You aimed lower, thought simpler, loved easier.
As sixteen passed, it began to change. He said so – and you didn’t believe him. He said so, as he watched the fourteen year old girl he had fallen in love with transform – and you chalked it down to jealousy. Now, as you walk back into your childhood room at the age of 22, it hits you with a stunning, painful – almost absurd – clarity.
Brasher, more arrogant, more worldly – looking down upon simple pleasures and craving recognition, status, intelligence, difference. She lost her innocence somewhere along the way, gained some weight and frown-lines, some attitude and defiance, summoned a truly magic marker that rose to scrawl across her forehead and then fell back into her hand – leaving her stained with the words: “I’ll do whatever the fuck I want, whether you like it or not.”
From a different angle it read more simply: “Fuck Off”.
She became defensive, aggressive, self-absorbed – wondering why the world failed to provide consistently and why problems lurked everywhere. As voices started to tell her people were talking about her, she grew more distant, more angry. Briefly, she sought refuge with a few simpler, happier personalities – ones who didn’t have an old standard against which to measure her – who loved her as suddenly and insistently as she thought she loved them. When the contented peace of adoration wore off, discontent begin to rise and he loomed up again in her view – yet again, she withdrew from all.
She lost her innocence, somewhere along the way. And, at the last, she wound up at this point, here: besieged with hopes and dreams that buckle under the overwhelming weight of fear and doubt and become burdens. Pondering possibilities of suicide and wondering who will cry the most when she dies; ready for death just so she can leave at a point where others will continue to predict greatness for her, a point before she fades into a stoned mess reflecting failed possibilities and disappointment. Imagining she has died just so she can predict that others – even, sometimes, him – speak of her highly, fondly, greatly.
What happened to the innocence? It comes and goes. But there’s a haunting sense of self-doubt which lurks most of the time, which refuses to go away, especially when pondered even briefly. Thinking about it is enough to command it into full, flooding view and impose a restrictive self-consciousness onto every movement. Thinking about it leaves you drowned in anxiety and stomach-clenching, stomach-churning fear of a slow, choking failure and a slow, choking, death alone, long emptied of emotion – emptied even of tears.