I felt like no one was really looking out for me, that I was marginal and incidental. I compensated by being spongelike, impressionable, and available to whatever and whoever provided the most comfort, the most sense of belonging. I was learning two sets of skills simultaneously: adaptation – linguistic and aesthetic – in order to fit in, but also, how to survive on my own.

We fluff them and fold them and nudge them and enhance them and bind them and break them and embellish them beyond measure; then, as we drive them up to the college interviews that they’ve heard since birth are the gateway to the lives they were destined to lead based on nothing more than our own need for it to be true, we tell them, with a smile so tight it would crack nuts, ‘Just be yourself.

When was it exactly that I became… this? By small degrees, I suppose. One act presses hard upon another, on a path we have no choice but to follow, and each time there are reasons. We do what we must, we do what we are told, we do what is easiest. What else can we do but solve one sordid problem at a time? Then one day we look up and fine we are… this.

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