BILDUNGSROMAN

I grew up on Sunday night youth group playing Sardines behind the Catholic parish chapel under suburban stars. We used to intentionally hide in storage closets so we could sit with our crushes in dark stillness, bodies innocently pressed against ceiling-high stacks of metal folding chairs. It was the age of giddy purity. My coming of age was marked by brick red drugstore lipstick and thrifted prom dresses I wore to my first real boyfriend’s homeschool parties. It was the age of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Arctic Monkeys and baby pink Converse high-tops muddied by hometown soil. Of uneven side bangs cut with safety scissors and sucking in my stomach at the ballet barre in that pale yellow room with mirrored walls. Back then I believed in everything and nothing. I wanted to be sought after but not seen. I was a good girl pining for faraway cities and freedom from my seventeenth year. I wrote my college applications in free verse poetry and shrugged my shoulders with every rejection letter. I trained my mouth to memorize the vocabulary of bad girls. At the time I envisioned my future self finally content in a New York apartment, some prestigious writing school, marrying someone who would teach me to outgrow my sweetness. Someone who would teach me how to live. I never quite reached those dreams but in retrospect they were good to have. I covered every inch of my bedroom wall with magazine cutouts of body parts I found beautiful. Elbows and lips and glittery eyes. I didn’t know it then but this was my attempt to assemble myself a body I felt safe in. I can still feel my heart racing, crouching behind the back door of the church, half-hoping to be found so the game would end.

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