I am four years old. I have a small, yellow director’s chair dubbed “the scrunchy chair”. Every time I sit in it, I wrinkle my top lip into a scrunched-up grin, teeth bared. The chair makes me happy, the laughter of my family who watches me makes me happy, reveling in my own absurdity.
I am eight years old. I have a small bald spot on the top of my head, and missing parts of my eyebrows. My mother tells me I am stressed and anxious, pulling out my own hair, but what I feel is nothing — a deep sense of vacancy. I want nothing more than to disappear, to not be noticed. I am aware that others see me as strange, though I don’t feel strange to myself. I am aware that I am sometimes laughed at or ridiculed, though I don’t always know what I have done to deserve it. I wonder if I will ever understand other people, or if they will ever understand me.
I am twelve years old, watching the metamorphosis of a monarch through the glass where I’ve kept it as a science project. I wonder at the process, not just any animal’s growth, but complete melting of the caterpillar into a primordial goo that re-arranges itself down to its very atoms, reborn in time with wings. I start making my own kites, sometimes several in a day, decorated with fantastical creatures; dragons, dinosaurs, pokemon. I like watching them soar as high as I can make them go, sometimes imagining that I too could be something so strong and beautiful, lifted away above the oak trees on the brisk midwestern wind — but my feet never leave the ground.
I am twenty years old. Thunder rolls in the distance, skies darken, but my spirits are lifted. I put on my swimsuit, and step out onto the grass in bare feet. First a few drops, a crack of lightning, and then a deluge. I am soaked, head to toe, in between the toes. I run over the lawn, hands outstretched, face upward into the storm. Water runs in rivulets over my skin — over, but never into, I think. No raincoat or galoshes are as impenetrable as my skin. The water is warm, the air is warm, and I have no need for protection; I can dance all day in the rain and yet I will never get wet on the inside. I feel, perhaps for the first time, that there’s somewhere I belong, something that I was created perfectly for.
I am twenty-five years old, hunched over in the field. The smack of sweet red tomato is on my lips, mixed with the salt of sweat from my labor as I pick them from the vine, bucket after bucket full. My co-workers are chatting as they pick, but I am not. I am still a little strange, still somehow a little foreign to them — but I no longer wish to disappear. I am defiantly visible, existent in my natural element. I look up beyond the brim of my sun hat, taking in the clear blue sky and the birds of prey that circle overhead. Someone laughs, pointing out that my face is entirely neon green — a mixture of my sunscreen with the sticky green resin that comes from the stems of the tomato plants. I laugh with them, reveling in my own absurdity. I am green like the earth that created me, strong and beautiful.