought you were going blind.
Then again, you did go blind that time a water pick went into your right eye. It was only for ten minutes. But, the top of your head went numb and your hand felt like you had been sitting on it for days. The next morning your eye was swollen shut and it was the butt of every joke at your brother’s graduation party.
You sit down to write your memoir and realize that nothing significant has happened in your life. Everything you can think of is a lie. They are funny stories, but they none of them are true. The story to tell is that you had a not so unhappy childhood sprinkled with homemade Halloween costumes and birthday cakes. Now you are an anxiety ridden 19 year old, but you have gotten so good at hiding it. So, you are actually a façade of yourself, a projection of the person you want to be. But, then again, who isn’t?