I think I believed, growing up, that kids just weren't loved all that much. I remember wandering the neighborhood with other children, how we were lost, most of the time. We dug up the bed of a creek in the woods, looking for crayfish. I was afraid of them, but my brother was brave. My brother was kind of nothing, in the real world, but under the canopy of trees, he was a real adventurer.
Maybe there were too many of us. Maybe there just wasn't enough enthusiasm to go around, but we were lost.
One afternoon, I was ten years old, or maybe eleven. I crawled into my bed in the middle of a summer afternoon with the intent to die, I think. I wanted to sleep until the sun was gone. I pulled the sheet up to my chin and lay frozen, staring at the ceiling. I was alone and sad and so far away from myself. I was a little grubby nobody, and it was nice to be still, to feel the cool of my mattress in the middle of the day.
My mother startled me by suddenly bursting into my room. I was embarrassed that I had been trying to disappear, so I jumped from where I was laying and I started to feverishly pretend like I was simply alone in my room because I wanted to clean. I was making my bed, see?
I don't know why I didn't want to be caught, wasting my time, not caring about my life or the fact that it was summer and I was young. I didn't want my mother to think I was lazy or weird. everybody felt that way about me. I wasn't a regular kid. I was a bossy know-it-all who was good at spelling and I had no interest in running or catching a ball. I was lazy and weird. I tried to pretend that not everybody knew, but they did. My mom knew that I was worthless.
"What are you doing in here?" she asked.
"Just making my bed," I lied and smoothed the sheets with my palms.
"Are you hiding something?" my mom said.
"What? No..." I said.
"Move away from your bed," she said, and grabbed the top sheet and pulled it quickly away so that it floated in the air for a moment, casting everything in shadow. "What are you hiding? What were you doing?"
"I wasn't," I said. "I wasn't doing anything."
How could I tell her that already, at eleven years old, I knew I wasn't good at anything. I knew I didn't like walking around in the world. I didn't like people, they scared me because they could all see right through to the heart of me. Inside of me, I was just a pile of blubber and nerdiness. I knew that people hated me and my clothing from The Salvation Army that squeezed too tightly on my arms. I knew that other kids could jump and throw and run endlessly, but all I ever wanted to do was talk about movies I'd seen.
I'd talk for hours, if somebody would let me. I once told my grandmother the entire plot of The Batman Movie with Micheal Keaton, acting out the scene where he whispers, "I'm batman. I'm batman." She eventually asked if she could hear the rest of the story another time. I was annoying and weird and sometimes teachers called me precious or beautiful and I clung to those compliments like they infused my blood with new iron. I tried to replicate all of the precious and beautiful things I had ever done, like knowing how to spell the word zany, when everyone else thought it had an E. I sat up straight and raised my hand at each question. I wasn't cute and well dressed like the other girls, but I was well-behaved and terrible at sports. I was an invisible little dumpling and a teacher's pet. I held that role in my fists, tightly. Outside of zany I had nothing. I didn't even believe in God.