Here’s something unpleasant: every time I see my teenaged self in a book or a movie, or on TV, she’s a corpse. I mean, not every time, but I’d say ninety, ninety-five percent of the time. There I am, dead and naked, and my mum comes along, or a detective, to point out I was human.
(Thanks. Most charitable. Bugger off.)
I don’t think I’ve seen a setup where my transgressions are incidental to my story. Like, sure, I’m a criminal—but this week, I’m learning to drive. I don’t know it yet, but I’m dead in the water. I’ll hit a STOP sign and a squirrel, and I’ll scratch my neighbour’s Rolls. But the lessons won’t be wasted, ’cause I’ll meet a college boy. We’ll see Trainspotting. He’ll make moussaka. I’ll hate it and eat it anyway (because my mother will remind me to be a good guest before I go, and also because this is a date, and of course I’ll bloody eat it. I want to have sex after.)
I like it now, moussaka. Most things with eggplant, really. That guy used to call me “snackpants,” not in a smarmy way, but in a “what’s the goofiest name I can give you?” way. He died. I’m still alive.
If someone made up a story about me, I’d want it to be more Ghost World and less Law & Order: SVU. Maybe they could use that religion we invented, me and my best friend. We sacrificed bad books to Charles Dickens and rubbed toothpaste on trees. We used seven whole tubes of it, and got in trouble.
Maybe the plane’s a better story—that time I snuck onto a jet, but there was nowhere to sit, and I got chucked off. (Is that a crime? I’m not sure that’s a crime. I got arrested and banned from British Airways, but I wasn’t charged with anything. I am, of course, white.)
Most of what I did as a teen was totally weird and totally harmless. I wore silly hats. I made mousetrap cars. I got locked in a toilet on a youth orchestra trip and had to watch some guy piss. I let Mother buy my school clothes every year. She liked to see me in Northern Reflections. I was fifteen, sixteen, and she’d buy me shirts with ABCs and apples on them, gingham blouses, frilly socks. I had five loonie jumpers, and one with a dog on the front. Most days, I left my jacket on. (I wanted those jingly trousers, those hippie-looking ones with the bells on the cuffs. I also wanted Doc Martens, dangly earrings, and everything in red. Northern Reflections did teal and pink and baby blue. I looked like a sunrise on Lake Erie.)
What I’m saying, man…what I’m saying is, I had one bitchin’ childhood. I wasn’t bad all the time, and neither was life. An acknowledgement of my humanity wouldn’t have sufficed, had that been all there was. Everyone’s human. Mussolini was human. I was better than Mussolini.
They always tell you, when you’re writing fiction, don’t put anything in without a compelling reason. It’s good advice. But any character can live out any story. You don’t have to pick the most obvious one. A bad kid can have a fun week at driver’s ed. A hitchhiker can tour the galaxy. The devil can bring his cat to Moscow. Yes, he can.
(I just want to be remembered.)
Hashtag memento mori, dude.
(PS – a jump-rope rhyme, from when I was wee:
Hitler was a berk! Hitler was a berk!
Mussolini bit his weenie! Now, he doesn’t work!)
I don’t think I got what that meant.