I will never again be thirteen at summer camp after my mother battled my way into going a year early because I skipped a grade. I will never be left out like I was there, some of the counselors taking pity on me and talking to me while all the others flirted and played cards and talked about life back home. But most of the counselors treated me like I didn’t belong there either. I pretended to be asleep when the boys came into the girls’ room one night and sprayed shaving cream all over our bunks and bathrooms. I lied incredibly still as a boy duct taped me to my bed, pretending to be asleep. I didn’t want to give anyone else an excuse to hate me. Near the end of one of the worst weeks of my life, I attended an assembly where various religious leaders and random people got up and talked about their experience with Jesus Christ. I chose my seat, trying not to intrude or invite myself to sit next to people that didn’t want me to sit next to them. I listened to a particularly large girl talk about a dream she had about Jesus. She said she was lonely and depressed growing up throughout most of high school and college. According to her, because she was overweight she didn’t go on many dates and never had a boyfriend. She hated herself. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. And then sometime in the middle of college, she said she had a dream where this beautiful man in a tuxedo walked up to her in a crowd of people, leaned in close and whispered in her ear “I’ve been waiting for you.” And she knew Jesus was the only man she needed to worry about seeking approval from.
I loved this story. I cherished this story and kept it close and waited for my own personal tapping from a tuxedoed man from beyond. But it never happened.
Maybe he is still waiting.
I will never be nineteen again living in England. I will never go on a date with an amazing man, beautiful and successful and inexplicably interested in me. I feigned a throat ache to escape one of our dates early to try and catch the other man I’d been seeing before his shift was over at his bar. Except the first man caught me hiding behind a building, and somehow, we ended up hanging out for longer. I think I made up some sort of lie that it didn’t seem like he was having fun so I was trying to give him an easy out. He told me it wasn’t true and he wanted to go have another drink, and if I would join him. Of course he chose “this great place around the corner” which happened to have been the bar of the other man I was seeing. I will never be so young and naïve again to think it would all turn out ok. They didn’t throw punches, but they got in each other’s face and words were said, threatening and brutish words from the man behind the bar, and apologetic and sophisticated words from the man I had brought there. I ran to the bathroom with my roommate who was already there and we giggled and were nervous and were too tipsy to be grown up about any of it. When I came back out, they were standing in front of each other and it was like looking at two archetypes of different classes. One that goes to a bar, and one that is working behind it. After the beautiful man took me home in a car far nicer than anything I had ever ridden in, I kissed him goodnight. For all of his beauty and success and kindness towards me, he wasn’t that good of a kisser. And it was how I rationalized choosing one over the other. I texted him later that week and told him I had decided to date someone else. I didn't think I deserved him. I thought he would figure out who I was and how much better he was than me. I will never again believe I deserve only the man behind the bar.
I had to say I was sorry a lot to the other man, the “someone else,” but he forgave me quickly. My bringing another date into his bar made him realize how much he actually cared about me, so he told me later. He was my first love.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't lied about my throat.
I will never be twenty-four again and walk out of my professor’s office with the warm and smooth feel of my readers’ handshakes on my own clammy hand, nervous and shaking. The world will never feel that big. The triumph I felt after defending my work will never be replicated. The possibilities of “out there” will never feel so numerous. But I’ll also never feel so disappointed in myself at the very same time. After all of their validation and congratulations on the work I had done, I wanted to scream at them that it wasn’t work at all. I will never again look back with such clarity at the end of those nine years, nineteen semesters and ninety thousand dollars how I had slept through it. I didn’t try. I never had to. I laughed a little bit in my car as I drove myself home, alone, after calling my mom and my dad and texting my boyfriend to see where we should go to celebrate my zombie-walk through my college career. They let me get away with it. They handed me a degree and a bill. (No promises though, the hard part would come later.) Should I have taken harder classes? Were there harder classes? Should I have gone to better school or was I too chicken to have applied?
I’ll never know.